Vulnerability-based Team Trust“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity”– Brené Brown

Brené Brown, an inspiring research professor at the University of Houston, shared this post on LinkedIn a few weeks back:

“We asked managers a simple question: What behaviors do you find the most trust-earning in your direct reports? Everyone guesses the answer is reliability or accountability. Those answers rank in the top 5. The number one trust-earning behavior? Asking for help. It feels counter-intuitive, but would you delegate an important project to someone you know wouldn’t ask for help if s/he were struggling?”

Sometimes, we are afraid to raise a hand to ask for help because we think that people assume that we should already know the answer, or for fear that asking questions will make us vulnerable. But remember, vulnerability leads to trust, one of the fundamental blocks of team building.

Besides leading to innovation and creativity, asking questions is the most effective way to learn. According to INSEAD professor Hal Gregersen, “asking questions is a practical tool to help you come up with new ideas, solve problems, and gain different perspectives.”

Generating new ideas, solving problems, and gaining different perspectives are habits every goal-oriented organization should want to cultivate. In order to achieve this, team members must be able to be willing and vulnerable to ask questions. They need to be vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know” or “I messed up”.

Trust vs. Vulnerability-Based Trust

Trust is the belief in the reliability and truth of someone or something, but vulnerability-based trust goes deeper than that. According to Patrick Lencioni, vulnerability-based trust occurs when leaders, “comfortably and quickly acknowledge, without provocation, their mistakes, weaknesses, failures, and needs for help. They also recognize the strengths of others, even when those strengths exceed their own.” This deeper level of trust is a necessary component for a team to achieve its goals because, “Team members have to learn to trust each other if they’re going to be a real team.”

Steps to Build Vulnerability-Based Trust

Lead by example

If you give trust, you’ll get trust. Try interpersonal exercises where you share a personal experience, or a challenge that you overcame. By doing this, you will bond with your team and they will be more open to sharing their own vulnerabilities.
Be open to communication.
Leadership and team members should make the effort to listen with the intent of understanding what is being said, rather than only to reply. Team members should feel free to open up but also to be open and respectful to what is being said around them.

Look at the Big Picture

Besides the fact that no one likes to be micromanaged, dictating small details can impede results rather than foster them. According to Forbes, “micromanaging is one of the most damaging habits an executive can have”. Leaders should manage overall direction and goals, making it easier for team members to do their jobs and showing them that they are trusted to do so.

Get Away from the Desk

Off-site exercises can create stronger bonds among teammates. Taking a team out of their normal setting gives them an opportunity to take on different roles and dynamics which leads to different avenues of communication, thereby intensifying their connection.
When teams are built on vulnerability-based trust, team members feel supported enough to innovate, to ask questions, and to say, “I need help.” A strong united team, will unite to achieve its goals!

How does your organization build an environment that fosters trust? I’d love to hear about it! Share your story in the comments below. If you’d like to learn about how team building and leadership development can help your organization build trust, we would love to hear from you.

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