CEOs: It's Okay to Be Vulnerable

Being vulnerable is important, but as the CEO, you need to find the right balance between making the right ask in the right way.

Article by
R.J. Talyor
Picture of Operating Partner RJ Talyor on a blue background.|Picture of Operating Partner RJ Talyor on a blue background.

As the CEO, it’s your responsibility to make sure things at your company are under control. So when they’re not, you’re not quite sure what to do or who to turn to–if anyone. 

In my first two years running Pattern89, a former High Alpha company, I wanted to show everyone–my team, my co-founders, my investors–how in control I was. I did my best to make sure everyone thought everything was locked in. But when I finally opened up and expressed where the company needed help, it unlocked a new period of growth for the business. 

Being vulnerable is important, but as the CEO, you need to find the right balance between making the right ask, to the right person, in the right way. 

Be Thoughtful With How You Make Your Ask

Being vulnerable and asking your team or investors for help can be a positive thing for the business. It can surface new ideas, establish new perspectives, and build trust. However, you must be cautious of two things:

  1. Asking For Too Much. You can’t expect someone to do the work for you. When you’re approaching someone, come up with a proposal. Having a specific ask to see if you’re on the right track will get you better results and safeguard your relationship with that person. 
  3. Risking Your Credibility. You can’t let off a vulnerability bomb. Telling your team or investors you don’t know what you’re doing can risk your credibility. You must show them the work you've done to tackle the problem and ask for their input. It will make the people around you feel valued and more bought into the organization.

Don’t Take The Advice For Granted

Once you’ve asked someone for help, follow up with them. They want to know if their advice was beneficial, and following up can build trust, making them more likely to want to help you again. A simple, handwritten “thank you” card never hurts either. 

Also, you should always be available. What goes around comes around, and you cannot ask for favors without being willing to help others.

Surround Yourself with the Right People

You must surround yourself with people that do not discourage your vulnerability but encourage it. The right people will want to go heads down with you when something is wrong. So the next time you’re hiring a key team member or going out to fundraise, perform reference checks. 

Final Thoughts

As the CEO, your job is to make sure things look like they are under control, but if you’re not vulnerable, your team and investors will assume everything is okay. My colleague, Cam McAllister, said it best.

One of the best things founders can do is be confident enough to express their challenges. Founders want to say everything is going well, but they need to be vulnerable. If we know your challenges, we can help you.
Cam McAllister, Go-to-Market Manager

At High Alpha, we welcome vulnerability, and I can personally attest that the team will be with you every step of the way to make sure your company is a success.

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