Trust and belonging are having their “15 minutes of fame”. While I completely agree these topics are of critical importance in today’s changing world of work, many of the articles I’ve read take an intellectual approach. I find myself left wanting a more human exploration of these topics. So, here’s my take:
If I trust you…I will let you see me.
It doesn’t mean I will go on and on about my personal life. But I may share I didn’t sleep well because I’m worried about my dad’s fall. Or that a wave of grief about my friend’s passing arrived unexpectedly yesterday.
If I trust you…I’ll reveal when I need help
…because I have writer’s block or if I feel unsure about a new project. I’ll tell you when I mess up. I’ll say, “I don’t know”.
If I trust you (and know you care about me)…I’ll ask for feedback
And when you give it to me, I’ll ask if there is anything else. Then I’ll use that feedback to improve.
If I trust you, I’ll grow and develop with you.
I’ll get better at what I do (even with 20+ years of experience). I’ll share my ‘off the wall’ ideas, which may lead to new ways of doing things. I’ll laugh with you and maybe even cry with you. I’ll connect deeply with you on a Zoom call now and again even if we’ve never met in person. I will give you my best because I care. I’ll care about you, too.
Vulnerability is the doorway to building trust, which leads to belonging.
And yes, vulnerability is scary. Especially if you’re in a leadership role and feel like you’re supposed to have it all figured out. Vulnerability doesn’t mean you have to unload your insecurities or personal details. It does often mean you will need to be the one to open the door—to show it’s okay to say “I don’t know” or “I’m nervous” or “I messed up”.
A Pivotal Moment
When I was a new COO, I showed up as having it all together. I remember conversations with a Director on my team. She came into our 1:1’s highly prepared with a bullet point list of updates and victories. A self-admitted perfectionist, she was reluctant to share her pain points preferring to tell me about her homeruns. One day I decided to share that I could be overly self-critical and often doubted myself. She stared at me for a long minute. It was awkward and I felt exposed. Then she said “Really?!?!?” It started one of many meaningful and real conversations. Slowly she began to share where she struggled in her role. She asked for feedback and she gave me feedback, too. She shared her BIG ideas for her department and the organization because she’s a visionary. It’s one of her strengths and she hadn’t revealed it because she was afraid to put her ideas on loud speaker.
The following year she nearly doubled our sales revenue. I don’t take credit for her accomplishment. Yet I may have opened the door to her revealing more of her authentic self and strengths. Nearly 10 years later, with both of us in new roles at new organizations, we are still connected. We’re still supporting each other’s growth, still laughing and crying together.
This is what trust creates.