Showing trust in your people is powerful. But not all leaders choose this path.
Years ago in my very first leadership role, I had a team member who struggled with the technical parts of his job. Before long, my boss pulled me aside to talk about him.
My manager quite literally said these words to me: “He’s useless, isn’t he?”
I could tell that my manager wanted me to say that he was no good. I was a little taken aback. Sure, this team member struggled with some of the work, but we had a plan in place to help him improve, and he was helping with other aspects of the team.
Besides that, he actually had the best attitude in the team, despite his technical shortcomings.
I looked my manager in the eye and said “No, he’s not useless. He just has different skills than some of the other people in the team.”
Related post: 4 Reasons Why a Positive Attitude Beats Aptitude.
Sometimes People Just Need a Chance
I never thought this team member could be the best technical person in the team. He just wasn’t wired that way.
But I believed in him because he had a positive attitude, a willingness to improve and good communication skills. Before long, we adjusted his role to include more of the tasks he was good at, and less of those that he struggled with.
When it came to relationships and communication, he was actually better than the others in the team. He became a valued team member, and contributed to the success of the team through his soft skills, rather than technical expertise.
Sometimes, you just need to give someone a chance to show you what they can do.
It’s Easy to Dismiss People When They’re Not In the Room
Since that time throughout my career, I’ve heard leaders speak behind closed doors in the following way:
“He is no good for that role”
“She’s doesn’t have what it takes to lead a team”
“We need to get rid of her”
What do all these statements have in common?
They are stated as fact, dismissing people’s capabilities, ignoring circumstances and giving people no chance to make their case, address any concerns or prove their worth.
Worse, these ideas spread around workplaces as if they are the truth, having the potential to tarnish reputations and prevent people from being offered opportunities to improve their careers.
Why Showing Trust In Your People Is Your Best Approach
First, let’s look at what happens when we don’t show trust in our team members. Maybe someone told you they were no good, or you saw them do some bad work at some point.
It can be hard for some leaders to let go and demonstrate trust. Some are concerned that a team member who fails will make them look bad. But if you can find the courage to show trust even if you feel uncomfortable, it’s well worth the effort.
When You Don’t Trust Your Team Member, You’ll Take Control
You feel like you can’t trust your team member, so you start to monitor them very closely so you can take control, with a tendency to micromanage. This will take up more of your time, as you try to stop anything going wrong.
Your team member notices and starts to feel annoyed, stressed or frustrated. I’ve found that after this point, your team member either loses confidence in their own abilities, or becomes disengaged due to the lack of trust.
Related article: Are you a Micromanaging Boss? Here’s How to Break the Habit.
When You Choose to Trust Your Team Member, You Build Confidence
When you show trust, you build confidence in your team members and they are more likely to feel as if they can succeed.
The team member notices this and is likely to take ownership and accountability for the work. This can lead to your team members putting in additional, discretionary effort to do a good job and reward the trust you’ve put in them.
Related article: How a Self Fulfilling Prophecy Will Make or Break Your Team.
The Outcome: To Show Trust or Not?
You’ve gone down one of the roads. You’ve decided to believe, show trust and support your team member, or you haven’t. Let’s look at what can happen, and the implications of each.
Regardless of the approach you choose, there are really only two outcomes. Your team member will either succeed at what they’re trying to do, or they’ll fail.
When considering the outcomes, it’s worth taking a longer-term view. When you do this, you might come to see that you’ve only really got one good option.
Related article: How Short Term Thinking Leads to Bad Leadership.
Below is a simple matrix showing the combinations of what can happen when you show trust and belief, and what happens when you don’t.
You Showed Trust… and They Failed
When you show trust in your team members and support them, but they still fail, you’ve actually gained some valuable information.
You now have a greater awareness of where that team member sits with regard to their skill and capability, because you’ve tried to give them the best environment in which to succeed.
Along with this, you are likely to have a better relationship with your team member because you’ve shown belief and support, even as they struggled.
Perhaps the job was just that little bit too advanced. Next time, you can take smaller, incremental steps to help them improve and provide a better support mechanism.
You Didn’t Trust Them… and They Failed
On the other hand, when you don’t show trust in your team member and they fail, you’ve learned very little. You don’t really know whether they are capable or not, because you didn’t set them up for success.
Your team member also knows that you didn’t support them, so they’re likely to be unhappy with your leadership at the same time.
You Trusted Your Team Member… and They Succeeded!
So you’ve chosen to believe in your team member, and with your support they succeeded. That’s great news. Not only have you built confidence in your team member, but you will have gained their respect because they can see that you supported them to contribute to the success.
Not only that, you’ve gained credibility. Supporting someone in your team and seeing them succeed, well… that’s good leadership.
You Didn’t Believe In Them… and They Still Succeeded!
If you went down this road, you’re in a bad spot. You didn’t believe in your team member or support them to deliver, but they succeeded despite your influence.
You can’t claim any credit, because you didn’t contribute. In fact, your lack of belief made things harder and your team member got the job done anyway.
Even though the work is done, you’re likely left with a capable team member who is dissatisfied and lacks respect for your leadership. They might just go and work somewhere where they’re appreciated.
Workplaces are complex and there are many factors that contribute to the success of team members. However, when I look at the impact of leadership support and trust on this success, my experience tells me that the results fall into one of these four categories.
For me, it’s simple. Your best strategy is to show trust and belief in your team members.
Do you agree is disagree? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.