vulnerability-signAlmost everybody had a favorite super-hero when we were kids. Some of them keep tight to their image and principles, even in their adult life. However, no everybody knows that each super-hero is vulnerable. Why don’t we are?

Super-hero vulnerability

Before moving forward, let’s do some research and remember those very well known vulnerabilities from some well known super-heroes:

  • Superman –> kryptonite
  • Wonder Woman –> her weapons can work against her
  • Green Lantern –> It is ineffective against anything made of the color yellow.
  • Martian Manhunter –> he is vulnerable to fire
  • Aquaman, DC’s Sea King –> they can only breathe out of water for an hour

Now, that we know that super-heroes were and are vulnerable. What about us? what about our teams?

Team vulnerability

Based in what we know about our super-heroes should we help team members to become vulnerable with their teammates/organization? In my opinion, the answer is “YES”. If we go back to our super-heroes, we should remember the “hall of justice” team. They became stronger knowing their vulnerability. I am sure that teams could get advantages knowing their vulnerabilities

Helping teams to become vulnerable is not a easy job. However, as coach, we could guide them. A good start could be to show them that we, as coaches, are vulnerable. At the same time, we could show them that becoming vulnerable is safe; and nobody will blame them.

In my experience, before start with the team, we should start with upper-management level; we should explain to the organization that “vulnerability” is not a bad thing. By doing it, it would allow you to create a safe environment to become vulnerable with your team/s.In fact, without a safe environment, it would be harder (sometimes impossible). With that being said, one of the pillar to become vulnerable as team is to make the organization sensible about vulnerability.

How to do it? Well that is the core of this article. Here there are 3 team exercises. Each of them could be played with executive teams or scrum/agile teams.

Vulnerability exercises

Here, you will find some of the exercises that I use a lot to build trust, become vulnerable and decrease shame level. For sure there are more exercises to work on this matter, but here are my 3 favorites:

Personal histories

Source: “The 5 dysfunction of a team” book by Patrick Lencioni (see it at amazon here)

Purpose: To improve trust by giving team members an opportunity to demonstrate vulnerability in a low-risk way and to help team members understand one another at a fundamental level so that they can avoid making false attributions about behaviors and intentions.

Time Required: 15 – 25 Minutes

Instructions: Go around the table and have everyone answer three questions about themselves.

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in that order?
  3. Please describe a unique or interesting challenge or experience from your childhood.

Debrief: Ask team members to share what they learned about one another that they didn’t already know. This reinforces the purpose of the exercise and allows for a natural ending to the conversation.

You could find the full info to download about this exerciser here

Behavioral Profiling

Source: “The 5 dysfunction of a team” book by Patrick Lencioni (see it at amazon here)

Purpose: To improve trust by giving team members an opportunity to demonstrate vulnerability in an objective, in-depth way, and to help team members understand one another’s strengths and weaknesses so that they can avoid making false attributions about behaviors and intentions.

Time Required: Two to four hours, depending on the size of the team, the skills of the facilitator, and the team members’ level of knowledge of the profiling tool.

Instructions: there are few profiling tool, in the book, the author propose the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), but you could use other where you are more comfortable. In me personal case, I found very complicated that test to do in agile teams; however, it could be a good test for executive teams. For agile teams, I started to see PCM (process communication Model).

Whit your favorite profiling tool, you should be able to:

  • Present the test and have all team members complete your test
  • Explain result of the test
  • Present team members and results
  • Interpret as team those results
  • Identify potential team weaknesses that the group must avoid as a result of its particular inclinations. Acknowledge strengths. too.
  • Let team members talk about their results, particularly insightful and descriptive of their tendencies. Also, have them choose one or two areas that they would like to improve about themselves based in your profiling test type.

Within one or two week of completing this exercise, have team members go back to the teams they lead and discuss their profiles. This provides and opportunity for them to demonstrate vulnerability with their staff members, and to give them a better understating of their probable strengths and weaknesses

Debrief: Ask team members to share what they learned about one another that they didn’t already know. This reinforces the purpose of the exercise and allows for a natural ending to the conversation.

You could find the full info to download about this exerciser here

Failures/Opportunities talks

Source: So far, I didn’t read anything about it exactly like this one. I could say that I put something new in practice, but seriously, I prefer to avoid any discussion about it. In any case it is a combination of different exercises I learn lately. If you know the source of some kind of exercise like this one, let me know it. Also, if you like it and want to use it, I will be more than happy if you share the results or your experience with us.

Purpose: Create the mind set to talk about failures inside the team. See failures as opportunities and learn from them as team. Allow team members talk about this and build a high level of trust without any king of blame or shame. Please be sure you take this one as the last one to do, and normally I run this around few weeks later of the other two to reinforce the dynamic of the team.

Instruction: Sit-down your team in circle and present the activity as the “failure/opportunity talk” where one failure is one new opportunity of learn something new. The idea is that each team member think in something that they consider as a “failure”. It could be something happened to himself/herself or to someone else. As soon as all people has something in mind, here is the instructions:

  • One team member starts with the history about the failure. He/she only gives to other the information, with the detail he/she is able to do.
  • Each team members must transform that situation in one opportunity or lesson learned. Create a time box (3 or 5 min). Team members must write down in posts-it each opportunity/lesson learned. (individual task)
  • Create a time box discussion about people posts-it. Very important always talk and discuss about the situation/history. As facilitator avoid any discussion about the author/personage of the situation/history. (Alternative: you could form groups of 2 or 3 people)
  • At the end of the time box, next team member starts with a new situation/history.
  • We repeat it until we don’t have more histories/situations

Debrief: Ask team members to share the experience, what they feel when other talks about their situation/history. Ask also about the lesson learned and opportunities identified.

I hope you appreciate this article. Do you have experience running those exercises? Do you have other exercises to build the trust and work in the vulnerability of team members? If so, please post it here!!!

Thank you,

Omar

References:

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About the author

Omar is an agile practitioner and lover. Certified Scrum master. Agile Coach & Agile Leader.He believes it is important to continually be learning and growing. His dream is to be a lifelong learner; growing each day. He is also passionate about leadership development and seeing people reach their full potential.He is also a good husband & father (his wife says that time to times). He has a wonderful wife and 2 fantastic kids. In his free time, if he does not have any plan ahead, he tries to apply agile methodologies at the family level :). He enjoys a lot to travel with his family and discovers new places for them.

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