Leading with Strength and Vulnerability

Crisis has a way of exposing both our courage and our weaknesses, and it’s tempting to use facade to mask failure or stress. Don’t.

It’s better to face challenges honestly and head on, even if they make us uncomfortable.  It takes courage to turn your attention inward and to share your struggles with those around you. But when you do, you will gain strength to move forward and give confidence to others to do the same.  If we practice vulnerability now – we will all grow stronger together.”  

-CEO Ric Elias


I’m not failing. I just feel like I am.

I’m struggling. There, I said it. I am struggling. I can’t remember a time when I felt more stressed, more stretched to my limits and more sapped of energy. The constant context switching is exhausting. I go from Employee Trying To Do My Best, to Parent Supporting My Kids, to Team Leader Guiding a Function, to Spouse Carrying My Share, to Home-Schooler Teaching Kindergarten, to Human Sheltering in Place And Scared Under The Weight of a Global Pandemic – sometimes all within an hour. 

The worst part is, I feel like I’m not succeeding with any of it. Maybe you can relate. 

My inner critic is loud.

I’ve become better at being open with my opportunities, but it’s been a long journey. Having a harsh inner critic who sits on my shoulder each day reminding me of my inadequacies doesn’t help.Over the last two years I’ve gotten better and dealing with my inner critic, and he has quieted down some, but in the last 4 weeks my critic is out in full force. 

The loudest message I am hearing is this: “You are failing. At everything. You’re not successful with work and you’re not successful with your family”. Telling my inner critic that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic hasn’t helped, unfortunately. He doesn’t care. So, what has helped?

Pictured: my inner critic, making an outward appearance

When I go through bouts of stress, struggle, and self-doubt, my ego directs me to focus more on me. It offers terrible suggestions that provide quick hits of dopamine for instant, yet unsustainable gratification. My ego directs me to react to this email, answer that slack, complete the easiest task on the to-do list, eat an entire bag of Peanut M&Ms…  but these are distractions, not solutions. It’s a never-ending loop of destruction. 

Negative self-talk > poor choice > negative self-talk about the poor choice that I made > another poor choice to feel better quickly, and on and on. The inner-critic is winning – but there is one (relatively) simple way we all can escape that trap…

We’re in this together. 

There is so much stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, and sadness right now. It’s not just happening at home, it’s happening in the workplace, too. I was on the phone with a friend who leads an HR team at a large financial company. She said colleagues were becoming outwardly frustrated with one another over small things, more irritable, and communicating less effectively. With lines between personal and work so intertwined right now, this is bound to happen – but we must treat ourselves and others with compassion now more than ever. 

One tactic to escape the trap of negativity is to double-down on our focus on others. I’ve started reaching out with more FaceTimes with family, more texts to friends, more check-ins with teammates. I’ve made connections through Red Ventures, too, by joining more communities and conversations on Slack, and by getting involved with our nonprofits’ continued efforts to connect (virtually) with young people in our community.

As I’ve reached out more to others, I have found many who are struggling in similar ways. Our egos are good at telling us that we’re the only one, that things are worse for us, and that they’ll be bad forever, but it’s not true. 

This moment in time is a monumental challenge we ALL are facing. We are parents who are homeschooling, we are individuals living on our own, we are in cities surrounded by despair, we are in places waiting for despair to hit, we are caring for family members, we are far from home missing family terribly, we are leaders trying to navigate uncharted waters, we are individuals trying to do our best, and so much more. 

This pandemic will impact us all in a myriad of ways. For better and for worse, a common bond is that it will impact us all. 

I’m struggling, but I’m grateful.

Grateful for my health and the health of my family. Grateful to share laughs and frustrations with friends. Grateful to work for a company that has been innovative and compassionate from the day we went home, and for so many talented teammates who inspire and support me.

I’m struggling, but I’m doing my best. Maybe you can relate. 

Read more from Josh Tarr, Vice President of HR & Talent Management here.

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About the Author:

Josh Tarr | VP of HR & Talent Management

Josh Tarr joined Red Ventures in 2016, and is Vice President of Human Resources. The name of this game is employee success, and that only happens when you create an experience that brings out their very best. Prior to joining Red Ventures, Josh held multiple HR leadership positions at Family Dollar / Dollar Tree. Josh has an amazing wife and two great kids - the true talent in this bio.

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