In Art Of Coaching Podcast, Podcasts

Whether you are a coach, CEO or mom all of us are in leadership positions where we feel like we can’t show vulnerability without losing credibility.

On this podcast I talk about how to talk use your personal experiences to develop a trust relationship without losing your professional boundaries.

Here are the specific topics I get into on this episode

– Compassion the middle ground between empathy and apathy
– Real weakness and insecurity
– The strongest drive in human nature and our tribal nature
– The importance of listening and follow up questions
– Call to action

If you like what you heard today make sure you head to to get more free resources.


Brett Bartholomew  00:00

World class athletes, great coaches,  what do they do when they’re at their best, We don’t take no for an answer, We don’t take no for an answer, we don’t take no for an answer, with no doubt for life , no doubt. 


Brett Bartholomew  00:26

We’re gonna get him on the run, boy. Once we get on the road, we’re gonna keep on the run. then we’re gonna go go go go go, go, go. Now your kids probably saying to yourself, hey, I’m gonna go out and I’m gonna get the world by the tail and wrap it around and pull it down and put it in my pocket.


Brett Bartholomew  00:53

Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back for another episode of the Art Of Coaching podcast, hope everybody is doing well. This week, what we’re going to touch on is vulnerability and leadership. And this is an interesting topic, because many of us are in positions, whether we’re coaches, business owners, leaders, managers, CEOs, what have you, where we often feel like we can’t be vulnerable, we can’t show weakness, we can’t show imperfection. And trust me, like, we’re not going to go on the other end of the spectrum here and say that you need to be, you know, this warm kind of, I don’t know, super emotional kind of cry baby. 


Brett Bartholomew  01:32

That’s not the point. We’re not telling you to lay down on people’s couches and have therapy sessions. What it does speak to, though, is authenticity and being genuine and understanding that most people don’t relate to perfection. And this is something we briefly mentioned before, and we’ll talk about in the future. But you see it the world over, you know, a team starts doing well, and people jump on the bandwagon. They do too much success over a series of years or perhaps a decade. They all of a sudden organically grow haters. People don’t like to see widespread, consistent success, because oftentimes it reminds them of their inadequacies. And it’s hard for people to relate to those that are doing extremely well. 


Brett Bartholomew  02:17

I mean, you hear about celebrities that private jets all over the world have assistants have chefs and some people are, you know, very happy about that. And other people think, Oh, that’s a pampered individual, you know, they, they’ve got it easy, they’ve got it this, they’ve got it that. And the point is, is, you know, if you surround yourself or if you try to make yourself out to be whether consciously or subconsciously, somebody that’s always got it all figured out. Somebody that has a routine or a method or something for for everything, and that nothing ever stumps you, you can’t be surprised when you start feeling some pushback, you can’t be surprised when you have athletes or individuals or colleagues or coworkers that start to distance themselves a little bit because they feel like you’re not one of them. 


Brett Bartholomew  03:03

You know, one story I talked about recently on a podcast was about an athlete that I had worked with who, you know, he, we had a tremendously difficult time relating to each other at first. He came from a broken home, he came from a host of different situations. And the way that that guy saw me was just as some white kid from the suburbs, somebody that hadn’t gone through a whole lot. 


Brett Bartholomew  03:24

Now, granted, he didn’t know much about me. But that’s because I never really talked to my athletes about my personal life. I just never thought that that was something I needed to do. You know, I wanted to maintain a strong professional boundary, what you can certainly do, the two are not mutually exclusive, right, opening up about parts of your life, whether that’s hobbies, whether that’s family, you know, those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Of course, there’s a professional boundary. 


Brett Bartholomew  03:50

And there’s a spectrum and we’ll talk about that. But you know, it’s also what leads to a bridge that connects the two of you. So I remember, one time this athlete had broken down and added a particularly bad day, and I’m not gonna go into his name, but he was talking about how you know, he had made it into the NFL, and a lot of his family was poor. And he had given too many of them, he had bought his mother a house, he had taken care of a number of his siblings. But he had gone on a trip recently to Las Vegas, and it was more of a relaxing trip went and did the whole staycation thing. But when he came back, he just had tons of basically hate mail from some of his own family, extended family people that he hadn’t even heard from in years until he had even made it to the NFL, basically calling him selfish, calling him a host of names, disowning him and attacking him because he was spending money on himself when they felt like he could have helped more members of their family. 


