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Trust on the Team Table

Most of us think we are trustworthy.  But do others see us as we see ourselves?


Lynn Scott Coaching

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the  topic of trust and specifically focusing on what we actually mean by the words trust and trustworthiness

I’m pretty sure that most of us think we are trustworthy.

But do others see us as we see ourselves?

Trustworthiness, like many things, is in the eye of the beholder.

What would our team colleagues say about our trustworthiness and how much they are willing to trust us to do what we need to do ‘in service of’ the team rather than our own self-interest or self-preservation?

And what about our willingness to be vulnerable with each other?

Patrick Lencioni, author of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team says this:

 ‘absence of trust occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.’ 

John Blakey in the Trusted Executive identifies Nine Habits that Inspire Results, Relationship and Reputation– one of these habits is ‘Choosing to be Open’ which includes ‘going beyond speaking the truth to show personal vulnerability’ and (seeing) ‘vulnerability as a strength in my team members’

In my experience this ‘showing vulnerability’ is the hardest thing for many of us to do – particularly in a leadership position.  After all, aren’t we supposed to show strength, confidence and courage? To ‘be strong’?  To be seen to be in control? To have the answers? To demonstrate certainty?

Well yes, sometimes.

And isn’t asking for help ‘showing weakness’?  I’ve lost track of the number of times leaders have raised their fear of ‘showing weakness’ in front of the team – because at some stage in their lives they ‘learned’  that to show weakness leads to problems or difficulties of some kind.

Maybe you learned that ‘big boys don’t cry’ or you ‘don’t wash your dirty laundry in public’ or to keep a ‘stiff upper lip?’ 

Getting over my ‘be strong’ driver (or at least knowing when I need it and recognising when I don’t!) has been one of the biggest growth areas for me personally and one I have to work on every day… so I know how hard it can be! 

But here’s the thing….. We can all change if we choose to (not overnight; but with practice and repetition.. and more practice…...) and if that means we are seen as more trustworthy by others, which means our team is more successful, which means our team is more resilient…. it may be well worth doing ‘the work.’

And the sad thing is this:  If a leader isn’t able or willing to show personal vulnerability then he or she gives the implicit message that nobody else can, either.  So what happens then is that mistakes are covered up, people will hide it when they are struggling, will blame others for things that go wrong… and the leader will often find things out way too late – with all the consequences that entails.

So what does ‘showing vulnerability’ look like in the context of your team?

  • Asking for help from others (‘I know you are great in this area so I’d like your help’);
  • Drawing a line under the past (‘can we agree to put the past behind us and move forward or is there something we need to be able to say or do first?’)
  • Offering to help others (‘I’ve got some ideas that might help’/’I worked on something similar in my last job – maybe we could get our heads together on this?’)
  • Reframing (not assuming negative intent from others without clarifying what they mean; asking ‘what could he/she have meant when s/he said that? What else could it mean?  Let me check it out’);
  • Admitting you screwed up without blaming anyone or anything else;
  • Saying ‘I’m sorry’ and meaning it.

Would you trust your team colleagues if they did more of the above?

And would they trust you more if you did?

Some of these will seem easier to do than others.

But as always, we can start with the first step….

Lynn Scott


    This Page was last updated on: 6 May 2016

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    The Team Resilience Programme drew to a close in early 2016. This page will be updated with useful resources, blogs and articles of interest.

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