Having the Courage to Trust Your Team

post by Bill Treasurer:
Leadership is typically associated with action—with trying,
doing, and achieving. However, there’s another side to leadership that focuses
on the followers: trust. As leaders, we need to actively trust our followers,
teams, and employees. While this sounds simple, it’s often a hard task for
those of us who are goal-oriented.
Trusting other people requires us to let go of the impulse
to control outcomes or people. It requires us to quell our defense mechanisms
and ditch our preconceptions about “what’s right.” For Type A, coffee-clutching
personalities, this goes against everything we stand for and believe. Trusting
others is at odds with the take-charge spirit that permeates the business
world. For example, in many companies, the most valued employees are those who
force order, control chaos, and take decisive action. As the Roman poet Virgil
said, “Fortune favors the bold.”
However, business success springs from empowered employees,
and that requires mutual trust. On the one hand, you need your employees to
trust you if you want them to follow your direction enthusiastically. On the
other hand, you need to monitor their performance, which, if done too closely,
comes across as distrust. To make matters worse, many leaders and managers work
in organizations layered with forced hierarchies and inherently distrustful
systems. It’s more difficult to instill trust in your workers if you’re an
extension of a system that doesn’t trust them. “Oh, sure,” your workers may
think, “I’ll trust you … just as soon as you stop monitoring our e-mails, stop
drug testing, or stop requiring to-the-minute time reports.”
Establishing trust is hardest for new leaders
New leaders and managers, in particular, have the hardest
time establishing what I call “TRUST Courage,” the courage of relying on
others. For instance, consider how challenging it is for new managers to
delegate important tasks to their direct reports. If an employee screws up, it
reflects on the manager, not the employee.
Consequently, new managers struggle to let go of delegated
tasks; instead, they hover over workers like smothering helicopter parents. In
doing so, they thwart their employees’ development and keep themselves mired in
tasks they don’t have time for—and should have outgrown at this point in their
Delegation is a hard task for new (and even experienced)
managers because it involves intentionally refraining from controlling an
outcome. If a manager doesn’t trust that an employee will get the job done, he
or she will take that task back—or worse—won’t even give the task to the
employee in the first place. The result? Managers and employees become trapped
in an unhealthy leadership dependency in which workers wait to be told what to
do, like baby birds waiting for a meal. Inevitably, a dangerous cycle ensues:
the manager completes the tasks, which prevents workers from gaining the
experience and skills they need to perform the tasks, which keeps the manager
from delegating the tasks, which requires the manager to finish the tasks—and
it never ends.
Breaking the cycle
To break the cycle, you must build TRUST Courage. Yes,
TRUST Courage involves taking on risk, gambling on other people, and accepting
that you might get harmed in the process. It can be risky. You might feel
vulnerable. You’ll be forced to rely on others’ actions, which are beyond your
control. It will take courage to let employees do their jobs. It will take
courage to keep yourself from interfering, to accept that employees will make
mistakes. But the end result will be a more productive, efficient, and
innovative workforce.
How can you trust your team more this week? What would that
look like for you?
Bill Treasurer is
a workplace expert, courage pioneer, and author of Courage
Goes to Work: How to Build Backbones, Boost Performance, and Get Results. 
Founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a
consulting and training company specializing in courage-building, he advises
organizations—including NASA, eBay, Lenovo, Saks Fifth Avenue, Spanx, the U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates—on teaching workers
the kind of courage that strengthens businesses and careers. Learn more at GiantLeapConsulting.com.