Brett Bartholomew  04:46

And it got to the guy so much that he actually started breaking down more like tears of anger as he was recounting the story. And then anything else and this was just you know, slightly before a session. He had came in about two 20 minutes prior to the session start to have some physical therapy. And you could tell just from his body language that he was in a terrible, terrible mood. And so it all started when I went over to kind of chat with them. And, you know, I made the mistake of saying, listen, man, I understand and he cut me off right there. And he’s like, you don’t understand, you haven’t been where I’ve been. 


Brett Bartholomew  05:18

And I realized my mistake right there, I was trying to be empathetic. And empathy really isn’t the Hallmark trait that we think it is, we talked about this on an earlier episode. But you know, if you look at apathy, not caring about anything, it almost kind of this detachment, on one end of the spectrum, excuse me, I’m fighting a cold. On the other end of the spectrum is empathy. That’s almost kind of being too attached. 


Brett Bartholomew  05:43

It’s, I feel what you feel, right? Like, a surgeon can’t have high levels of empathy. Because if somebody comes in with, you know, 45 stab wounds, they’re gonna get so emotionally, you know, just pulled into that situation and the urgency of it, they wouldn’t be able to make the clinical, educated, logical decisions that they do. And so what research suggests is that really what we need is compassion. 


Brett Bartholomew  06:09

Compassion is that middle ground between empathy and apathy, and it lets people know, hey, like, I can appreciate what’s going on here. You know, and I’m sympathetic to it to a degree, but we’ve also got to, we’ve got to find a way to move forward. Right? And, and that’s really what is the most pragmatic trait amongst leaders, CEOs, they even look at EMTs, firefighters, surgeons, because people have to distance themselves, just enough, from tragic situations, so that they can act, so that they can help. 


Brett Bartholomew  06:42

So I remember me trying to tell this guy like, hey, I get it, you know, I was trying to be empathetic, but really what it did was insult him because he’s like, you don’t get it man, like, what do you know about my life? And I had a decision to make there. I mean, the group was about to start, you know, this has now kind of devolved into a little bit of a conflict. You know, like, one he was just kind of trying to feel me out and, and express himself. But I remember I said, listen dude like, yeah, I can’t relate to being rich, I can’t relate to feeling like the weight of my, like, success weighs on taking care of my family, and this and that and plus, at the time, you know, I hadn’t achieved any kind of success, I still don’t think I have, I’m not that kind of person being raised in the Midwest, you’re taught to be, you know, always grateful, but never satisfied. 


Brett Bartholomew  07:31

So I said, what I can relate to is this man, and I’ve been hospitalized. My brother got stabbed when I was an intern. You know, my parents were divorced growing up, I saw one of my close friends, basically, od’d on either meth or cocaine, don’t really know what it was. One time when we were walking through an open house, and my family and I were moving and it happened, we were looking at a house, it ended up being his. 


Brett Bartholomew  07:56

And I just remember, like, seeing this dude on the bed. And I just kind of went through some things that I had experienced. And he was just like, taken aback. And it wasn’t that he was in awe of what I had gone through my story is no more dramatic, or better or worse than anybody else’s. It was a fact that he just wanted somebody to relate to in that moment, at some level, at some level, like you didn’t have to be him, you didn’t have to be his best friend, you didn’t need to, like, try to match him tit for tat or one up him. He just wanted somebody that understood some kind of frustration or struggle. 


Brett Bartholomew  08:30

And when I could lay that out for him that bridge a gap in our relationship. And I think that that’s a problem today and in coaching and leadership is people feel like if I show a part of myself, you know, when these guys need to listen to me, they’re not going to respect me. And guys, I’m using that term kind of colloquially, I mean, just people, right? Male, female, what have you, the people I work with are and aren’t going to respect me, they’re gonna see me as weak. What’s your real weakness is feigning like, you have to be perfect. What’s real insecurity is putting on a front, what is real, like?


