Vulnerability: The Core of Trust

Trust is a key to accomplishment through relationships.  I've said before that trust lubricates relationships.  Trust provides the necessary ingredianets to enable people to work together as a team. Trust eliminates friction, gives room to move and enables everyone to perform at their best. Trust isn't the only key to successful teams, but very few teams succeed without trust.

In thinking of trust, it seems one of the key ingredients of trust is vulnerability. We trust people who we believe spend their energy for our mutual benefit. We all operate for our own benefit, but we trust people who have some energy for us.

We all must manage our appearance.  We workout, brush our teeth, comb our hair (or our former hair). We try to make ourselves presentable.  But we also have radar for how much energy people spend on us.  If our teammates spend all their energy on themselves, we become skeptical when they tell us they're for us. We get skeptical if people spend all their time managing their appearance, promoting themselves, or making themselves look good.  When we perceive others to only be "in it for themselves," we withhold trust.

Remember the old (and renewed) Star Trek series. On the Starship Enterprise, energy was used to support life systems, propel the ship through space, fire the weapons and support the defensive shields.  If the shields were up and active, the ship consumed more energy and was less able to maneuver.

Vulnerability is operating with your defensive shields down. If your shields are up, we don't trust you. When your shields are down, you're free to use all of your energy in service to others.

As leaders, operating with our shields down means we're free to do what's best for everyone around us. Operating with our shields down means spending our best energy to make others successful. We bring our best self and our best energy to serve our team, our customers or our friends. We become a peer, an encourager and someone who is free to truly empathize with our team. We make our team better and that makes us the best leader we can be.

So this week, resist the temptation to protect yourself by managing your presentation, trying to look like the boss or always being right. Be as vulnerable and transparent as you can. Your best energy will make you much more beneficial and helpful to others.  And they'll grow more, and succeed better with your help.

Special Thanks to Inès Mahjoub and Richard LaRue for prompting me to think about vulnerability.