Blog

Mar 7 2014

Building Cohesive Teams with Vulnerability-Based Trust

By Scott Hackman, Partner & Family Business Advisor

Some evenings you will find me, quiet, sitting in the dark, being a presence as my four-year old daughter falls asleep. It’s hard for me to sit, inactive. But as I wait, open and vulnerable to her needs, she is able to find peace and restful sleep. Because my wife and I invest this time with her, her trust in our relationship grows and we grow together as a healthy family. Vulnerability-based trust is also key to growing relationships with spouses, leadership teams, successors, and management groups. Too many leaders in family businesses spend leadership energy “firefighting,” or reacting to problems. Others fear that practicing vulnerability-based trust may be too costly for their key relationships. However, this discipline is a critical element of leading a successful business.

Lencioni defines vulnerability-based trust as a place where leaders, “comfortably and quickly acknowledge, without provocation, their mistakes, weaknesses, failures, and needs for help. They also recognize the strengths of others, even when those strengths exceed their own.” As a result, leaders can confidently model and provide space for vulnerability and trust in the boardroom and around the dinner table. As individuals are invited to share their perspective of the issues in need of resolution, they build more commitment and accountability to the team’s shared vision.

Research on fearless conversations reveals how this practice leads teams to success through higher levels of commitment, role clarity and peer accountability. In her research on vulnerability and shame, Brene Brown describes why people hold back and mask their pain. One reason is uncertainty, the ambiguous grey space between not being/having enough and enough. The perpetual request leaders are bombarded with in their financial reports, board meeting and employee conversations is the need for more. So how do leaders use vulnerability-based trust to build a sense of enough?

They begin by identifying the internal and external voices blocking their way forward:
• What are the voices of judgment, doubt and fear?
• What are the voices saying? (Ex: They won’t listen to you… You are going to run out of money, etc.)
• Are those things really true?

They articulate their desired outcomes and feelings surrounding an issue and invite key relationships in management, family and others to discuss the issue.
• What is the key decision that needs to be made?
• What are all the desired outcomes in the room?
• What are all the possible solutions?
• What are the positive and negative consequences of each solution?

For our family, trust is built through our night time rituals. My wife and I invest the time in our children, even when it is hard to sit quietly and wait. For business leaders, vulnerability-based trust is a key building block that leads to healthy leadership teams. It takes courage to step into vulnerability, to admit to uncertainty, and to invest in constructive conflict. But it is essential for higher levels of commitment and accountability, for success as a cohesive team.

If you want to learn more, read The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni and join me for our March 13th FORUM where you will hear from Doug Clemens, Clemens Food Group. I will facilitate a brief workshop using our Yuck to Amazing™ tool for building a cohesive leadership team in your management, family, and ownership group.

Scott is an Executive Coach and Family Business Strategist. If you are interested in his consultation to build a cohesive leadership team, please contact him at scott@dvfbc.com or call 215.723.8413, ext 205.

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