When Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi left Expedia last August, he admitted to being scared in his parting memo. While this brand of vulnerability is not often demonstrated by big-name CEOs, it is an important lesson in building trust. Showing your human side can go a long way toward establishing positive and productive relationships with your team.
These six entrepreneurs share the ways in which they have opened up to their employees -- and how this has made all the difference in their company culture.
Take responsibility for your mistakes.
By owning up to your mistakes, leaders will empower their teams to do the same -- and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Karl Kangur, founder and CEO of content marketing solution MRR Media, isn't afraid to be open with his team to show that he's human, too.
"I'm very open with the team about times that I've made mistakes. This helps me avoid making the same mistakes and shows the rest of the team that we're all equal," says Kangur. "Since taking this approach, the team has been much more open about their mistakes and puts conscious effort into avoiding making them again. Good leaders are those who empower others."
Bond over out-of-office activities.
Dalia MacPhee, CEO of clothing brand DALIA MACPHEE, is willing to embrace her fears in the spirit of team bonding. Getting your adrenaline pumping outside of work is a great way to create a unique bond with your team.
"I once took some of my employees skydiving. No one is more afraid of heights than I am, and they were able to see a side of me they hadn't seen before. We were able to get scared together, take the plunge together and laugh together when it was all over," she says. "It created a bond that completely changed our office relationship."
Host brainstorms for improvement.
"Showing your team that you are vulnerable isn't a weakness. In fact, it often increases contributions from your team," says Mark Daoust, president and CEO of online brokerage firm Quiet Light Brokerage. By creating opportunities for your employees to share constructive criticism, you will make them feel heard -- and learn more about where you can improve.
"Recently, we held a voluntary brainstorm session to address some areas that I was struggling with," he says. "All of our team showed up and provided invaluable insights on problems, along with actionable solutions."
Recognize what you have in common.
No matter who you are working with, you can find that you have something in common -- whether it's your hometown or your love of ping pong. Ben Davis, founder and CEO of men's grooming and lifestyle club The Gents Place, always strives to find at least one commonality with those he works with to establish a personal connection.
"I interact with a variety of different team members on a daily basis (barbers, executives, investors). No matter who they are or what their title is, I make an effort to connect with that person on a personal level -- i.e. my path to becoming an entrepreneur or my role as a father of three," he says. "You may find you have more in common than you realize."
Openly acknowledge shortcomings.
Adam Mendler, founder of discounted ergonomic chair retailer Beverly Hills Chairs, knows that you can't be good at everything you do. That's why he doesn't shy away from sharing his shortcomings to build trust with his team.
"I strongly believe that most people are bad at most things, good at a few things and exceptional at one thing. I often share this perspective with my team and start listing some of the many things I am bad at," he says. "Acknowledging my deficiencies helps me position myself as a highly approachable leader, which builds trust and engenders open communication."
Treat mistakes as learning opportunities.
"Having the right attitude when your employees fail is one of the best ways to help them develop the drive to fail without fear," says Adam Steele, owner and operator of link-building company Loganix. Positioning a mistake as a learning opportunity turns it into something positive rather than something to be feared.
"You have to be forgiving of mistakes and ready to transition each one into a learning experience," says Steele. "I like to set a standard by using our own company blog to discuss the times I've messed up big time but, more importantly, what I've learned from them."