The Trust Effect

Let me ask you a question?  As a leader do you think that you should show your vulnerability to your team?  By this I mean letting them see your humanity by saying things like; “I don’t know”, “Can you teach me that because you’re much better than me at it”, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that”, “I’m not so good at this and I know I need to get better”, or “I need some help”.

I recently asked this question of the Managing director of a small but fast expanding business with whom we are doing some development.  The response was “No, never.  It’s important that the team sees that I am in control at all times.  However, I am very open with my team”.

When I later observed his team meetings it was interesting to see how his team members responded to his request for feedback and openness on his leadership style.  Nobody said a word, the silence and awkwardness was palpable in the room.  After the meeting I asked the team members (away from their leader), why had nobody raised their concerns (of which there were many).  The common reply was that they did not wish to be the one who put their head above the parapet to be shot at.  It seems that despite the leader’s attempt at openness (to his credit), there was an element of fear that was holding people back.  When team members are weighing up the potential social and political cost of expressing themselves there is an absence of trust.  As the leader had never previously shown his vulnerability the team members were not going to risk it for themselves.

When there is a vulnerability based trust in a team people are free to express ideas, joy, concerns, dissatisfactions without fear of reprisal.  This is the trust effect and the cornerstone to any strong, supportive functional team.

From our experience, there seems to be a commonly held myth that leaders show no weakness.  We have found this to be especially true in the more male dominated workplaces such as heavy industries, engineering and mining.  This apparent ‘weaknesses’ includes showing how you really think and feel and who you really are.  Here at Learning to Inspire we believe that there is a growing consciousness of leaders showing their humanity to others and that this is a great strength, not a weakness.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • How might you be contributing to a climate of trust or mistrust?
  • How are you at being challenged by team members?
  • What might you gain from some feedback from your team?
  • How might you show your humanity to your team?
  • Do we ever really have control and is it not just an illusion?  Might our teams see beyond our own illusions?

These are the kind of questions we will be exploring on our up and coming ‘Team Health Check’ days…….. where we help you to create high functioning teams.

Cardiff: 3rd June 2016     |    Chester: 10th June 2016


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