A Secret to Leadership and Team Success – Vulnerable Trust

“I messed up.” “It was my fault.” “I don’t know.” Are these words that you would expect to come from a leader? What if I were to tell you the answer to this question is, “Yes!”

Regardless of the industry we work in, most of us strive to be the best we can be. Whether it is having all the answers, meeting the tough deadlines, or solving complex problems, we view each challenge as an opportunity to showcase what we are made of. And when our weaknesses are exposed, we tend to come down too hard on ourselves—which often times is exactly the opposite of what we should do.

In Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” he discusses common ways that teams get “derailed” and ways to overcome each. According to Lencioni, at the very foundation of a successful team is trust. Not the type of trust where people can predict others’ behaviors, but rather he is referring to vulnerable trust—the kind of trust where individuals are able to expose their weaknesses and mistakes in order to create a culture in which it is understood that “no one is perfect, but together we can compensate for imperfections and accomplish results nonetheless.”

So how do you establish vulnerable trust on a team? The same way you can establish most any behavior on a team—by modeling it at the top. Leaders who want to establish vulnerable trust on their team can do so by:

  • Recognizing that vulnerability is different than weakness. Weakness is the inability to admit imperfections. But vulnerability is the first step towards overcoming them.
  • Declaring what they know…and what they don’t. And therefore making it clear that they are relying on the expertise of others to fill in the gaps.
  • Being forthright about mistakes—and how they are going to learn from them.
  • Not expecting perfection from others—but instead looking at imperfections as opportunities for continuous improvement.
  • Embracing opportunities when “their idea may not be the best idea.” Not only does this leave opportunity for new and better business practices, but team members will have more respect for the times that leader does insist on their own ideas.

By modeling each of the above behaviors in conjunction with putting your best foot forward and always striving to be your best, you are taking the steps toward creating an environment where true teamwork can take place. So ask yourself, what could you start, stop or continue doing to establish a sense of vulnerable trust on your team?

By:  Rachel Spyksma, ATW Training Solutions

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