You Have No Business Leading People if You Can’t Trust Them!

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I’ve heard on more than one occasion a leader mention how employees need to earn their trust. My first reaction is to cringe, shift in my seat and then ask, “why?” Some of the responses I’ve gotten are, “I don’t know if I can trust them until I’ve worked with them,” or “they need to show me they can do their job,” or “I don’t know them well enough as a person,” or “They don’t have enough experience.” These are all reasons without merit that I’ve never understood.

Before we go further let me first clarify I am not talking about trust as it relates to dishonesty or actual intentional negative actions by another. These, we can all agree, are immediate bars to any effective relationship and most likely will end a relationship.

When you hire somebody you have instantly agreed to trust them to get the results you requested. Let them spread their wings and get it done. If they get the desired result, but approach the situation differently than the way you would have and you have an issue with it, it is not a trust issue, it’s your issue!

Do You Trust Yourself?

All too often leaders will say, “I don’t trust they can do their job, until they show me that they can.” This is a very dangerous assumption. As a leader you have to trust that they can do their job, otherwise you had no business hiring them in the first place (and some would argue no business being a leader). In fact if you don’t trust your employees, what you are essentially saying is that you don’t trust yourself as a leader, your own decision making ability, judgement of character, nor the ability to make good hiring decisions.

What is it You are Really Afraid of?

Sometimes a leader’s lack of trust is really just their insecurity or fear of failure in disguise. Their innate desire to control every situation. When you get behind the wheel of that car you are extremely confident in your own driving ability, but you are trusting in others’ abilities as well. Why are you so trusting in complete strangers with the safety of yourself and potentially your family, yet maybe challenged with trusting your employees? You’re trusting that not only every other driver on the road has a license, but is also a good and safe driver, all 1,000+ of them you encounter on your way to work. Yet, you know your employees, you hired them, you’ve had lunch with them, maybe even a drink or two, but you may not trust them to do their job well. Would you get on a plane if you didn’t trust the pilots (by the way whom you usually never see until the end of the flight)?

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As a Leader, How Did You Get to Where You are At?

Ask yourself how you got to the position you are in. Sure it was through hard work and achievement. Sure it was through experience and skills you may have developed. And likely it was because of your ability to capitalize on opportunities that were presented to you. Most likely, it was also because someone else took a chance on you, gave you an opportunity to succeed and TRUSTED that you would get the job done! Trust!

Let Go and Give up Control

Most leaders with trust issues just can’t relinquish control of things to others–even simple things–that don’t really matter. This issue has two root causes. First, if you’re a leader who has a hard time delegating, you probably think that you are the only one who can do it correctly. Second, you think you are the smartest person in the room. Both of these are incorrect assumptions to make as a leader. The fact is, what really bothers you is giving up control of the process activity of accomplishing a certain objective. There are many roads that lead to the same place. Stop trying to control the route and just focus on the destination. Don’t be a backseat driver!

Leaders who don’t trust their employees will severely damage any form of positive culture in the workplace. Remember these are people who have families, pay bills, feed themselves, clothe themselves and exist in every other way possible. Yet insecure leaders don’t trust them to do their job.

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