Building The Big T — Why It’s Critical That You Can Trust Your Team

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Apr 10, 2014

How do you develop the level of trust in your employees that’s required to inspire productivity and empowerment? I believe it starts with self-awareness.

If your organization suffers from low productivity, don’t automatically blame your employees; take a look at yourself first.

If you don’t trust your people to do their jobs well, ask why. Did you make poor choices when you hired them? Are you still learning how to maximize their skills and abilities?

Taking a closer look at your team

Are you paranoid someone will take your job? Have you failed to provide the proper training? Realize that if your involvement is so crucial to your current role that you’re irreplaceable, then you can’t be promoted. That’s why you should always be grooming a successor.

As the architect of your team, it’s up to you to choose the right materials for the job and put them together in the most structurally sound way. So in ridding yourself of your micromanaging tendencies and bringing your organization up to snuff, your first task (ironically) may be to take an even closer look at your team members and their abilities.

Assess how each contributes and what you can do to maximize those contributions. Then develop an action plan to train or coach them to increase their productivity, thus tightening their fit in the general workflow of the organization.

You can’t be watching people who should know their job

You may find it necessary to replace individuals who aren’t doing well enough, just as you would put aside low-quality tools in favor of better ones.

While that may sound cruel, if a few have advanced beyond their competence level, you can’t keep covering for them. After all, that’s what micromanaging is all about — trying to do others’ jobs because you think they can’t.

The truth is, you can’t afford to waste time or energy watching over those who are already supposed to know what they’re doing. If you delegate responsibilities appropriately, prepare your employees for their jobs, and give them everything they need to do them, you won’t need to ride them.

Trust that they can do their work, wind them up, and let them go. Show them you have faith in their ability. You won’t be able to execute strategy efficiently if you don’t.

If they’re unworthy of your faith, then, yes, you’ll have to take corrective action, which is for the best. Even if you fear someone might fail when faced with certain job challenges, trust in that person to have the ability to solve those challenges. How else can they ever learn and grow?

When you rely on your employees and prove they can rely on you to back them to the hilt, you’ll establish a high level of loyalty and discretionary effort.

Using other people’s abilities to get things done

At the same time, make sure the organization’s mission, vision, and goals are clear to everyone. Set basic ground rules, determine who reports to whom and how, and then turn your attention to your own tasks. Learn to trust — but verify.

How much do you need to verify? That depends on an employee’s previous performance, experience, and skill level.

Basically, though, if you’ve done all you can to bring competent people on board, your role is simple. Believe in them and let them do their jobs, checking in occasionally and correcting course as necessary.

When you hire capable, engaged people and trust in their competence, you’ve got the enviable position of being a hands-off manager. If they know what they’re doing, it doesn’t matter how they do their jobs, as long as they do so legally and ethically. If they need advice, trust that they’ll ask.

Trust is the heart of delegation

If certain employees show signs of falling flat on their faces, let them. They’ll either learn quickly or wash themselves out due to incompetence. Be encouraging, yes, but know that you can’t do everything — or even most things — for them. That way can be ruinous for all involved.

Remember, when you trust, you’re not abdicating your responsibilities; you’re simply using other people’s talents to get things done.

Trust is the heart of delegation. As a leader, you don’t just represent another layer between consumer and product. Rather, you direct and expedite the workflow, while providing the resources necessary to stimulate performance.

Re-printed from the book, Execution IS the Strategy, by Laura Stack, with permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2014. 

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