What do you do when you feel like an imposter or feel inadequate? Fake it till you make it? Or be forthcoming with your shortcomings?
Our guest Charlene Leung shares how when she first transitioned from individual contributor to people manager (less than a year ago!), she felt the pressure to project all-knowing confidence in order to earn the respect of her team, even when that confidence was false. But she came to see that putting up this false front was counterproductive, and that when she was willing to be vulnerable with herself and her direct reports, it brought her team together, built trust, and eased the anxieties that had often kept her up at night.
Why it matters
We often have an image of how a manager “should” act or come across. Confident. Cool. Capable. Ready to lead the way to succcess.
However, as Charlene shares, we may be doing ourselves and our teams a disservice by trying to mold ourselves into this archetype. In fact, showing vulnerability is a strength. Having open and honest conversations, including about your weaknesses and uncertainties, and enabling others to do the same is key to building rapport and trusting relationships within your team, as well as fostering an environment of collaboration, risk-taking, and growth.
Putting it into action
1. Be okay with not knowing everything, and ask for help
Everyone has limits and weaknesses, and we face new challenges every day. It's much harder to accommodate for and overcome them if you don't admit them though. Whether you're on day 1 or day 1000 of being a manager, don't be shy asking for help and guidance – and don't be too hard on yourself!
2. Admit to your team when you don’t know
Your job as a manager isn't to have all the answers. Your job is to guide your team towards finding the answers together. Get comfortable saying “I don’t know,” as long as you pair it with a plan to figure it out together. Inviting your direct reports to problem solve with you builds a stronger sense of ownership and engagement.
3. Create room for vulnerability within your team
Be conscious and deliberate about how you build trusting and mutually supportive relationships within your team. For example, Charlene created a regular forum for team members to share their challenges and seek help from each other – and she saw a dramatic impact on how they connected and collaborated with each other.
When have you felt comfortable or uncomfortable being vulnerable with your team? In moments when you (or someone else) chose authenticity and vulnerability over false confidence, what impact did you observe?