The power of vulnerability to build trust

The power of vulnerability to build trust
April 30, 2019 Linda Murray
In Leadership, Success, Team

Something I’ve noticed a lot lately is concern around trust. Have you noticed that too?

Whether it’s thanks to all the negative news stories we see, Australian politics, Royal Commission or “fake news”. Overall, we seem to have lost our trust in each other.

I find that sad.

You can’t be a leader if your people don’t trust you and the basis of trust is vulnerability. Yet, it is vulnerability many people are afraid of.

I understand why they feel this way. When you make yourself vulnerable, you feel exposed and open to being hurt or judged.

But think about it this way…

Vulnerability reveals the real you and explains your why.

Revealing your story, your experiences, your triumphs and failures shows why you do things the way you do and why you hold your values.

Revealing your vulnerabilities is like shining a light onto your character, where nothing is left hidden.

So, why is this so important in teams?

Well, when you can be open and honest, you set the ground rules so team members are comfortable to be open and honest, too.

Without seeing your vulnerability, putting trust in you is a leap of faith.

I’m not saying you have to “spill your guts” to your team. What I am saying is you need to be willing to reveal more of yourself when the time is right.

  • When your team fails, show them it’s ok and they can rise above it by telling them about one of your failures.
  • When a team member is afraid or is having difficulty with a task, show them you understand because you’ve struggled with tasks, too.

Showing your vulnerability means sharing yourself to connect with and help others.

Jeff Polzer, Organisational Behaviour Professor at Harvard, is quoted as saying, “We think about trust and vulnerability the way we think about standing on solid ground and leaping into the unknown. First, we build trust, then we leap. But science is showing we’ve got it backward. Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust — it precedes it.”

And that last phrase summarises my point perfectly.

Leaders don’t have to be perfect. In fact, perfection often raises more suspicion than it does trust. They need to be vulnerable to show they are human and that’s the basis of trust,

  • How comfortable are you with vulnerability?
  • Are you willing to show your strengths and weaknesses to your team?
  • Are you ready to hear your team members giving you feedback – positive as well as critical – without being upset?
  • Are you able to talk about your failures as well as your wins with your team?

It won’t come naturally or easily to everyone, so if you want to talk more about vulnerability and trust, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next week, stay real.

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