In Patrick Lencioni’s book Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he contends that to overcome the absence of trust is about the willingness to be vulnerable. “Vulnerability-based trust is predicated on the simple – and practical – idea that people who aren’t afraid to admit the truth about themselves are not going to engage in the kind of political behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy, and more importantly, makes the accomplishment of results an unlikely scenario.”
Vulnerability-based trust may be a simple idea, but is a challenge to create and maintain in the workplace. It is an ongoing practice.
I experienced this with a client of mine last month in their sincere and committed attempts to create and build vulnerability-based trust. I facilitated a two hour session with them in a practice they called “Monthly Family Meetings.” This was the first time they engaged in this practice.
What happened during the meeting?
- Establish the purpose, covenant and principles for the meeting: This is crucial to ensure a safe place is created and that everyone agrees to abide by the meeting process.
- Storytelling: Each person has to share a “high” story either something personal or work related with everyone else listening. No talking! Then, for those who wish, they can share a “low” story. Again, all listen, no talking.
- Temperature: At the conclusion, each person was asked, “What is the temperature of our space?” Each person responded with a number based on a scale from 1 – 10: 1 = very cold, 5 = just right, safe, 10 = very hot. The hope is everyone falls into ratings from 4 to 6. Not everyone did and those people shared why. There was nothing that needed to be addressed now or later. So, everyone was fine with the temperature.
- Debrief: The group talked about what was healthy and unhealthy about this experience.
What was the result of engaging in this practice?
- The power of listening was overwhelming for the group. To be able to share their story without any interruptions, and to just listen without thinking what to say in response was probably the most valuable take away for them.
- Creating a safe environment in the beginning was crucial to ensure not only participation but a commitment by everyone to honor the purpose and structure of the process.
- There were tears, as well as personal issues shared between some that were brought to the surface respectfully.
- Everyone affirmed the experience and wanted to make it a monthly staff function.
It was quite evident that this group of 10 became closer on a personal level which will lead to less conflict and more trust. One must invest time in this venture of building vulnerability-based trust. You can’t do it with a one-time retreat. You must be intentional and mindful in the practice of trust.
Click here for a general outline for the Monthly Family Meeting.