Embrace Being Vulnerable: The Strength in Admitting What We Don’t Know

Recently I started a project with an immense amount of technical depth. As a delivery lead, my strengths trend more toward building teams and relationships, communication, creative problem-solving, etc. Despite my best efforts, I struggled to follow the individual granular details of this project. When I took a step back, I realized what I was really struggling with was feeling vulnerable.

The Fear of “I Don’t Know”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you need to know the answers. We spend a lot of life in situations in which we feel there are expectations that we know what we’re doing. As a consultant, that is amplified. We’re being looked to as experts, hired to come in and figure out a problem. However, one of the greatest hindrances to being an effective problem solver is feeling like you should already know the answer.

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.”

The Power of “Yet”

“Yet” is a wonderful word. It can free and empower you. That’s because it transforms failure or fear into an opportunity for growth and development. Imagine a situation with a client or coworkers. Suddenly you get hit with a question you don’t have an answer for. Your mind races. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll sound stupid. Or, maybe you’re thinking, “I really should know the answer to this.” Then you say, “I’m not sure yet, but let me have some conversations and get back to you.”

With one sentence, you’ve reversed the trajectory of that situation. Instead of playing into your fears or expectations, you’ve led with not only honesty and transparency but also strength. It takes courage to be vulnerable, and it’s also admirable and contagious. You can imagine the impact that can have on how your team works together or the health of the relationship with your client.

Leveraging team strengths

Back to that technical project and struggling to follow along with the technical nitty gritty. Once I realized the real problem, I had an honest, transparent conversation with my team. I let them know what I was struggling with and, what’s more, that I probably wouldn’t be able to stay stride for stride with our developers on this project. Note: You don’t always get to use “yet,” which made that the hardest for me to accept.

Do you know what happened? They immediately leaned in and let me know that wouldn’t be a problem and we set up clear lines of what we would rely on each other for. I left with a weight off my shoulders, feeling supported by my team and clear about how I could support them.

There is incredible power and freedom in letting go of expectations, embracing a growth mindset, and staying curious. Next time you have the opportunity try leaning into it.


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