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Communicating with grit and grace

“I know what I want to say, but HOW do I say it without getting ignored or killed?” In my experience as an executive coach, this question stymies leaders, especially women leaders, as much as any other issue.  Why?  Because organizations often require women to operate within a painfully narrow stylistic range: nice, but not TOO nice; strong, but not TOO strong.  How on earth do you navigate this?

Here’s what doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work to dilute your message, minimize your strength, or chip away at your authenticity so much that you disappear.  Nor does it work to “damn the torpedoes,” and blow your listener away.

You do not have to choose between “zipping it” or “letting it rip.” Effective communication, whether at work or at home, is often both tough and tender. Whether you tend to communicate directly (“grit”) or with soft edges (“grace”), the greatest potential lies in blending the best aspects of both. This blended form of communication can turn a conflict into a moment that transforms a relationship.  It can turn a supportive encounter into a catalyst for action.

How do you achieve this kind of balance? The most powerful communication guidance I’ve found comes not from the worlds of business or communication, but from Buddhist teachings.  The principle is called “wise speech.”  Wise speech is any message that meets four essential criteria:

  • Truthful – clear, direct and authentic
  • Useful – actionable, relevant and intended to be of service to the other person and the situation
  • Unifying – acknowledges all perspectives, so that everyone’s view has a “place” in the conversation
  • Kind – respects the dignity, aspirations and frailties of all parties.

‘Truthful’ and ‘useful’ are the grit side of the equation; they make a message clear and actionable.  But directness can intimidate some, and cause them to shut down. ’Unifying’ and ‘kind’ are the grace elements; they cultivate respect and trust within the conversation.  But too much softness can obscure your message, appear inauthentic, or create stagnation in a relationship. The greatest power is in the blend. Holding your communication to the standards of wise speech is no easy task, but the payoffs can be great.

What about you?

Most of us tend to emphasize just one or two of the wise speech criteria, especially when the message is difficult. Which one(s) do you tend to default to?  What are the strengths and limitations of that?  (Don’t think about this in the abstract – examine this through the lens of real life situations.)

Which criteria are the most ‘foreign’ to you, or are the ones you most quickly sacrifice when the chips are down?  Again, what are the implications of that?

For the next two weeks, try holding your important communications to the four standards of wise speech.  Make mental or written notes of what you try, how it works and what you’re learning.  And let us know how it goes!

Grit and Grace…On Behalf of What?

I usually steer away from philosophy in this blog, focusing more on practical leadership topics. But from time to time, I think it’s important to step back from the ‘how to’ of leading with grit & grace and look more deeply at the ‘why.’  On behalf of what does this work exist?

The underlying purpose of Leading With Grit & Grace™ is to help individuals and institutions address what I call the ‘tyranny of success.’ On one hand, it is critically important to establish what we’re good at. This forms the very foundation of our effectiveness. For example, a leader discovers that she gets great results by being understanding with her people, so she adopts a compassionate leadership style. A company sees a spike in profits by downsizing, and develops a core ethos of ‘doing more with less.’ In other words: we take an action; we like the result. So we “rinse and repeat” a few times, and pretty soon, we’ve got a bona fide formula for success.  Great, right?

Not necessarily. We humans tend to fall truly, madly and deeply in love with what works for us, and this can become a problem. Over time, we may stop paying attention to whatever falls outside our loving gaze, and our attentions and actions become imbalanced without our knowing it. Seemingly out of nowhere, our once-reliable strategy for success starts to wreak havoc: not because it’s the wrong strategy, but because it’s built on a partial set of values that we believe to be complete. Sure, it’s great to be good to your people.  But at some point, too much kindness will tank your efficacy.  It’s great to maximize efficiency. But continually stressing your people and resources will ultimately exact a heavy price.

The tyranny of success occurs when we lean on one set of values (and their resulting behaviors) and neglect their necessary opposites: kindness to the neglect of firmness; profits to the neglect of sustainability; ambition to the neglect of service; growth to the neglect of recovery and stabilization.  It is in the forgetting of these necessary opposites that our strengths become liabilities and can begin to do real harm.  It is from this forgetting that burn-out, abuse, complacency, greed, exploitation, and demoralization arise.

So regardless of the scale or context in which we are working, the work we do at Leading With Grit & Grace™ is always about helping people and institutions to transcend the tyranny of their success, and to develop a more balanced and sustainable form of thought, action and impact. It is on behalf of this intention that we exist.