Brett Bartholomew  09:06

What is your, what is real struggle is waking up day after day, going to work with people that don’t really know you, but you expect them to believe your mission and your vision, that’s not going to lead to anywhere good. You know, at the beginning, you might have some sparks fly and, and people might be motivated or inspired by things that you do, or things that you implement or the words that you use, but long term people want to relate, they want to belong, you know, I talk about, it quite a bit in some of the lectures that I give is, you know, there are four primary drives and the drive. 


Brett Bartholomew  09:40

One of them is the drive to bond. That’s one of the strongest drives in human nature. That’s why from the beginning of time when we communicate, you know, once we got to the period of time where we could communicate, we were bonding together in tribes. I mean, people knew it gave them a better chance for survival. Everybody had different skills, and even though there was fierce competition for scarce resources, we had to find a common bond, if we’re going to have a bigger goal. 


Brett Bartholomew  10:06

And listen, it wasn’t a problem that, you know, some people in those tribes didn’t know how to maybe hunt as well as others. And some didn’t know how to make fire as well as others. And some didn’t know how to even communicate as well as others, they found a way to do that collectively within a group by identifying and acknowledging mutual weaknesses and finding ways to fill those gaps. 


Brett Bartholomew  10:28

And that’s what being part of an integrated team is supposed to mean. You’re not supposed to be everything to everyone, you’re not supposed to have all the answers, you’re not supposed to be able to solve everybody’s problem. What you are supposed to be able to do is relate to them, guide them, be there for them and help them figure it out. And sometimes that says a devil’s advocate, sometimes that’s a direct mentor. 


Brett Bartholomew  10:52

Sometimes it’s shutting up and listening. And I think that’s another undervalued leadership trait. We talked about the value of vulnerability, but what about just the fact that most people just don’t know how to listen. And they may sit there and passively listen, but like, flip your phone over, turn it on airplane mode, and listen to somebody. And not only that, follow up with questions. 


Brett Bartholomew  11:15

So if somebody is talking to you, one of the easiest way you can let them know that you’re listening is just reflective, reflective listening, or practice, repeat what they said, try to get the deeper meaning out of it so that you can be more helpful, and then have follow up questions or share something that that you either understand or struggle with in that same regard. So this isn’t mind blowing. 


Brett Bartholomew  11:34

And I told you at the beginning of this podcast, nothing we are going to talk about is, there’s no bags of goods here, nobody’s trying to sell any one size fits all solution or hack, we will find it repeatedly in life, that the things that we struggle with are the most simple, they are, the ability to listen, the ability to be grateful, the ability to admit weakness or fault, the ability to learn how, you know, to evolve as peoples and professionals is critical. 


Brett Bartholomew  12:04

If we’re going to have sustained long term high level success, it’s not going to be immediate, it’s going to take time. And you know, many of you listening may not even know what your weaknesses are, you may have shrouded them so deeply into other things. And just like, you know, there’s always an excuse for something or an external focus. I remember one time, one of the most valuable times for me in my career is I was in the Denver Airport, and it was a massive layover. I was trying to get home for the holidays. 


Brett Bartholomew  12:33

And I wanted to just kind of go through an exercise because I felt like I just gotten, you know, a performance review at my job, I don’t really feel like it gave me feedback that I was looking for, as a professional, it was more, I don’t know, it was more kind of surface level, it was almost as if they were scared to insult anybody, or make them angry. So none of it really got deep. And so I was like, alright, you know, I’m going to do kind of this one on one drill, where I’m going to ask myself a lot of tough questions. And like, no BS, either, like this has got to be very clear. And so no PR answers, no contrived kind of statements that redirect the focus. What does it mean? 


Brett Bartholomew  13:13

Alright, so what did I want to accomplish in my career? Why did I want to accomplish that? What did that look like, as a professional? And as a person? You know, meaning what did success mean? In my professional life and my personal life? What would that day feel like? What would my actions be? How would my wife or kids perceive me? If I did or did not accomplish that? What would they recognize about to help me accomplishing that? You know, and a brief example that I always give is, you know, some people will say, hey, why do you do what you do? Oh, to make a difference.


