Building Trust Through Being Vulnerable by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

It is very common for business leaders, entrepreneurs, or even those entering into leadership or management roles to make the assumption that they need to be considered as in charge and in full control at all times. This may harken back to an older management style where the manager or leaders were always seen as the person in charge, with no sense of ambiguity, concern, or vulnerability in his or her role.

While this may have sent a somewhat positive message to some people on the team or in the workplace, it also created a risk for a loss of trust. After all, if the person in charge is one hundred percent convinced they are right and something does not work, it creates a lack of trust in judgment, understanding, or knowledge.

A lack of trust in the workplace is a very serious issue. Teams, departments, or workplaces that do not have trust in each other do not work together. When individuals or groups have a lack of trust in others, productivity drops, and the ability to make effective change in any type of process or procedure is limited.

When different individuals or groups in the workplace do not trust others, they are not likely to discuss any challenges or difficulties they are having. They are defensive and unwilling to admit there may be problems, while at the same time, they may also be deflecting issues to the group that is the target of their distrust.

The Role of Vulnerability

One simple but very effective way that a leader can begin to build or rebuild trust with a team, group, department, or entire workplace is to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable means opening up and being effective in communicating this sense of openness to those around you.

A sign of a leader who is comfortable in being vulnerable is a leader who asks for honest feedback about her or his ideas, approaches, or methods of working with the team. These leaders do not encourage the thought they are in complete control and make all the decisions. Instead, they see a leader who trusts them to provide feedback that is helpful, creative, and beneficial to the task at hand.

This opens up the door to increased creativity, better communication, and more of a true “team and leader” experience. This, in turn, builds trust, as the team sees the leader as open to feedback and to alternative suggestions and options. This sense of trust does not immediately develop, but simply starting out by encouraging and being open to suggestions, comments, ideas, particularly on a new project or a new team goal or process.

Asking for help from the team, especially in areas where the team has experience and expertise, is another way to be vulnerable and to build trust. Utilizing the team and recognizing their skills, knowledge, and experience while also admitting your lack of that specific knowledge is another way to open yourself up to the team and provide a true representation of your leadership skills and abilities.