How often have you sat in a meeting led by an upper-level manager or even a CEO who concluded the meeting by saying, “Feel free to come to me with any questions; my door is always open.” How often have you actually gone to that manager or executive’s office to ask a question?

My guess is that only a few of you have done so.

That’s understandable; approaching the boss, even the one to whom you directly report, with a problem or a question can be nerve-wracking. Imagine being a new team member who’s trying to figure out the rules, who’s seeing some problems with the way their job is laid out, or who has some questions about how to do their job better. That person needs to also figure out who to ask, and if it’s okay to lay a problem at the feet of the team leader.

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As the team leader, if you don’t know about a problem, you can’t help to fix it. So, you’ve got to be the one to explain how the team communicates with each other and with you.

This recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Paul Axtell lays out the steps to giving team members the confidence to be honest and open with their team leader. They’re similar to what I recommend in my book, “ONE Team ONE Dream,” as they’re a good way to build what I call vulnerability trust – the capstone of a well-built team.

One of the most important things that Paul recommends, as do I, is to give permission to the team – and get permission FROM the team, too – right at the start of the process that builds toward vulnerability trust.

Tell the team at the start of the first meeting that they have permission to ask questions at any time; that they can invite other team members into the conversation; that they can ask to spend more time on a topic of discussion; that they can get feedback or opinions about an issue from other team members; and that they can speak up about thing that are concerning them or that they feel haven’t been fully addressed.

You, likewise, ask THEIR permission: to call on team members to speak; to guide the conversation back on track if it begins to get repetitive or one team member is dominating the conversation; and to ask questions to clarify an issue that a team member has brought up.

This sets expectations for the team – they know that they can bring their problems and questions to you without fear, and they trust that you will guide these meetings so that everyone participates and provides their perspectives and potential solutions. They will learn, as these meetings progress that they can have conflict around ideas and find solutions together.

Providing clear guidelines – and following them – can really empower a team, too. They have a base to stand on and a path that lets them express their concerns and their ideas in a collaborative environment. Try it out. You’ll be amazed at how much the team moves forward – both in problem-solving and in forming stronger bonds with each other and with you.


One Team, One DreamExcerpted from One Team, One Dream by Gregg Gregory For more information, get your copy of Gregg’s book, One Team, One Dream today! Available in both print and electronic versions!

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