Building Trust through Vulnerability and Ego Checking

It seems everywhere I turn I hear or see something about trust. Trust is the basis of teams. Building trust is an essential function for a leader. To be effective as a professional, one needs to be a trusting and trustworthy person. So how do I know if I’m a trusting person? How do I know others can trust me?

One way to begin answering these questions is to explore our sense of vulnerability. Just how comfortable am I with being vulnerable? Can I easily share my strengths and weaknesses? Am I comfortable hearing negative comments about my behavior or ideas? Am I comfortable accepting compliments from others?

To be vulnerable requires a certain degree of security. If I am in constant need of positive feedback to help me feel secure or to be able to face the work, then I may not be willing to hear negative feedback. If I am a leader and can only hear positive comments, I may feel very insecure when I hear about problems or negative feedback. The result might be getting overly angry or critical of those who share the negative comments. I am not secure enough in my own thoughts and perspective to be vulnerable. Thus, I don’t trust myself well enough to hear things that don’t agree with me.

Another way to assess my trustworthiness is to examine my ego needs. Do I need to achieve recognition above and beyond the results of the group or organization? A great example of this was when the Boston Celtics basketball team acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to compliment the skills of Paul Pierce. For years Paul Pierce was an outstanding player for Boston; some would even say a superstar. However, Boston could not be successful in the play-offs, let alone win the NBA Championship. When Kevin and Ray, both superstars in their own right, joined the Celtics and the three decided to give up their individual recognition and trust each other, the Boston Celtics became the dominate team that led to an NBA Championship. By the way, this was the first NBA Championship for all three superstars.

The decision by the three superstars to check their individual egos at the door was a great assessment of being secure enough to be vulnerable and trust in others. Their actions went a long way toward demonstrating their trust in each other, but also their trustworthiness. They could not only trust others, they could also trust the “self.”

So can you be trusted? Can you build trust? Can you trust others? Can you demonstrate vulnerability in your actions and words? If the answers to these questions are positive, it is probably safe to say you are a trusting and trustworthy individual.

Until next time, look for opportunities to be vulnerable and learn from others as well as provide guidance when needed. This will go a long way to build trust within the group or organization.