The Power of Honesty and Vulnerability…

Jun 19, 2024 | Mental Health, Talking Anxiety

Last week at the CIPD Festival of Work 2024 in London, I had the privilege of delivering a session on the importance of honest, vulnerable conversations around mental health and well-being for people leaders. Little did I know that I would end up embodying this message in a most unexpected way.

As I stepped onto the stage at the Hampshire County Council School Conference 2024 today, I couldn’t ignore the tickle in my throat and the lingering effects of a recent, nasty virus.

From the end of last week to the start of this week, I was completely resting as it really did knock me for six – felt rough as anything plus a brutal cough, not great for a Professional Speaker!

So, with a cough that potentially threatened to disrupt my presentation, as I took to the stage today – I made a decision: honesty. “I have a cough,” I announced to the audience, “and the tail end of an infection. If I start coughing, please don’t slow-hand clap me off or throw stuff at me. Just give me your support and compassion, and I’ll be fine in a couple of minutes. I promise you!”

The response was overwhelming. Instead of judgment or impatience, I was met with understanding nods and supportive smiles. By acknowledging my vulnerability upfront, I set the stage for an authentic connection with my audience. It was a powerful reminder that honesty not only builds trust but also creates an environment where true dialogue can flourish.

Throughout the session, I shared personal stories and insights, illustrating how embracing our vulnerabilities can lead to more meaningful connections and effective leadership. It’s natural to feel apprehensive about revealing our challenges, whether they’re personal or professional. Yet, as I experienced firsthand at today’s event, authenticity paves the way for genuine engagement and positive outcomes.

Being honest about my condition didn’t detract from my message; it strengthened it. It allowed me to connect with my audience on a deeper level and demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity. Moreover, it underscored the importance of compassion in our interactions, both in the workplace and beyond – plus not to be afraid of showing our humanity.

In our quest for success, it’s easy to believe that vulnerability is a weakness. However, I’ve learned that it’s often our greatest strength. By embracing honesty and vulnerability, we not only reduce anxiety and boost our confidence but also inspire others to do the same. Together, we can foster a culture where authenticity thrives, enabling us to navigate challenges with grace and achieve meaningful results.

As we move forward into the second half of 2024 (where has the first half gone!?!), let’s remember that honesty is not just a virtue but a catalyst for growth and connection. Let’s continue to have those courageous conversations, knowing that they lead us closer to understanding, empathy, and success.

(I know you are wondering – no, I didn’t cough once – then back to my hotel room & coughed loads!  So, same routine for Day Two of this wonderful conference to a whole new room full of attendees!)

Until next month…see y’all soon!


Nick 🧢

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the increase of Country Music choices in recent ‘Walk On’ music tasks (those who know, know!) – this is up there…enjoy! 🤠