HR Management, Leadership

Good Things Seem to Happen When You Trust Talented People

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The best way to find out if you can trust somebody – is to trust them.” — Ernest Hemingway

I was preparing for this month’s webinar and I came across the above quote.

One of the best lessons I ever learned about performance management and delegating is, that if you trust talented people, good things happen.

What trust looks like in delegating with a high performer is this: Agree on an outcome. Let the person go do it.

The questions that always come up around delegating are, “How do I make sure it comes right? How should I measure it? How do I make sure it’s on track?”

A technique that I use (because I had a boss use this on me and thought it was brilliant) is when you delegate the achievement of an important outcome, also delegate the measurement.

How should I measure you?

What I mean by this is once you agree on the outcome and the date, you say to the person, “come back to me with the plan for how you think I should measure you.”

  1. The benefits of this approach are numerous.
  2. You are showing trust. Trust motivates high performers.
  3. You almost always get a more detailed and aggressive plan than you would have come up with yourself

You save yourself the work of coming up with the plan!

Then when the person comes back to you with the plan and measures, you can provide inputs and negotiate some details and timelines if necessary. You’ll come up with a really excellent plan and measures.

Of course there are some low performers that this approach will not work with. We’ll talk about that in the webinar too.

The last thing you want to do is treat your high performers like you treat your low performers.

Try trust first

If I don’t know which people are the high and low performers, like in a new team, I always start with trust. It is a wonderful filter to identify the high performers and set them off on a great track with a lot of momentum.

The people who deserve trust will handle whatever challenge you give them.

You learn you can trust them. They learn that you trust them. You can give them even more next time.

If you define a bunch of caveats and techniques and expectations up front to a high performer, you will damage the initial trust you could have built, and limit the performance of the person in the short-term — and maybe even in the long-term.

Starting with trust is the best approach

A manager who doesn’t trust his high performers to run with the work, is like owning a team of thoroughbred race horses and then only driving them around in the trailer.

It’s much better to extend trust first and then see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, then modify your approach and go to the more closely managed techniques you would use with a low performer.

But it’s better to always start with trust.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .