December 5, 2023
Brene Brown and Patrick Lencioni

At the foundation of the Patrick Lencioni ‘Ideal Team Player’ model is the manager’s ability to facilitate trust on a team, and it’s only been within the past couple of years that I started to understand what trust really means and how to take action on it. It means that the leader provides a safe space for employees to communicate, respectfully, without fear of shame.

And it means that employees need to feel comfortable with doing that.

That can be hard to do for any employee just getting to know their manager. How will the manager react? Will I be punished for speaking up?

It can be hard for a new manager as well because they have to make themselves vulnerable first and trust that their team will take the opportunity to communicate freely in the spirit it was intended.

So, what gives? Somebody’s got to go first, right?

For me, the most helpful path to guiding a functional team is to understand the concept of vulnerability, which I learned about when I read Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly.” To be vulnerable is to project strength for the long-term even if it means sweaty palms for the short. But it also means coming face-to-face with shame and robbing it of its power.

The idea you’re not good enough.

The idea you’ve been exposed as an impostor.

It’s important for managers to feel like they’re seen as leaders by their employees, so it seems illogical that they might step out there and do something that might risk the team seeing them as something less than that. However, that’s precisely what has to happen. The risk brings the reward.

Being vulnerable is asking, “What am I doing wrong?”

Being vulnerable is being OK with an employee saying, “We are doing this the wrong way.”

Not only is it being OK with that; it demands that employees communicate that from time to time. If we’re not hearing dissent at least every once in a while, we’re not doing it right. The more we make it clear that we’re cool with our employees after these types of conversations, the more trust is gained. The way I prefer to verbalize that is to say that I “have their back.”

It starts there.

There are more steps to this process, such as Lencioni’s “disagree and commit” concept but I’ll save that for another blog on another day.

For now, let’s vow as managers to make sure employees have a chance to voice concern and disagreement in a respectful manner without any fear. If we’re not feeling at least slightly uncomfortable as we do it, then it might not be really happening. Do that over and over, and I suspect that individual manager-employee relationships will improve over time, making the team dynamic a ton healthier.

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