What about you?

What are your (or your institution’s) formulas for success?

What values are at the core of your formula?

What do those values make possible for you and others?

What are the positive opposites of those values?  Which of these positive opposites might you be overlooking or undervaluing?

How might you integrate some of those neglected values more fully to support your success?

Are Compensation And Hearing Connected?

I first saw this Punch cartoon in the 1980’s. Yet in her recent NY Times article, “Speaking While Female,” Sheryl Sandberg tells us what women already know from direct experience: that even today, organizations continue to muffle women’s voices in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

The fact that organizations pay for talent and then silence it absolutely dumbfounds me. Why would you not want to get every bit of value from your salary dollars? But then it occurred to me – maybe organizations are doing just that. After all, women are paid just 78¢ on every dollar paid to a man, and maybe that has relational consequences as well as financial ones. For if a salary is a valuation of someone’s worth, then why would we want to listen to the person who’s 22% less valuable?

I know that the road to true equity – where no one group is inherently advantaged or disadvantaged – is a long and complicated one. But I wonder whether compensation parity might actually help shift the way we listen to women. If we paid women what we paid men, might we pay similar attention to them as well? And wouldn’t that go a long way to helping women bridge the confidence gap?  

What’s your own sense of this?  Do you think that if organizations’ checkbooks were as open to women as to men, that their minds and ears might follow suit – even a little?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Celebrate Women By Being Uncomfortable

I hate Women’s History Month. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s vitally important to keep remembering that – and why – women matter. It’s crucial that we keep examining and updating our perceptions of women, so that we see them in ways that are ever-more complete, current and correct. I just don’t think that Women’s History Month (“WHM”) accomplishes these ends very well. Unfortunately, WHM is often reduced to an annual box-checking exercise that masquerades as a demonstration of commitment to women.

I should know. I used to be a Diversity officer for a large organization. The traditional observance of WHM was this: We went into our storage closets and dusted off a bunch of yellowed lithographs of exceptional women. We put the photos up in the hallways (and removed them promptly on April 1st). We held a lunch and brought in a speaker or two to motivate and educate. Usually, the only people in the audience were women. And then we crossed off the “Women-valued-for-this-year” item on our organizational to-do list. We meant well, but I don’t think we helped anyone. Even though it was totally unsatisfying, I never figured out how to do something more meaningful. The only option I saw was to discontinue the charade.

Today, 25 years later, I believe that we should celebrate Women’s History Month (and every other “History Month”) by agreeing to make ourselves and each other uncomfortable.  I would like to see March become an annual invitation to reengage, refresh and reexamine our collective narrative about women. I’d like it to be the month where  leaders of both genders come together to assess where women actually stand in their organization, community or country. Where are we with parity, really? What advances can we celebrate, and how do we replicate and increase them?  Where are the gaps between what we say we believe and what we actually do? How do we find that out? What subtle and obvious barriers must women negotiate that their male counterparts do not? What are the organizational ‘clubs’ and power centers in which women still have reduced access or sway? What are the beliefs, behaviors and systems that accomplish this exclusion? When we look at our key strategic challenges, what could women’s perspectives and skill bring to the table that we may be missing?

Women’s History Month is also an invitation for us women to enter into our own discomfort. March is as good a time as any to evaluate ourselves as unflinchingly as we wish our organizations would evaluate themselves. Are there ways in which I have held myself back from making my own small history? Are there situations in which I routinely choose comfort over challenge? Are there necessary battles that I’ve backed away from? Or fights I’ve been fighting ineffectively or for too long? Are there places in which I have abandoned my own vision, principles or well-being in order to keep the waters calm? Are there younger women around me who are withering, either from the absence of a mentor or from active sabotage? Are there some paths that I could clear so that other women can make their own history?

Men… you too. Are you relaxing your attention on parity, since the tides of favor and power are starting to shift? Do you levy criticisms against women that you don’t levy against men? Do you hold women in your sphere to higher or lower standards than the men? What one step could you take to check that your impact on women aligns more fully with your best intentions?

Avoid the token nod to Women’s History. Organizations, beware self-satisfaction because you hired a lunchtime speaker. Women, resist viewing March as a a month of sanctioned victimhood. Men, nap not on your laurels. For Women’s History Month, let’s put ourselves on the hook for real dialogue and meaningful change. Let’s be willing to get uncomfortable this month and see what happens.

