Quick Clicks: Vulnerability-based Trust

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni illustrates the core ingredients that are requisite for a successfully performing team and organization.  At the very bottom of all the things an organization must have Lencioni argues, is Trust.

Lencioni goes on to explain that, “In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.  In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.”

Lencioni acknowledges that this description of trust is likely quite different from a more familiar explanation of the value/concept.  But to help us understand the idea of “vulnerability-based trust”, the author reminds us that members of trusting teams would have the following culture:

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help
  • Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
  • Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
  • Appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation
  • Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group

For the leader, the tried and true, “be an example” mantra is very much appropriate.  To establish the value of vulnerability-based trust, the leader must demonstrate vulnerability first.  As Lencioni explains, “…This requires that a leader risk losing face in front of the team, so that subordinates will take the same risk themselves.  What is more, team leaders must create an environment that does not punish vulnerability.”

It is clear that where vulnerability-based trust flourishes and is genuinely maintained, highly-dedicated contributions among team members remain plentiful and shared throughout the successful growth process.  Our challenge then as those team leaders is to understand our organizations fully, and to cultivate the culture in which both interdependence and dissent that provides for candid and supportive assessments for the team are nurtured as the foundation of the team’s shared values.

Source:  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni.