If you want someone to open to you, you generally must open up to them. Be vulnerable, then you might get something back. If you are unwilling or unable to be transparent yourself, you shouldn’t expect much in return.
I was recently in the presence of a master business and leadership coach; someone well known for their ability to help people expand their thinking and improve their performance. She did not even wait for anyone else to share before sharing herself. The question was something like, “What is a major unresolved issue in your life right now?” Immediately followed by, “I will go first.” She then proceeded to share something very personal, truly challenging, and that did not put her in the best light. Something that you would not normally share with a very close friend, never mind a bunch of leaders you barely know.
The bar was set and the sharing from the others in the group was very deep. We were in the 5%; that 5% of your life that you normally don’t share with anyone. Myself, I was able to share my true feelings about something that I had admitted to no one else.
My reward for deep sharing was that I received experiences from the group that I otherwise would never had heard; similar experiences that I had no idea anyone else had. It helped me to make good progress on the situation in a short amount of time.
This pattern of sharing deeply in order to help others do the same seemed familiar to me. I realized watching this amazing leader at work that I often do the same thing when I coach people one on one. When I do the results are often much better than when I just ask questions and don’t share myself. It’s like saying, “Let’s not waste time going through the motions, let’s get real.”
If you have a team member you trust and want to get to optimal performance by addressing their deepest concerns – someone you wish you could get to know at a deeper level – a great way to get them to open up is by opening up yourself. Give and you may well receive.