10 tips to Increase Vulnerability-Based Trust in Life and in the Workplace

Being vulnerable and truly open with another human being is where the best teamwork and connections happen. Patrick Lencioni, author of Five Dysfunctions of a Team, explains vulnerability-based trust as the willingness to be completely open with one another and confident that your team member’s intentions are good. Vulnerability-based trust lies in the heart of high functioning, cohesive teams. Being vulnerable can be difficult and frightening. Brené Brown, author of “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,” shares this about being vulnerable:

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” — Brené Brown

I was confronted with the vulnerability challenge while leading a Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team workshop. I really wanted to be vulnerable and share parts of myself with the participants but a fear inside me said no – do not reveal your true self. All of a sudden all the lies I had believed about myself were playing in my head. Despite my fear, I encouraged myself and followed a nudge to share openly.

Some time ago, based on childhood experiences, I made up a story that I was not smart enough. And I believed it for many years. This belief system made such an impact on my life that it negatively impacted my self-confidence. One day, I looked around my office and I was surrounded by BBA and all these certificates of accomplishments. It was a moment of awakening in me. Now, when the old trick of “not enough” pops into my head, I can identify it and rise above it.

We all have something that we believe we are not enough of. It is part of the human condition. It is a trick to get caught in it. What is your “not enough” that gets in your way and keeps you from being vulnerable to another? Is it not smart enough, pretty enough, loved enough, have enough are just plain to do you feel like you are not enough?

Revealing my inner self to others turned out to be an awesome experience. Other people in the workshop shared their personal stories and in the course of the day we could feel the energy shift and the team get closer and bond.

One of my favorite ideas from Brené Brown states that “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” If your goal is to increase vulnerability-based trust in your workplace and life, consider these ten tips:

1. Reduce the amount of gossip and talking about one another other behind their backs
2. Admit when you are wrong, make mistakes and readily apologize
3. Let go of holding grudges from the past
4. Understand and appreciate one another’s work styles and strengths
5. Be open and practice information sharing
6. Take time to learn about each other on a more personal level
7. Looks for ways to give credit to others
8. Acknowledge and celebrate successes of others
9. Share openly both your failures and successes
10. Give your team members the benefit of the doubt before jumping to a negative conclusion

When the relationship is strong and you practice vulnerability trust, people are more forgiving of faults. When the relationship is not strong people harness more resentment. It’s time to kick your “not enough” conversation to the curb. Ask yourself, “What can I do to foster an environment of vulnerability-based trust?” Take a moment and choose one of the above, work on it for 30 days and see what happens … or get started with the Five Behaviors Facilitation Kit.


    Our team has decades of experience transforming teams into powerhouses that can accomplish anything they set out to do, while enjoying the process. We are experts in Leadership Development, Teamwork Optimization, and Transforming Workplace Culture, and you can learn more about each of these areas by clicking the buttons below.

  • Excellent leaders draw on the strengths of their team members and consistently strive to bring out the best in others for the greater good of the organization.

  • The key to optimizing teamwork is to develop an understanding of team communication styles, turn conflict into positive energy and create win-win results.

  • A strong cohesive culture increases your bottom-line and helps employees bring their best selves to work, resulting in happier people, happier teams and happier stakeholders.