I have often wondered why are some are better at relationships than others? Then suddenly it occured to me after I watched Brene Brown's TED talk about the power of vulnerability (see below). I could see what deep relationships are really made of. Business is all about human connections. You prefer to buy stuff from people and companies you feel a connection with. The same is true for endorsements or the people you recruit. This is all very obvious. I know.
But in order for a truly meaningful connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen exactly as we are. This is much less obvious in business. Even though we can’t always put our finger on it, somehow we know when others are the 'real deal'. Take a moment to think about the times you got it wrong. Was it because you chose to override your intuition with judgement? Think about all those times you decided to mute that inner voice.
True connections come as a result of authenticity.You bond with others because of who they really are, not who they are supposed to be. We are all wired to recognise authenticity form miles away because our survival used to depend on our ability to judge intruders at first sight. We have all the programming in place, yet most of the time we chose not to use it.
I never kept records on this, but when I look back the people with who I did the kind of business that truly mattered was when I took the risk to venture ‘off script' and asked them to help me figure out whatever it was that I was struggling with at the time. I opened up and they let me in. We became a team.
This goes against most of what we've been taught in business schools. There you are told never to reveal a difficulty when negotiating a deal because vulnerability equals weakness. This is hogwash. Never forget that human relationships have been around much longer than companies and organisations. The topography of our economy changes but human nature is more static.
Even animals understand this. If you have ever had a pet dog then you will you will know what I mean. We simply can’t resist stroking their bellies when they roll on their back. This is instinctive behaviour. They know we understand the body language. Perhaps that is why they have been mankind’s best friend for as long as we can remember.
But most organisations struggle with being honest despite the fact that the companies they do business with are made up of people. Even decision makers are human and staying out of trouble is usually on top of their list. The best way to get them to trust you is by earning their confidence and you can only do that by being authentic.
When I work with businesses, I always urge them to be open. I tell them not to shy away from talking about their problems and explain what they learned when they got things wrong. Almost every company has difficulty embracing this idea but when they finally take the leap they realize this is the strongest form of confidence they can convey.
Talking about problems is not about admitting mistakes but it about finding solutions. Successful businesses are those that meet some sort of a need of their customers. Exploring the human dimension of this need will resonate more with your customers than any other carefully crafted slick marketing message you could possibly come up with. But in order to do this firms will need to become human. And the only way to do that is by appearing a little vulnerable evry once in a while.
Vulnerability is uncomfortable. It is about putting yourself out there with no protection. It is about investing in relationships that may not work out. It is about risking betrayal. But most of all it is about having to courage to be imperfect. Humans simply can’t resist connecting with those who have that kind of courage. It is the kind of bravery that conveys confidence. And confidence is good for business.
Oh! and by the way, did you know that the word ‘courage’ comes from the French word ‘coer’? It means heart.
Baldwin Berges counsels individuals and organisations on building strong stakeholder relationships through communication. He blogs on Business Development Insider.