The story of vulnerability that builds trust

To mark a special night.

It has been long days which I eat, work, sleep… almost most of my time with some squads of rockstars in my team. Today was not so different. We walked out of the office at 9pm and each group parted to return to each of our airbnb apartments. The first thing I did when reaching home was to get on my laptop again, sitting at the sofa to write some articles. 10pm ish, a team mate walked over to the living room and said he could not sleep right away just yet because of his insomnia. We started chatting.

I have worked with him for years yet this was the first time we met in person in London. And this night was the night we talked beyond the challenges at work. I don’t remember who started but we began to have an 1-1 feedback session, that followed up with him saying how frustrated he felt when he could not meet the expectation and behind the peers. He utterly shared he could see his weakness and believed he could not change it easily, and that it had to be a talent when it came to such skillset.

It hit me instantly like a thunder! I put my Mac away, took a deep breath, looked in his eyes and took all the courage to tell him: “I think you are wrong. I don’t think the problem was because you were not good enough, but it was because you did not show [enough] to other people how good you are!”

- “But you are different from me. You have the position, you know, you are the leader of the company, you can have the confidence to present your ideas, and you show it convincingly…”

- “Let me tell you the truth. I was not that confident. I had all reasons to feel insecure, and I was like that at the beginning. Me being lack of technical expertise and leadership skill, being the youngest and the only female in the room and I have to tell all of you guys what to do… I was doubting myself of course! I had this exact feeling like any other human being – What would they think about me? What if they think I am talking nonsense? What if they don’t trust me and my ability?.. All of those thoughts. And you know what turned me around? The exact same thing: Fear. I realised my fear of losing the opportunity to make this company a success is much bigger than my fear of what others think of me. My fear of dying (since I don’t really know how much time I have) but not making an impact is much bigger than my fear of doing something stupid. I told myself, that’s it. Let’s do it anyhow, even with this “physical fear”. Do it anyhow because my desire for our success, to prove it that there is magic indeed, is greater emotion than this fear inside me. That’s probably the courage which forces me into speaking up, taking actions, leading, trying, failing, then trying again. That’s what you see in front of you today. And you can be the same. You can change!”

It ended up in another 2 hours of vulnerable conversations that led to a radical boost of confidence in the person sitting in front of me, and probably a little tears in my eyes and a true warm feeling around my heart. He was at awe, he smiled, he opened up, he shared more stories, we cleared up past negative experiences in projects we did, we discussed ideas to improve our product and collaboration… And at that moment, I knew this relationship would never be the same again, that it would not just be the manager-employee kind anymore, that we just became co-creators, and that is surely the secret power for the company to thrive: our people.

And in such seconds, I realised I would not be the same person anymore too. That I was just given an invaluable opportunity to have such meaningful moments of connection, to build trust, to influence, to be real.

An immeasurable gratefulness.

Zean Vo