The Gifts of the Pandemic | Stronger Through Humility & Vulnerability

This is the second post in my new series The Gifts of the Pandemic.

I am an imposter but so are you. Fortunately, thanks to COVID-19, I am less of an imposter than I was in 2019.

I set-up this series by suggesting that it would be tragic not to glean lessons from our shared experiences during the pandemic so that we can emerge stronger for the years ahead. Further I suggested that some of the gifts or teachable moments include:

  • Humility
  • Empathy
  • Adaptivity
  • Clarity of Values
  • Gratitude

Let’s face it, most of us care a lot about what others think of us (especially if we are leaders in business, community, or family). We project “the best of” ourselves in public and reserve “the rest of” ourselves for private. That approach leads to 70 percent of people feeling what researchers Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes label an “imposter syndrome.” Social media amplifies this syndrome, since most people tend to share the “highlight” reel of their life and not the “lowlight” events.

Let’s jump to the pandemic and how it made it harder to hide our blemishes, shortcomings, and limitations. For example, we saw leaders communicating from their bedroom not the boardroom. We knew our dogs, spouses, and children would wander into our videoconferences, and we went on camera having cut our own hair.

As a result of our vulnerability, many of us spent less time managing our image. We acknowledged our fears, errors, and humanity, and operated more from our hearts and less from our heads. For example, in a post last May I confessed:

When I think back to my behavior before COVID-19, I am a bit embarrassed by my matter-of-fact approach to connection. I typically set-up a call and after very minimal small talk, would launch right into the heart of my client’s customer experience or leadership challenges. Seldom did I ask about their family, recreation, interests, joys, or concerns beyond their business. All that has changed now, and I commit to make authentic personal inquiries a permanent part of connecting.

I made similar admissions of how much I underestimated white privilege, sorrow that came from missing time with my family, and the magnitude of uncertainty that I had in areas that I wished I could claim knowledge or authority.

In my recently released book titled Stronger Through Adversity (which provides more than 20 pandemic forged lessons from 140 plus leaders like the CEOs and Presidents of Target, Verizon, Kohl’s, Microsoft, and Marriott) I spend a lot of time writing about the gift of humility. For our purposes, I’ll share just a short excerpt from the book:

According to Brené Brown and Patrick Lencioni, individuals who receive high scores on vulnerability:

  • Are perceived as more approachable
  • Drive heightened levels of trust
  • Foster psychological safety
  • Form enduring connections
  • Build strong teams
  • Ignite creativity

In her book Daring Greatly, Brené provides an eloquent synopsis on the inextricable link between vulnerability and leadership success. Brené noted, “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

Did the pandemic provide gifts of humility and vulnerability for you? Are you less of an imposter in 2021? Has your vulnerability become a strength that fosters connection and effectiveness?

In next week’s installment, we’ll talk about how the pandemic offered the gift of empathy. Until then I hope you’ll consider picking up or gifting a copy of my book Stronger Through Adversity, and join my guests and me for our weekly LinkedIn Live conversation every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Until then may you be Stronger Through Adversity thanks to the gifts of humility and vulnerability.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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