by Michael Holland    

Manager Matt is two years into his 1st tour of duty as a leader.  He’s survived the dark days of learning to manage on the fly with new situations when everything was new to him. He’s been through performance reviews and slow staff meetings, handled performance reviews and un-engaged peers, experienced hiring someone and firing someone, and communicated difficult corporate mandates. He’s found that demarcation line of being a friendly boss without being “one of the guys”.  But do Matt’s employees trust him?

Hmmmmmm, trust?  Well, they know what to expect from him in most situations.  They know he’ll be at work every day and if not, he’ll communicate that ahead of time.  They know he’ll go to bat for them with crazy deadlines and under-resourcing as best he can.  They know he’s a good listener as they tell him their woes.  They know he’s working to run better staff meetings.

Trust is one of those words that we seem to throw around a lot, filing off the raw edges of its true definition.  Trust does come in different forms.  There’s predictive trust – which is knowing people will do what they say – and then there’s vulnerability-based trust – which means people are open and honest with each other.  Matt seems to have the former locked in.  But what about the latter?

Patrick Lencioni, famed author of the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, suggests that true vulnerability-based trust is “evident among team members who say things to one another like ‘I screwed up’, ‘I was wrong’, ‘I need help’, ‘I’m sorry’, and ‘You’re better at this than I am’.”  And most importantly, these comments are authentic and are said at points in time when team members really don’t want to say them.

As a leader, you probably see yourself as trustworthy (likely more trustworthy than those around you).  But do others on your primary team see you that way? Do they truly trust you, and you them?

And here’s the killer question:  When you look up at your senior leadership team, do they show signs of truly trusting each other in deep vulnerable ways?

Coaching Thoughts- For You and Your Peers

  • What type of trust should leaders exhibit? Do you agree that vulnerability-based trust is as vital to the workplace as predictive trust? In what ways might it improve the relationships between you and those on your team?
  • When was the last time you used one of Lencioni’s sample phrases authentically and at the right moment?  What about the last time you heard someone on your senior leadership team say something like that?