Trust My Employees – What for?

Trust My Employees – What for?

My Boss: “You need to start trusting your employees!”

Me: “What for?  They’re continually letting me down!”

My Boss: “Unless you figure out how to begin trusting your employees, you will never become the leader you are meant to be!”

Perhaps you buy this, perhaps you don’t.  In either case, I can tell you from experience that learning how to trust your employees is difficult and worth all the effort that you put into it.  I think this is particularly true for new managers.  You’ve spent years learning your craft, you know how to do the work, and now you’re asking me to trust somebody else to do it!  Yes, it is difficult, but when you figure this out, it will be the trait that launches you to the next level of your leadership.

As Patrick Lencioni tells us in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “trust is at the foundation of great teamwork”. In the book Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey shares with us that trust is about character and competence.  At Assured Strategy, we talk a lot about hiring & retaining the right people – those people lie at the intersection of the right core values (character) and high productivity (competence). Developing trustworthy employee’s and building trust into your team should be at the heart of your talent assessment program.  We often use a tool to help clients with this and have found it to be extraordinarily useful. If you’re interested in the free Assured Strategy tool please email me and I will send you the tool and explain how to use it.

Let’s unpack the concept of “trust” on a deeper level.  The Speed of Trust talks about two primary concepts – the idea of Self-Trust and the idea of extending Smart Trust.

We will start with what “trust your employees” does not mean.  It does not mean to turn over the keys to the kingdom to all your employees.  That would be the use of poor judgement and would result in disastrous consequences.  It does not mean ignoring the skills, business acumen and judgement of your employees.  That would be abdicating your role as a leader.

Think about self-trust for a moment.  Do you really believe you can extend trust to others if you don’t trust yourself?  Here are some questions to help you with this:

  • Am I credible?
  • Am I believable?
  • Am I someone people (including myself) can trust?
  • Do I trust myself?

To be honest, you may not be self-aware enough to answer these questions.  Find a trusted mentor, friend, family member to help you with this.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, “Self-Trust is the first secret of success … the essence of heroism.”  Before you do anything else – work on Self-Trust first!

It is equally an error to trust all men or no man” Latin Proverb.

Extending Smart Trust is the middle path that lies between Distrust and Blind Trust.  If you’ve done any amount of work on Self-Trust you know where you lie on this continuum.  Do you have a bias to trust blindly or do you have a bias to Distrust?  In either case, you are going to have to change your thinking and your behaviors in order to reap the benefits of Smart Trust.

Stephen M.R. Covey gives us some helpful questions in “The Speed of Trust” to help us in deciding when to extend Smart Trust:

  • What is the opportunity?
  • What is the risk involved?
  • What are the possible outcomes?
  • What is the likelihood of the possible outcomes?
  • What is the importance and visibility of the outcomes?
  • What is the credibility (character/competence) of the people involved?

These questions can help us make the move from gullibility, indecision and suspicion to Smart Trust.  As Covey adds: “I have said that leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust.  Many trusted managers – credible people who have high character and technical competence – never become leaders because they don’t know how to extend Smart Trust.”

Self-Trust and extending Smart Trust are the two keys that will open the doors to your leadership potential, building a powerful team and retaining the best people.

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