By Gino Blefari
This week my travels took me from San Francisco to Boulder to Washington, D.C. to Southern California but I’d like to talk a little more about my experience in Denver almost two weeks ago. I was there attending REAL Trend’s Gathering of Eagles, an exclusive opportunity to mingle with our industry’s most innovative minds, absorbing their managerial wisdom and insight. This year, Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, was keynote speaker at the event and delivered an impactful speech on leadership and what it takes to succeed.
In a word: vulnerability. Defined by Merriam-Webster as “the capacity to be physically or emotionally wounded,” it’s the one concept often overlooked in a society focused on resiliency and strength. However, vulnerability and mental fortitude are not mutually exclusive. In fact, according to Lencioni, vulnerability isn’t just a nice compliment to strength; it’s the very thing that can make us stronger, wiser and more connected to our clients.
How? He explained …
We can’t all be perfect leaders. We can’t all be superheroes on a singular quest to conquer our market or our industry then live in some utopian world where every customer becomes our client, every transaction runs smoothly and every deal goes through. Instead, we can only be the most genuine version of who we are at this very moment. Are we hungry? Tired? (Vince Lombardi said “fatigue makes cowards of us all.”) Are we anxious? Annoyed? Hopefully not but maybe. And as Lencioni described, that’s perfectly OK.
Still, vulnerability is not to be confused with incompetence. In his latest book, Lencioni made this distinction: “If you come to your clients every day admitting that you’ve made yet another mistake or that you don’t know how to do yet another required element of your job, that would be a serious problem,” he wrote. “But it would not be an issue of vulnerability, but rather of competence; the problem would not lie in admitting of so many weaknesses, but in the having of them!”
So, what’s the message? Clients have a keen sixth sense for vulnerability; they can smell it before the beads of sweat even hit our foreheads. But they also expect vulnerability because by putting their financial assets or aspirations in our hands, they’ve made themselves vulnerable, too. It’s a symbiotic business relationship, a cyclical give-and-take wheel of vulnerability that helps them relate to us and helps us, through our willingness to be vulnerable, gain their respect and trust.