How Not To Respond To Style-Related Feedback

Harvard Business Review’s September cover kind of says it all. It shows a profile of a woman and three phrases in bold letters:

“Bossy”
“Emotional”
“Too nice”

If you’re a woman in the workplace, you have probably noticed that you’re a lot more likely than your male colleagues to get stylistic criticism. Like it or not, organizations still tend to pay as much attention to how women behave as to what they accomplish.

I think stylistic feedback is the hardest kind of feedback to deal with. It’s one thing to hear that your data was wrong or that your marketing strategy was weak. But stylistic feedback is about you. Whether or not it’s justified or accurate, it’s personal. To make matters worse, people often deliver this kind of feedback quite badly. So it’s hard to hear, hard to decipher and hard to address.

Here are the five most common mistakes I see women make in dealing with stylistic feedback:

1. Denial. This is an understandable and automatic response. If someone says we’re too emotional, we’re likely to respond with, “No I’m not.” Whether or not you feel the feedback is valid, dismissing it out of hand could come back to bite you.

2. Blame. I had one client tell me, “I wouldn’t have to be so demanding if the people around me weren’t such idiots.” Even if every member of your team is woefully inadequate – as long you’re blaming others for your reactions, you’re not learning and the situation will not improve.

3. Intensification. This seems counterintuitive, but I see it happen a lot. Someone gets feedback that what she’s doing isn’t working. Her initial reaction? To do what she’s been doing, but do it harder, longer, faster, more. One client told me, “No matter how much I support my team, they still aren’t delivering. I guess I need to be even more supportive.” In other words, in times of stress we tend to draw more heavily on what we already know and are good at. But when that isn’t getting results, doing more of it usually doesn’t help.

4. Abandonment. This is the opposite response from intensification. The internal message here is, “They say I’m bossy. I guess I’ll just have to start beating around the bush and start sugar-coating everything.” Not a great strategy. You probably won’t be very good at it, and you definitely can’t sustain it long term. Most importantly, no one else is buying it.

5. Style ‘whack a mole.’ Some women I’ve worked with try to suss out each situation and behave as they think others want them to act. I’m not talking about appropriate situational adjustment here, but rather a form of play-acting where you’re trying to be whoever/whatever you think others want you to be, in the hopes that you’ll avoid getting slammed. Big mistake. First of all, it’s exhausting. And ultimately it will backfire. You’ll come across as inauthentic, inconsistent or, worse, manipulative.

However unfair or unskillful stylistic feedback may be, it is always an opportunity to learn something. That’s where I always suggest that people start – looking for the learning nugget. Maybe you will discover something about yourself. Or maybe it can help you understand something new about the feedback-giver. Maybe it will give you valuable insight into the organization’s culture.

About yourself. The leaders I’ve worked with who were most successful at dealing with stylistic feedback have been able to find the grain of truth in it. One of my clients got feedback that she was too judgmental, to which she initially responded with blame. But when I asked her how her relationships at home were going, she reported that her daughter was intimidated by her and avoided contact. Despite the fact that my client still didn’t respect the views of the person who gave her feedback, she was able to see the thread of truth: that her forceful style was getting in the way of important relationships both at home and at work. From that point on, she invested fully in her own development and made stunning stylistic shifts. She developed a strong compassionate side, without ever losing her signature feistiness.

About the feedback giver. If you can’t find any evidence that the stylistic feedback you’ve received is accurate or valid, it still gives you insight into the values and preferences of the feedback-giver. While s/he may be saying that you’re objectively ‘too emotional,’ the meaning may actually be that your style is overpowering to him or her. You may learn from this feedback that dialing down your own intensity will help you be more effective with that person.

About the organization and its culture. I’ve had a lot of clients who have moved to new organizations and been hit with stylistic feedback that they’ve never encountered before. Often, that’s because what was expected or acceptable in a previous environment is devalued in another. For example, I’ve coached many ex-military people who have transitioned to the civilian sector. Once lauded for their directness and clarity, they may be harshly criticized in their new environment for being overbearing. While this feedback may be confusing, it can provide crucial insights into the values of the new organization and the adjustments that you may have to make to be successful there.

