How vulnerability can strengthen your practice

Do you think of vulnerability in business as a positive or a negative?

Back when I was coaching mid-level executives in a financial leasing company, I asked a young man that same question. Without hesitation, he replied, “Negative.” He followed up his answer by saying that he wouldn’t want his boss to think he was incompetent and couldn’t do his job. “I don’t want to be exposed like that,” he continued.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen this sentiment echoed repeatedly among architects.

Being vulnerable in business should not be considered a “negative” or something one shies away from. There are times when vulnerability is necessary.

So what is it that makes vulnerability “okay” in business?

Paradoxically, you need to have a degree of confidence before you’re comfortable to be vulnerable. For architects, this relates back to the struggle between being a technician or a leader. It’s crucial architects know which hat to put on and when, as it will make a significant difference in the way they run their practice and attract clients. 

When wearing the technician hat, architects should be definitive when speaking with a client. Be the expert. Being vulnerable here would probably not suit your case, as you don’t want to be too open about your shortcomings. 

But as a leader, you need to be much more questions-based than answers-based. Vulnerability allows you to do that. An architect who always feels as if they are doing their job properly and doesn’t seek answers from other peers, employees or even the client, will never have the opportunity to be vulnerable, and thus never get enough opportunities to grow. Vulnerability is demonstrated by the volume and quality of questions. 

A second constructive way to demonstrate vulnerability in business arises as you build your relationship with a new client. 

It would be sensible – as well as a good relationship building technique – for architects to acknowledge a client’s vulnerability when they are hiring a new architect. At the beginning of the process clients are worried about such topics as cost, scope creep and timescales. Architects often miss the opportunity to educate the client on the value an architect can bring to the table. This leaves clients with fewer convincing arguments or reasons why they should spend significant amounts of money on an architect.

Vulnerability is one of the key topics that we cover on our Designing Architectural Practice Success course at Archibiz. We also cover foundational areas of business, such as finance, marketing, recruiting, leadership, among others, to help you lead a successful and impactful architecture practice. Learn more today.