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Building a Culture of Trust: 4 Ways Managers Facilitate Employee Vulnerability

By June 6, 2023No Comments

Companies’ most significant challenge is creating a culture where people trust one another, speak openly and honestly, and be vulnerable and authentic. 

And most importantly, they can do these things and not feel judged in the process. 

So in today’s video, I’ll break down four key tactics you can use within your organization to build that camaraderie you’re looking for.


Honest communication creates an open dialog where employees can share thoughts and belief systems without feeling judged. Ideally, you want to create a judgment-free zone. 

What does a judgment-free zone look like? 

It’s a space where you can share your thoughts honestly and openly and not have to pick and choose every word you say. 

Yes, you want to be respectful. Yes, you want to understand that people have different backgrounds and experiences, and you wish to honor and respect those things. 

And at the same time, you want to be in an environment where you can share your ideas and thoughts. And those ideas and opinions are going to be well-received. That doesn’t mean everybody will agree with everything you say. What they will do is they’ll listen without judgment. 

To do this, you must teach people to listen from a position of neutrality and objectivity. You may say something to me that I disagree with, or you may say something to me that triggered an experience. 

If I allow my own experiences to come into the conversation, I will inevitably have some judgments. So it’s essential that in this type of environment you’re seeking, even if you get triggered, or another person gets triggered, they understand that it’s not about them. It’s far more beneficial to recognize that you might be feeling a particular emotion or feeling but still hold that position of neutrality and objectivity. This is how you create a judgment-free zone. 

This is how you create a safe space for people to share their thoughts and feelings. This type of environment takes practice. You can’t just throw people into the ring and say, okay, let it rip, Be vulnerable. Share your personal stories with everybody. You have to feel it, and you have to understand that building trust that this type of space is a great way to start building this type of community to practice through telling personal stories. 


The second tactic is to allow for mistakes. 

Allowing people to fail forward, try new things, and make mistakes will allow them to grow. It will make them feel more confident the next time they step into something uncomfortable. 

If you can remember the last time you made a mistake, you most likely learned from it. Mistakes allow you to explore things within yourself and ask yourself some critical questions. Okay, what would I have done differently the next time around? How did that feel when I didn’t finish the project on time? 

As a leader or a manager, you must allow people to go through that process. A delicate balance between providing the proper infrastructure so that you can be successful and then allowing people to play and experiment within that infrastructure so that they can fail, learn, and grow. 

In other ways, you can encourage mistakes or rather allow people to try their best and inform them that they have all the answers inside of them. The more that you can acknowledge the people around you for their gifts, and times that they’ve had triumphs, the more you’re going to boost them up and boost up their confidence so that when they make that mistake, or something doesn’t go right, they know that you have their back. 

The important thing is that you have to acknowledge them along the way and let them know that you have their back. You can say something like, “I support you through this process. I understand this is the first time you’ve done it. I’m here for you. If you need any support along the way.” People love to be acknowledged. They love to feel supported. 



The third tactic is to practice active listening. Active listening comes in many forms. The first thing you have to do is you have to listen. Here are a few things that prevent you from attending: 

Feeling like you have all the answers. 

Wanting to sound smart. 

Letting people know, Oh, I’ve done this before.  

You’re just too busy and thinking about what to do next. 

These are all the things that will prevent you from being a good listener. It’s about really sitting and listening to what they’re saying. It’s also about feeling how they’re doing at that moment. 

There are two primary levels of active listening. 

When you hear what they’re saying, you can repeat to them, “Hey, what I heard you say is that you’re uncomfortable with this project and need support.” 

And the second level of active listening is when you listen underneath what they say, this is about activating your intuition. “I’m sensing here that you are feeling a little insecure about this project, and it seems you’re feeling a lack of confidence.”  

You may not always get it correct. They may return to you and say, “Well, that’s not how I feel.” 

Regardless, What this does is it lets them know that you care about what their experience has been like. Active listening is about activating your gut and intuition and removing all the distractions around you so you can focus on the other person. 

It’s really about putting their needs first and putting your needs second in those moments. So turn on that active listening. This is how you build trust with the people around you. 



And the fourth tactic is to facilitate team bonding exercises. No, this isn’t about just trust falls and you going to go in the woods and catch each other but creating meaningful physical, emotional, and spiritual connections.  

The physical level could be these things that you do outside. Go for a swim. Go for a run, hike, whatever it may be. And people like to connect in those ways. 

The next part is on the emotional level of building trust. When we’re talking about building safe spaces, this type of thing takes practice. It takes an approach for somebody to open up and be vulnerable, to be authentic, and to know that they won’t feel judged when they do it. 

This in and of itself is a team bonding exercise because you’re creating meaningful connections. People want to be seen, they want to be heard, and they want to be acknowledged. And I say spiritually as well. And sometimes, that word can throw people off in the wrong way. 

It means you’re connecting in a way that will support each other at the highest level. It’s like saying, “Hey, I got your back, and you have mine.” 

All of these things take time to build and develop. They don’t happen overnight, and it takes focus on your behalf to create that type of culture I just described. And through all these things, you let people know you care about them, want them to succeed, and empower them to function at their most optimal level possible. 


If you’re an executive or business leader and want more support in these areas, I offer individual coaching; check it out here

We also support companies and teams to get aligned through our Art Of Masterful Communication group coaching program