How do you sum up your work in just a sentence or two?
Here’s how I did it when somebody asked about my coaching: My clients discover how to command the room and connect with the audience using their physicality, their language and their voice. That allows them to influence what people think, feel, or do.
I believe masterful speaking demands that we balance command and connection. And that goes for other kinds of communication too. In a sales conversation, a team meeting, or a coaching call, the idea is to dance between command and connection. To flow from being the leader to being a partner.
That same dance can—and should—happen when you write for your business. The co-founder of Rainmaker Digital, Sonia Simone, calls it “empowered vulnerability, the most powerful writing voice for the 21st Century.”
Yes, people read your blog, your report, even your social media post because you’re the expert. You have the experience. They’re looking for a leader who can show them how to succeed.
A lot of smart businesspeople (you may be one of them) believe that means they have to come across as knowledgeable, powerful, even invincible, all the time. You know, “Never let them see you sweat.”
There might be a better way.
Here’s how Simone described it in Copyblogger:
“Empowered vulnerability doesn’t shy away from authority. It understands that people will always look for informed, confident voices.
But it also doesn’t shy away from revealing the personal, the fractured, and the imperfect.”
“Empowered vulnerability is the conscious choice to embrace the best of both states, power and vulnerability. We all have both powerful moments and vulnerable moments. We can tap them both to become better people and better writers.
And the combination creates a blazingly potent voice that works beautifully in the content environment today.”
So allowing your audience to see your imperfections doesn’t undermine your authority. To the contrary, Simone says, “vulnerability can be a source of authority.”
Many speakers find it excruciating to be vulnerable in front of an audience. They prefer to project a carefully calculated image of strength, expertise and supreme confidence.
These speakers perform well. They maintain a certain distance from their audience. And some of them are quite successful in a very competitive business.
That approach seems to be falling out of favor, though.
Whether you get your point across on a stage, on GoToMeeting, or in a newsletter, it is more and more true all the time that you’re better off to allow some cracks in the façade.
To give your audience a peek at what’s really gone on in your world. To share the difficulties you faced on your way to becoming the authority you are. And to offer them a hand as they confront the same challenges.
Power and vulnerability. Command and connection. That’s what your readers/listeners/viewers want from you now.
And of course I want it too. Share your own experience in the comments below. How comfortable are you with portraying power and revealing vulnerability?
I loved this Catherine! I have been preaching vulnerability to the leaders I coach for a long time with quite a bit of resistance. I love how you talk about the balance between command and connection! I think this is a easier pill to swallow for leaders and executives!
You’re right, Laurie – it likely is more comfortable for business leaders to allow for vulnerability if they combine it with power. And it also works. Pure power, without the vulnerability, can come off as aggressive or even bullying; it’s better balanced with some softness.
I was overly rehearsed, cold, and distant during my first paid speaking gig because I was trying to be “the expert.” I lost the audience in less than 5 minutes. Thankfully the fire alarm went off and when we all returned (I can’t believe they returned) I threw out everything I had prepared and just talked to them. So much better. And I agree, my best talks are when I am vulnerable. I can feel the audience join with me. Great article Catherine!
You paint a vivid picture, Melissa. We’ve all heard speakers whose expertise could be valuable to us, except that we’ve tuned out because they failed to engage with us. And you’re right, that can happen in the first few minutes of a talk. It’s such a study – how to hit the right note from the start. I’m glad you found this piece useful.
I’ve heard women who are way too vulnerable. It’s a turnoff when women reveal how they are currently suffering.
Vulnerability is OK when you are discussing a problem you have since faced and resolved.
You’re right, Diana, it’s possible to go WAY to far with vulnerability. This is not an either-or. it’s a both-and. It’s the dance we want … between agency and community. Between command and connection. Between power and vulnerability.