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(Video) The Paradox of High-Performance Teams: Trust and Vulnerability

  Steve Longan     May 04, 2016

the paradox of high-performance teams baton.jpg

In this week's Wireboard, I'd like to share deceptively simple video featuring Brené Brown that has profound implications for how we sustainably grow our own work, as well as the work we do with others. First, the video from Inc. Magazine:

 

 

 

 

This is something we at Rewire have been thinking about frequently as we use Patrick Lencioni's Five Behaviors of Cohesive Teams (A leadership and training paradigm developed from his work in Five Dysfunctions of a Team) platform with teams looking to build a high-performance culture at their company. Now, for any unfamiliar with Lencioni's model, the foundational dynamic of high-performance teams is their building, maintaining and leveraging of tangible trust amongst themselves.

 

And on the surface, I think we'd agree that "trust" is a good thing. But here's the problem: scratch the surface of trust and you'll find something else lying just beneath.

 

Vulnerability.

 

Why vulnerability? Because our very definition of trust implies that there is something I value or care about that I am (by necessity or choice) ceding to someone else's control.  If I am not in control of that which I value and am giving control over to someone else, then I am vulnerable to that other person's actions in that area. Their success or failure impacts the thing I care about (and this is true whether we're talking about project-management, executive leadership, or babysitting).

 

Therefore, authentic tangible trust is only possible in the presence of some amount of vulnerability. And trust is a foundational aspect of high-performance teams. Therefore, by the transitive property, high-performance teams exercise a healthy vulnerability with each other.

 

Now we've arrived at the paradox, because "vulnerability" is just a long four-letter-word in most business contexts.* And yet, both Brown and Lencioni cite it as foundational to growth. So, what are we to do with this paradox?

 

Well, I first want to be realistic: the way individuals and teams navigate this paradox will determine the shape and identity their work takes on. We get hired to work with clients on this part of their businesses over the course of months. So I have just enough humility (thanks, Edie!) to recognize that I’m not going to be able to resolve that tension in the space of one article. The goal for this article is simply to make the case along with Brown and Lencioni that vulnerability and trust are absolutely crucial to dynamics of high-performance teams and that both of those values are simultaneously counter-cultural and counter-intuitive at some level.

 

I think one way to start to approach the paradox of healthy vulnerability in high-performance teams has to do with working out that all-important adjective, “healthy.” What do we mean by “healthy” when we talk about (and then practice) vulnerability? We'll share the Rewire perspective on this in a future article or two.

 

In the meantime, you’re welcome to send me your thoughts or questions on this or use the comments section as a space to think out loud about the paradox of healthy vulnerability in our work.

 


* Actually, "vulnerability" is often a long-four-letter word in most contexts, period. But we're focusing on the sphere of work and business in this article.

  Leadership Control Lizard Brain Organizations Trust Vulnerability

Steve Longan

Written by Steve Longan

Steve Longan is Rewire's Director of Research & Program Development. He's passionate about leveraging psychology and communication to develop growing, healthy workplaces. He's at "peak zen" (his words) when he's in his music studio.

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