Give the Gift of Your Courageous Trust

Business woman shaking hands with manager

Learning how to trust others is a difficult feat. It requires a certain amount of powerlessness, and for most of us, that feeling creates discomfort. However, if we learn how to trust ourselves in our innate abilities, we find the courage to believe in others. As leaders, having faith in those who follow us is the only way everyone continues to grow. There’s inherent reciprocity in its offering.

The act of trusting often requires letting go of our need to control outcomes or people, our defense mechanisms, and our preconceptions about what is “right.” For hard-driving controlling types, such as the coffee-clutching professionals who make up much of today’s workforce, this goes against the grain of everything they stand for. Trust runs counter to the take-charge ethos that typifies today’s business world. In many companies, the most valued employees are those who, when encountering challenging situations, control chaos, force order, and take decisive action. As the Roman poet, Virgil said, “Fortune favors the bold.”

Courageous trust is a tricky concept.

Two women working together over coffee with a lapton

On the one hand, you need your employees to trust you so they follow your direction enthusiastically. On the other hand, you have to monitor their performance, which, if done too closely, often feels distrusting. Plus many managers work in companies layered with systems that are inherently suspicious. When you’re an extension of a system that doesn’t trust them, workers are likely to say, “Sure, I’ll trust you…just as soon as you get the company to stop random drug testing, monitoring our emails, and making us submit time reports.”

If the manager doesn’t trust that the employee will get the job done, he will grab the task back and do it himself—or worse, he won’t even give the task to the employee in the first place.

New managers, in particular, are challenged with trusting. Consider, for example, how hard it is for new managers to delegate important tasks to employees. In such instances, if the employee screws up, it can reflect on the manager, not the employee. Consequently, many new managers struggle to fully let go of delegated tasks, choosing to hover above direct reports like smothering parents. In doing so, they keep themselves mired in tasks they should have outgrown by this stage in their careers.

Delegation involves not acting on the temptation to grab the task back from the employee. The ability to delegate is directly proportional to how much trust a manager has in an employee. Trust doesn’t come easily to new managers (or immature experienced ones), because it involves intentionally refraining from controlling an outcome (or a person). If the manager doesn’t trust that the employee will get the job done, he will grab the task back and do it himself—or worse, he won’t even give the task to the employee in the first place.

Group of women working together at training workshop

The result is a sort of leadership dependency whereby workers wait to be told what to do like baby birds waiting to be fed.

When this happens, a dangerous SPILL cycle begins: the leader keeps doing the tasks, which keeps the workers from gaining skills to do the tasks, which keeps the leaders from doing tasks, et cetera…

Trust is risky. When you trust, you become vulnerable to actions that are beyond your direct control.

Your success becomes dependent upon someone else’s actions.

The challenge here is one of reliance; you have to give up direct control and rely on the actions of others. It is this lack of control that makes trust so difficult.

Trusting YOU can harm ME. Because of this risk, it takes courage to place trust in others. Good leaders are the ones who take the time to weather the trust falls and place their faith in the ones who catch them time and time again.

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is the author of The Leadership Killer, Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance, which he co-wrote with Captain John “Coach” Havlik, Navy SEAL (Retired). For the last two decades, Treasurer has worked with thousands of leader across the globe, at such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, UBS Bank, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more at: www.LeadershipKiller.com.

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