Vulnerability is a state most managers or leaders work hard to avoid. They believe it is a weakness. It can also be seen as a strength.

You’ve climbed your way to the top of the organization through hard work, building relationships and maybe a bit of luck. Your group or team looks to you for guidance, decision-making and support. If the strategies, projects and actions you take are wrong, you immediately become vulnerable. Senior management’s view of your performance will results in professional ramifications – with the possibility of getting fired from your job. It is common the manager believes they have to shoulder the stress alone. Then fear sets in; paralyzing the manager and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Vulnerability is also about opening up your thought process to your group or organization before decisions go awry. It is allowing your staff to understand you may not have all the answers. Employees will rally around someone they believe genuinely wants to the right thing and may need help along the way. Bosses who know it all – rarely get the same level of support.

If you promote critical thinking and seek feedback during less stressful times, with a positive attitude, the information will be used proactively. There are a number of ways to initiate your discussion – one on one or in small groups.

Think about what questions you would like to pose; an ideal number is less than ten. Only ask questions you are willing to hear the answers to with out getting defensive. This is not the time to justify why you did or did not do something. It is the time to get information and perspective from their point of view. To feel competent takes practice; ask someone to role play with you or make a plan to have several conversations over time. If you walk out of your first session knowing you reacted poorly, regroup and learn from it.

When talking to someone – one on one – you may have different questions for each person. Consider having a few common questions to determine if there is a consistency in their answers.

To prepare for a small group, write down the questions you want to ask. Rank the questions from the easiest (less risky) to most difficult. The less risky questions will be good for warming up the group and building trust. Move to the more difficult ones if you believe the group is ready for them. If you move to quickly, you’ll encounter silence or vague answers.

Showing vulnerability or your soft side is not something done continuously by good bosses. If done to excess, you run the risk of being called wimpy or indecisive. Your group wants to know fundamentally that you are strong and have the right skills to make the decisions.