If you’re a woman in the workplace, you are much more likely to receive feedback on your style than your male colleagues are. So you might as well plan for it. If it comes your way, try to make sure that you don’t fall for any of the classic unhelpful responses. Instead, use style-related feedback as an opportunity to learn something – about yourself, the person giving you feedback, or your organization.

 

Don’t Just Do Something; Sit There!

I did a really good thing last week: I went on a 24-hour personal retreat. From noon on Monday to noon on Tuesday, I set down all my ‘shoulds’ and to-do lists and went with a friend to a log cabin in a wilderness preserve about 2 hours from DC. No agenda – just space, time, wooded trails, a journal and some wholesome food.

As we began our retreat, each of us articulated an intention for our time there. Mine was to feel less scattered, to be restored to a sense of inner consolidation and wholeness. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling better. Within minutes of settling on that porch overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, serenaded by the whisper of dry leaves falling, the sharp inner edges smoothed out. I felt spiritually reconnected. I felt relieved to drop down into a mode where I was not making anything happen.

These 24 hours got me thinking about how much my life supports accomplishment and how little it supports personal renewal. Whether it’s in my business, my home, or in my community, the world around me is always calling for me to do more. And I want to answer that call. So I spend most of my time in what I call my ‘executive function,’ the grit side of myself that plans, aspires, organizes, and gets stuff done.

By contrast, there is very little around me that encourages me to slow down, to inhabit a more quiet, receptive mode. I don’t get messages from my environment saying, “Get less involved!” “Be content with what you have!” or “Hey – winter’s coming: time to slow down.” The drive to take things down a notch comes only from within myself – not because “I’m worth it,” but because I need it in order to be at my happiest and best. None of my most creative moments occur when I’m staring at a computer screen – they occur in the shower or on walks. Busyness does not cultivate kindness in me – relaxation does. The harder I’m driving, the less open I am to inspiration or delight.

I don’t know about you, but the world doesn’t tend to hand me renewal time on a silver platter. I’m going to have to keep carving it out for myself.

I am a fan of big breaks, like spiritual, contemplative or creative retreats or even spa get-aways. These can be immensely beneficial – kind of a whole-being reset. But these big breaks can also be beyond reach for many of us. No worries. Even the smallest reconnection with our ‘grace’ sides can have profound effects. So we have to reclaim and build renewal time into our daily lives, structuring in no-cost, low investment micro-retreats. Here are some ideas:

  • Breathing breaks. Unless the building’s on fire or your kid needs to go to the emergency room, most of us can take 60 seconds out to simply pay full attention to our breath. The breath is an express train into the present moment, which is actually the only place where stress does NOT live. Most stress is a fabrication of our minds, which are either fretting about the past or worrying about the future. For one minute a couple of times a day, be. here. now.
  • Mealtime meditations. When was the last time you sat down to a meal and brought your full attention to the act of eating? When was the last time you really tasted your lunch? Noticed the color, shape and textures of what you consumed? Chewed instead of shoveled? Even eating at your desk can be transformed into an opportunity to cultivate receptivity and presence.
  • Gratitudes. I don’t know about you, but once I get into task mode, I can tend to feel put-upon – even if I’ve put everything upon myself! It can be a game changer to take a second to register one thing that you’re grateful for, one way in which you feel blessed. Research has proven that a gratitude practice yields significant psychological and physiological benefits, and it’s easy to do. You can weave it seamlessly into your day – maybe doing it every time you’re standing at the elevator or walking between meetings. Maybe you write down one gratitude as the first note you take in every meeting. I have two ‘gratitude buddies’ – we try to email each other each day with five things we’re grateful for.
  • Nature time-outs. I have a client who sets a chime to ring on her computer two or three times per day. It reminds her to go outside and connect with the natural world for a minute or two. Nature returns her to a larger sense of perspective and a more gracious orientation to time. Nature’s often closer at hand than you think. Step out of your office and walk around the block. At your daughter’s soccer game, take your attention off of how she’s doing for a few seconds and just feel the sun on your face. At a stoplight, turn off the radio and open the window.
  • Music retreats. Music can change your state almost instantly. Put on a quiet piece of music in your office and just listen. Or shut your door and dance around to a favorite boogie tune.

What about you?

What happens to you when your life becomes all doing (grit) and no being (grace)? How does it affect your health, outlook and energy? How does it affect the quality of your relationships? How does it affect your effectiveness at work and at home?

