CEOs: Show Your Vulnerability, and Win Over Customers and Employees


 I learned something recently about the value of vulnerability. Before I tell you the lesson, I’ll share a little bit about myself and my frame of mind as the lesson came to me. 

I live in San Francisco, and my family lives in Southern California. My mom has cognitive impairment that seems likely to turn out to be Alzheimer's disease, and as a result, she resists any kind of outside help. On one recent weekend, my mom was hospitalized, and I went down at the last minute and spent several days helping navigate that difficult situation. I was "on" the entire time I was there, and when I returned home, I was exhausted, stressed, anxious and irritable. 

I took sanctuary in my Sunday New York Times and serendipity led me to my lesson, which brightened my spirits considerably. I’ve been following the career of Cedric Bru, the CEO of Taulia, a maker of invoicing software, and was pleasantly surprised to see him interviewed in The Corner Office column, with the headline, "Trust from the Top Down." 

Cedric wore his heart on his sleeve in this interview. He talked about instilling trust in his employees by making it acceptable for himself, his management team and his staff to be vulnerable. He also shared personal bits of information. He told about how he grew up working in his family's vineyards in France. He said his experience as a rugby player taught him to trust his team. And he gave a powerful example of how he revealed his own vulnerability to his staff, telling them that he was going through a difficult time because he was separating from his wife. 

I now know enough about Cedric to feel a real connection. That knowledge makes me want to promote Taulia as a product and place to work. 

A few days later, I also read that Taulia had decided to use Xactly, a sales compensation data analytics tool, which will help the company establish a fair system for paying its salespeople, through competitive salaries and commissions. Xactly’s claim to fame is that it uses technology to help businesses give employees the right incentives, so their interests align with the company’s interests. Building a compensation plan with Xactly should help Taulia hire and retain the best salespeople possible. That’s smart business. 

Who wants to work with a CEO who candidly shares personal challenges, who recognizes you have to trust your team, and who wants his company to have the most competitive compensation for its sales team? I do; do you? 

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O'Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps CEOs of public and private companies who want to build, grow or refresh their boards with an aim for inclusion.