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Since working on Highrise, I’ve had a mentor. Like most mentors they’re someone with more experience than the mentee (me). And occasionally I can’t help but feel like they really should not be spending their time helping me. 😅 But they are! So, score. 💪

At the beginning, each mentorship meeting felt like getting up to sing a solo in my underwear—not to an audience but to one person. And that is OBVIOUSLY worse ‘cause it’s just the two of you and ugh. I was very truly sick to my stomach before every meeting. I epitomized the classic this is fine meme.

I figured, if I positioned the camera just right and showed the right pieces of the business, then on my Zoom calls, my mentor would never see the fires raging around me.

Don’t we all do that sometimes? In our meetings with managers or teammates we try to act all put-together and we hide the real struggles.

I think that I acted that way because I was worried they’d think less of me if they knew the truth. Like, how hard it was for me to prioritize the newsletter while taking care of my two-month-old baby. Or how little I really knew about growing a newsletter. Or how often I was frequently wrapping up portions of the email at 3:00am. 😬

Then a few weeks ago, I re-listened to Brene Brown’s famous TedTalk where she teaches about vulnerability and its role in gaining true human connection. The talk is beautiful, but I had never connected its principles to my worklife.

She teaches about connection and vulnerability, which feel like things that belong in marriage or family relationships. But not something that applies to a manager-employee relationship or between coworkers. At least that’s how it seemed to me.

But for some reason that day, Brene’s research felt applicable to my situation.

She reviewed the attributes of people who had an innate sense of worthiness. A couple of her observations about that group resonated with me.

  • “They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.”
  • “They had connection…as a result of authenticity.”

So as I prepped for another mentorship meeting, it was obvious what I needed help with: I needed a goal that would prioritize writing newsletter content. But all the goals I could think of were systems. Like, write for the first hour of work each day. And systems are good, but I wanted a metric that would track my results. And I couldn’t think of one.

But I really did not want to bring this up with my mentor because it felt like admitting that I was this giant mess, that I was failing at the MAIN thing this is all about—the freaking newsletter content!

I thought back to Brene’s observation, that the group of people “were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.”

So I tried to let go of who I thought I should be, and I went to the meeting authentically. I asked for advice on the issue that I really needed help on. And that meeting had a synergy to it that none of the others ever had. And we came up with a great solution. My goal would be to have two months of content written in advance by the end of the quarter. We’ve had a bunch of other meetings like that since.

How are you holding on to what you should be, instead of being who you are?

Is your fear of authenticity or vulnerability holding you back from synergy and connection between you, your team, or your manager?


1. Build trust with the people you work with

You can’t expect yourself to be wholly authentic until you trust the people around you. Take steps to building work relationships that can be valuable to you. 

2. Talk to your people about what really matters

Prep well for meetings. Pump yourself up to say what needs to be said. Embrace the slightly painful reality of your authentic self. Trust that vulnerability fosters connection.

3. Believe that connection brings business results

Trust enables efficiency and motivation between employees, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Better goals, more creativity, less guesswork, more direct communication, higher energy levels can all come from trust-based work relationships.

I seriously hope you test out being more vulnerable and making the most out of your work relationships. It isn’t exactly an overnight fix, but trust the process!​