Brett Bartholomew  13:44

But what does that mean? What does it mean to want to make a difference? Like, what are you trying to make a difference in? Why are you trying to make a difference in that area? Or in that way? what ways are you succeeding? In that regard? what ways are you failing? And what are the things that lead to you succeeding or failing? How can you create an environment that decreases the likelihood of you failing in that circumstance, right, there’s so many more questions. And some of you will recognize this as motivational interviewing, you can call it whatever you want. I call it being real with yourself. Because if you do not have self awareness, if you cannot display vulnerability, you’re going to be an awful coach. You’re gonna be an awful coach, and you’re going to be an awful leader. 


Brett Bartholomew  14:25

And it’s the quick path to the Dunning Kruger effect, where you feel like you are far more competent than you really are. These are things I can speak to guys because I’ve lived them. You know, I’ve lived them. I have wanted to, you know, I prayed at night that I would be the best, one of the best strength coaches in the world, like what does that even mean? Who is, who’s gonna judge that? What does that look like? Like I’m in a field where we can’t even really quantitatively and fully, you know, evaluate what that means. 


Brett Bartholomew  14:56

There’s great strength coaches that work at institutions are with athletes that don’t always experience success, does that mean those aren’t good coaches? Heck no. Some of the best coaches in the world right now we’re working with 13 year olds that can barely walk, blink and breathe at the same time. Not all those kids are gonna grow up to be pro athletes. Is that coach horrible in that regard? No. 


Brett Bartholomew  15:17

A coaches effectiveness and utility are based upon their ability to adapt, identify, and analyze variables that impact human performance, and alter those things, to the best of their ability. But before you do that, you’ve got to do that to yourself. So the call to action, I’d ask you guys to sit down and write out 10 questions. Again, what’s your goal personally and professionally? What does that look like? What will that entail? What are you really struggling with right now that you’re scared to admit? What would you never want your boss to find out? What would you never want your significant other wife, husband, whatever, to find out whether it’s just a weakness that you don’t know how to do something? Or that you ask for help on this project? What’s something that you’re ashamed of? And where did that feeling come from? And what have you done to ameliorate it? 


Brett Bartholomew  16:07

Right? So questions like these, I’m not going to give you, you know, homework assignment, say it has to be these 10 questions, but things like that. And the biggest thing is, you know, thinking about how you evaluate not only yourself, but your staff year in and year out. And, or if you’re a coach listening to this, and you don’t have a staff, you’re working for an organization or what have you. Like, where did the questions in which you derive that evaluation come from? You know, I have a coaching evaluation form that I use, after a wide variety of or a large number of sessions. And it’s like, hey, what, what coaching style was used? What was the goal of this session? Why was that the goal? was it achieved? Did it, what helped you achieve those things? 


Brett Bartholomew  16:50

What could have been done better next time? And it makes me think about everything from my tone of voice, my body language, logistical management, setup and flow, all these pieces, because the vast person, the biggest percentage of what we do in our success comes from logistics and relationships. And relationships come from vulnerable, being vulnerable, self reflective, action oriented, and patience. 


Brett Bartholomew  17:16

We’ve got to be patient in this process. Guys, that’s it for today. I hope in this kind of micro segment, I give you some things to think about. Again, be vulnerable. Understand that there’s a limit there. Nobody’s saying tell your life story to people. Nobody’s saying that. This is a Dr. Phil or Oprah thing. What I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to admit your faults. 


Brett Bartholomew  17:35

Don’t put on a show. Don’t listen to what half of the pop psychology leadership books tell you that you have to be perfect. Remember, somebody that never admits their mistakes is somebody that you can very rarely trust. It’s a facade. It’s not real. And in today’s, always connected society, part of the reason we’re still starving for actual connection is because people are afraid to be themselves. Thanks again. If you guys want to learn more, go to or you can follow me on Instagram at @coach_BrettB. And feel free to send your feedback suggestions, anything on the show to Thanks again guys. Have a great rest of the week.

  • Rudy Natera


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