Key to a Great Workplace: Take a Leap of Trust

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I have a riddle for you:

Q: You have me but cannot hold me; gain me and quickly lose me.
If treated with care I can be great, and if betrayed I will break.

So what am I?

A: Trust.

What’s trust got to do with it anyway? Trust and vulnerability are a big deal. Being able to be your authentic self in front of others takes a ton of courage. And for many of us, it’s not easy to be vulnerable in our work environments.

A good friend told me a story recently about moving from fear to trust and vulnerability in the workplace. He shared how one of his long time employees in charge of major accounts realized that his account numbers were not adding up. He did an internal audit and discovered that he had made an error in his computer entry that cost his company a significant five figure deficit in favor of the customer. The employee was surprised to learn that he had made this mistake and even more surprised that the customer did not bring this to his attention.

This is what may have gone through the employee’s head …

“How on earth am I going to admit such a big mistake? My boss is going to fire me. Maybe I could shift some numbers from somewhere else so no one knows I messed up. How do I explain this one to my wife? I’m going to lose my benefits. How will I ever find a new job in this economy? My career is ruined. Who will hire me with this screw up?”

So what did the employee do? What would you do in this situation?

Here’s what did happen: He went to his boss and told him the truth, expecting to be fired. His boss listened and asked how they needed to fix it. The boss offered to call the customer to help resolve the problem. The employee took responsibility for his mistake and wanted to attempt a fix. The boss trusted his employee enough to let him do so. It turns out that the customer made it right on his end and the employee was able to balance his budget. The boss later acknowledged the employees’ truthfulness and courage for owning and fixing his mistake at the company meeting.

The situation and workplace that I just described has a unique advantage over many workplaces today. This work culture supports vulnerability trust and turned a potentially devastating situation for the employee into something good. The story is a great example of how having the foundation of trust, brings increased cohesiveness in the workplace.

So what does TRUST in the workplace look like??

  1. Willingness to be vulnerable, unguarded and genuine to others
  2. Confidence among the team that all members have good intentions
  3. Ability to acknowledge weaknesses and apologize to one another
  4. Team members feel safe asking for input regarding areas of responsibility

Life and workplace is about connections. Trust relationships deepen with vulnerability. When you allow yourself to be more exposed and open about your own insecurities, fears, and imperfections, you allow others to do the same. It is far easier to build a relationship with others when we are open and transparent about our strengths and weaknesses.

Can you think of a relationship where you could benefit from increased vulnerability and connection? Most importantly, are you ready to take the leap of trust to make it happen?

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