Tag Archives: trust

Can’t Trust My Team

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I have this ongoing discussion with my boss about whether I delegate enough to my team. There are some things that I just don’t feel comfortable delegating to other people. I have been let down too many times before.

Response:
Most management “skills” or management behaviors, we learned from our parents, a teacher or coach when we were young. That’s just the way it happens. As much as we might think that we read and learn better ways of doing things, we find ourselves migrating back to the days in our childhood. Whether or not we delegate has little to do with technique and everything to do with what we believe…about delegation.

Most people believe (because they were taught by their parents) that if they want something done right, you have to do it yourself. You have been let down by a team member in the past (which reinforces your belief). Here’s the real question: “Is your belief accurate, or is it just something that is holding you back?” What we believe is much more powerful than any skill we possess.

To explore this further, make a list of why you don’t delegate more often. Your list will include things like:

  • I can’t trust my team to follow through.
  • No one is trained to handle this delegation.
  • I don’t have enough time to train someone to do this.
  • I can do it myself in one-quarter of the time.
  • My team is better at squirming out of responsibilities than I am at holding them accountable.

It is quite a formidable list. Whatever technique or model you use to organize your delegation, it has to deal with your beliefs. If you still believe this stuff, you will hesitate and ultimately continue to do things by yourself. You will lose the leverage of your team and ultimately underperform as a manager.

How to Build Trust

“What do you mean – No surprises?” Rachel quizzed. “My team member must know that this conversation is coming. Everyone is constantly correcting his mistakes, making him do re-work.”

“So, you want to keep him guessing? You see, surprise works both ways. As his manager, you are surprised when he under-performs, fails to meet a deadline or turns in work with mistakes. What happens to your trust, when you, as a manager, are Surprised?”

“The trust level goes down,” Rachel replied. “It’s at the point now, where there is almost no trust at all.”

“So, as the manager, you are surprised when your team member fails to meet a deadline, and your team member is going to be surprised when you have an accountability conversation with him?”

Rachel nodded, silently, her eyes darting back in her brain. Finally, she spoke. “And we don’t trust each other. So, how do I prevent surprises when I go into this accountability conversation?”

“Pretty simple, really. No surprises, no ambushes. When you schedule the conversation, tell him the subject of the conversation will be about his current performance on the Phoenix project and the improvements we need going forward.”

The blood was draining from Rachel’s face. The truth does that, sometimes.