Have you ever established grace-supporting structures or routines in your life? If so, what were they, and what impact did they have on you?

What impact did they have on those around you?

What enabled you to sustain these structures? What got in the way?

Given the reality of your life these days, what are two things you could do on a regular basis to give your grit-ful ‘executive function’ a break?

 

It’s (still) Not Easy Being ‘Grit’

Earlier this year, my partner and I interviewed 28 women leaders about their styles of influence and how those styles work – or don’t – in organizational life. (You can request a copy of our findings in the right hand column.) One of the primary questions we wanted to answer was whether organizations relate differently to women leaders, based on their ‘grit’ or ‘grace’ style.

Our finding? Do they ever.

50% of our sample identified their influence style as predominantly ‘grace’-based, while 50% identified their stylistic preference as predominantly ‘grit’-based. Two of the questions we asked were:

“Have you ever received feedback that your style was either ‘too hard’ or ‘too soft?’ and
“If so, how was that actually communicated to you?”

We found that grit-based leaders catch a lot more flak for their style than their grace-based counterparts – even though both styles, when out of balance, can create equal amounts of organizational havoc.

Collectively, the grace-based leaders we interviewed mentioned only 3 criticisms that had been levied against them:

  • too nice
  • too slow
  • too inclusive

This feedback is probably too vague to be helpful. But while it’s not very effective input, at least it’s not cruel.

On the other hand, the same number of ‘grit’ interviewees reported 21 different criticisms. Not only were the criticisms more plentiful, but the language used was also far more specific and emotionally laden:

  • impatient
  • demonstrating a lack of respect
  • not being giving enough
  • not asking for help
  • not caring
  • working people to death
  • defensive
  • rigid
  • not inclusive enough
  • set expectations that were too high
  • high maintenance
  • too hard
  • too serious
  • too frank and direct
  • bitch
  • pushy and insensitive
  • too detail oriented
  • need to ‘step back’
  • need to get my priorities straight
  • angry black woman
  • arrogant

Um, wow.

The strength of this language may, in part, reflect the intense impact that a grit-gone-growl leader can have to his or her environment. Yet, we also know that many organizations continue to be ‘allergic’ to assertive behavior in women, the same behavior generally applauded in men. What shocked us, though, was the harsh and harmful way in which this organizational allergy gets expressed. We think this list is a wake-up call for all managers to give more objective, balanced and helpful feedback to grit-based women.

In the meantime, if you’re a woman with a fast-paced, assertive style, you know this: it’s (still) not easy being grit.

What about you?

If you are a grit-based leader, have you experienced this kind of feedback?

What do you make of it?

What impact do those kinds of messages have…

…on how you feel about yourself?
…on how you feel about leading in your organization?
…on how you navigate decisions”
…on how/when to express your strength?
What advice do you have for other grit-based leaders who receive feedback like this?

And if you MANAGE a woman with a grit-based style… How do you give stylistic feedback that’s accurate, objective and useful? How do you keep feedback freer of your own biases, discomforts and assumptions?

 

The Perils of ‘Idiot Compassion’

Early in my career, I managed a law firm. One of our administrative assistants – we’ll call her Liz – was consistently late to work. I knew that Liz had a very difficult home life; she lived in poverty with her mother, and was relied upon to help care for the younger children. Feeling for Liz’ challenges, I often forgave her tardiness. Compassionate, right? In the moment, maybe. In the long run, not so much. Within a couple of months, the entire administrative staff was playing fast and loose with their own start-times. Because of my leniency toward Liz, I had no credibility when I asked others to get to work on time. I discovered that my failure to skillfully hold standards for one person did direct damage to the productivity and morale of the whole. And all of it was done in the name of compassion.

I was talking recently to a senior leader, who described one of her subordinate  managers as a ‘teddy bear’ (we’ll call him Teddy). Teddy’s direct reports were completely demoralized because he was so gentle with them that they didn’t feel challenged. His most talented and ambitious folks were dying on the vine, withering under Teddy’s soft touch. His so-called kindness was creating personal misery and organizational sub-optimization.

