Building trust through vulnerability

Why are some teams great and others, well… not so great?

Ever left a boardroom asking yourself why did we just waste an hour of our time in this meeting? Why can some teams engage in passionate debate, even be confrontational, and still achieve a positive outcome?

It all starts with trust. But what is trust in this context? Oxford defines trust as

“a firm belief in the reliability, trust or ability of someone or something”

Pat Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, refers to vulnerability based trust where people are vulnerable and acknowledge their humanity. What does a team based on vulnerability-trust look like?

People in the team are open about their weaknesses, they are comfortable to talk about their mistakes. They put their egos aside for the benefit of the team and don’t hesitate to ask for help, they also offer assistance outside their responsibilities. They listen to each other and don’t jump to conclusions about team members. They recognise each other’s skills and experience. They are able to sort out conflict and don’t hold grudges. They look forward to meetings and all members engage in passionate discussions and debates.

Trust is the foundational aspect of the five dysfunctions of a team. A team without trust are vulnerable to fear of conflict and lack of commitment to decisions. There will be problems with accountability and ultimately inattention to results.

If you suspect that trust might be an issue in your team, I would suggest that you obtain the questionnaire on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, conduct a diagnostic to pinpoint the exact burning issues, workshop the results and compile a plan of action or a team code of conduct.

Also remember that there are no such thing as a perfect team; teams evolve and grow like organisms. There will always be some areas for further development in any team. The biggest remedy is for the team to know their strengths and development areas which will guide their further growth.

Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.