Three Little Words

This post was recently published in SmartBlog on Leadership:

What are the
most important three words for any relationship between a manager and employee?

No, it’s not “I love you”. Now that would be inappropriate, although not everyone would agree with that opinion. Love their jobs –
yes. Love their managers or employees? Eew!.

No, the most
important three little words are: “I
trust you”

Trust is the
foundation that a positive manager-employee relationship is built on. The
absence of trust leads to micromanagement, fear, risk-aversion, backstabbing,
destructive rumors, a lack of innovation, mistakes, and a lack of engagement.

What does trust
look like? It’s all in the eye of the beholder, but here’s a starter list from
both the manager’s and employee’s perspective:

When an employee says “I trust you” to
their manager, it means:

1. When I share
good news and accomplishments with you, you will let your boss and others know.

2. You won’t
claim credit for my accomplishments.

3. When I admit
a weakness, you will work with me to improve myself, not hold it against me on
my performance review.

4. I can come
to you when I make a mistake. You’ll treat it as a learning opportunity, but
also hold me accountable when needed.

5. You’ll look
me in the eye and give me honest, fair, direct feedback when I need it. You
won’t sugarcoat it. I’ll know where I stand with you and won’t be blindsided
during my performance review.

6. You won’t
ignore performance issues – my own, as well as the rest of my co-workers. If I
see a co-worker slacking off, I’ll assume
you are dealing with it. If I have to bring it to your
attention, I know you’ll look into it and deal with it fairly.

7. You won’t
“shoot the messenger” if I bring a problem to your attention.

8. You’ll do
what you say you’re going to do. I won’t have to remind you more than once.

9. You’ll look
out for my best interests. Yes, I know you have a business to run and have to
make tough decisions, but you will do whatever you can to make sure I’m treated
fairly and with respect.

10. You’ll tell
the truth and not hold back critical information.

11. I can
discuss my career aspirations with you and you won’t hold it against me.

When a manager says “I trust you” to
their employee, it means:

1. When I ask
you to do something, I know you’ll do it. I won’t have to follow-up, inspect,
ask again, etc…

2. You’ll tell
me when you think I’m wrong or about to make a stupid mistake.

3. You won’t
throw me under the bus in front of my boss, or behind my back.

4. If you have
a problem with me, you’ll come to me first to discuss it.

5. When I ask
you to do something and you say you can’t, I’ll know you have good reasons.

6. When we
discuss your career aspirations, you’ll be open and honest with me so that I
can support you. I shouldn’t be blindsided when you give me your notice.

7. You won’t
cover up mistakes. If you screw up, you’ll admit it, take ownership, and focus
on solving the problem.

8. You’ll give
me a heads up regarding any urgent issues or problems so that I’m appropriately
informed and not surprised when I hear about it from others.

9. If your
workload slows down, you’ll let me know, or offer to help your teammates with

10. When I ask
you how long something will take, you’ll give me a realistic and honest
estimate. No padding.

11. When you complement
me, I’ll know it’s sincere. No sucking up.

What would you
add to the list? What does “I trust you” mean to you?