Judy was a leader who thought of herself as a real people-person. Her style was collaborative and she influenced through the power of connection. The problem was that she was being undermined by her peers, who were fiercely loyal to her predecessor. Her only strategy for dealing with them was to amp up her level of collaboration, softening her own boundaries to accommodate their attacks. The result? Her staff suffered tremendously from her lack of advocacy for them. Their reputation suffered and their visibility and resources shriveled up. Judy’s staff did not experience her leadership as compassionate; they experienced it as neglectful.

When leaders take kindness to an extreme, when they fail to establish standards and hold boundaries, they can do real damage. This is what the Buddhists call “idiot compassion:” a kind of collapsed kindness that actually results in harm to self or others. In my own case, my idiot compassion was rooted in a lack of courage to confront something difficult. Maybe we’re avoiding a challenging external situation (as in Judy’s case).  Maybe we don’t want to threaten our self-image as being a ‘good person’ (as in Teddy’s and my case). But idiot compassion is almost always a real disservice.

I’m not advocating the abandonment of compassion. I still believe that it has a vital role in a leader’s efficacy. But ‘idiot compassion’ illustrates one of the key concepts at the heart of Leading With Grit & Grace: that leaning on one strength to the neglect of its opposite can create a stylistic imbalance that can torpedo a leader’s effectiveness, impact and ability to truly serve.

What about you?

Have you ever acted with ‘idiot compassion’ as a leader?

What was your core intention?  Did the result match the intention?

What form(s) of grit would have strengthened your actions, so that your core intention might have been been fulfilled?

How can you use this insight to fortify your effectiveness in a situation you’re currently facing?

McKinsey makes the case for women at the top

This is a very informative video summarizing McKinsey’s research on the bottom line impact of women in senior leadership.  I appreciate McKinsey’s initial research question: Does it actually matter to have women at the top?  Do women leaders make a difference to organizational effectiveness?  Their findings: yes. Women Matter | McKinsey & Company

The Power of Vulnerability

As an advocate for the underserved in her community, Gloria is recognized as a true leader. She’s smart, resourceful and has a commanding presence. She is unafraid to challenge injustice wherever she sees it, standing up to any person or process that she feels is harming others. Because of her courage, others have come to rely on her to take the difficult stands that they themselves are afraid to take. Tough and courageous, Gloria is a shining example of the grit-based leadership style at its best.

And yet…

Gloria was starting to experience the limitations of her style. When she was forceful, the world often responded to her with force, which took its toll on her. The more others relied on her courage, the more she enabled them to avoid their own. After years of experiencing the gifts of grit, Gloria started to experience the perils of over investing that style.  She came to me for coaching, and we worked to help her integrate more grace into her native grit style.

Now, it is often when she calls upon her ‘grace’ side that Gloria is most powerful as a leader. I recently observed her in a community forum, where the discussion was heating up, yet going nowhere. I could see people giving her ‘the look,’ their silent visual request for her to challenge what was happening. And, as she so often does, she stepped up. But this time, her challenge came in the form of vulnerability. Rather than calling people out, Gloria just stood up and quietly told her own truth. “As the conversation is going on,” she said, “I am finding myself more and more exhausted.” In that instant of speaking from the heart, Gloria changed the room. Simply by describing her own personal experience, she seemed to give voice to that of the whole group, and people visibly relaxed in recognition.  Soon thereafter, someone spoke up and said, “That’s how I feel, too. I don’t think this is getting us where we want to go. Let’s change the focus and the structure of the conversation.” From that moment on, the group adjusted into a much more productive mode.

For Gloria, it was a much greater risk to be vulnerable than to challenge others; it was a much more personal move. And yet, from where I sat, it was the most potent and effective action she could have taken. Had she stood up and done her normal ‘grit thing,’ she probably would have just amped up the unproductive intensity in the room. But by honestly reporting on her own internal experience, she caused a profoundly effective shift.

When we think about leadership, we tend to think about its more assertive and forceful aspects. But vulnerability has every bit as much power as force to transform. Maybe more.

What about you?

How do you related to the concept of vulnerability as a form of power?  Do you embrace it?  Resist it?  Both?
How do you think others relate to your vulnerability?  What impact does that have on your willingness to make yourself vulnerable to others – especially when you are leading or influencing others?
Can you think of a recent or important situation in which being forceful worked against your effectiveness?
What might a more vulnerable response have looked like in that situation?
Where might you want to be more vulnerable in your work life or personal life?  What steps can you take to do that?