Trust, Transparency and the V-Word

Your Team's Strength is through Trust/Vulnerability

As an Agile Coach, I often lead teams through discussions during intense Retrospectives or heated Planning Ceremonies. One of these discussions occurred last year when a team was struggling with accountability. The team was unsure about how to call out each other, and themselves, when they were “stuck” and losing momentum on a task.

Through this discussion, a concept evolved in my mind that I introduced to the team on the fly. Shortly thereafter, I breathed life into this further in an Agile un-conference in Berkley, where an artist created the image in this post. Each time I have introduced this concept, I am further inspired to coach teams to be their greatest kick-ass selves.

The concept is simple, yet powerful. Highly performing teams communicate, collaborate and work together well. Highly performing teams (dare I say, “relationships”) trust each other.

Your Team’s Strength is through Trust/Vulnerability[/caption]Trust is the key to a highly performing, kick-ass team.

But trust is not easily obtained. It can take individuals several interactions to begin to align and realize their shared values.

In other words, trust requires transparency;

We can only trust what we can see or have experienced. Now don’t get me wrong, we can surely have faith in a person, and hope that their intentions are well and good… and aligned with ours. But until we experience the person, our trust is unfounded.

Transparency makes us vulnerable.
The moment we become transparent with our desires, our accomplishments, our fears, our shortcomings or even our progress on a physical Kanban board, we make ourselves vulnerable. When we show ourselves, we subject ourselves to judgement from others.

I propose that in order for a team to truly grow and trust each other, they must encounter and survive moments of sheer vulnerability. The moment a team member shares an insecurity, or a heartfelt desire, he/she becomes subject to judgement, and therefore vulnerable. In turn, when the team accepts a member’s shared shortcomings or encourages them to succeed in obtaining their desires … the minute they all realize they are in it together, regardless of their flaws … they have begun to build trust. They have just begun to build a team. As the interactions become more frequent and meaningful, the team members begin to make their way over to the kick-ass side of the Trust Spectrum where they are empowered and excited to support each other in succeeding together.

This is what it takes to be a team. Whether we’re building a product with peers or creating a home with our family, we can only be a team when we can be vulnerable together and support each other through our imperfections.

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