Much more than a “buzz word”, trust is a real skill for a manager.
For the last few years we have been reading many articles or hearing many voices explaining why management by trust is “the ultimate tool” used to survive crises, to generate the engagement of collaborators and therefore productivity. One of the most eloquent advocate of this approach is probably Simon Sinek (see video from Simon Sinek – Do you love your wife?)
Currently it is also put forward as the best way for leaders to practice efficient remote management and for collaborators to feel empowered (see the major article of my partner Cyril Ogee about “Blended Management”) and not get lost in useless tasks when working from home.
Nevertheless, trust is rarely obvious.
It is not enough to say: “you must trust your collaborators!” or “trust your team-mates: cooperation is the way to make it” … Trust in the workplace is a subtle topic and has to be practiced; not just desired.
For those of you who read French or trust Google Translate, I recommend reading this interesting article from the Harvard Business review because it contains very useful daily questions a leader should ask herself le pouvoir par la confiance.
At AC Mentoring, we have designed and we deliver some programs on the topic, not to be trendy, but because we have experienced the necessity of it in our own personal careers.
Let’s talk about micro-management, trust’s worse enemy.
At the very beginning of my career, my manager wanted to know each morning what I would do during my workday and. At the end of the same day, he would verify, usually for 10 painfully long minutes, that I had done what I had said I would and if not, I had to explain why and how I could make up for it. I almost resigned 3 times in the first 2 weeks.
Instead I chose to ‘confront’ him and propose another reporting type, based not on how I was to do things daily, but which results I committed to reach each week.
And he accepted it! … Because he was really tired of checking my activities and those of my four other colleagues for close to 2 hours every day! And he asked me to train my team-mates on reporting to him once a week only.
Surprisingly that was truly hard for some of them. Because for more than one year (3 for one of them!) they had lived with this very controlling and disempowering way of working. To do so they had ‘unplugged their brain’ and given up on making decisions, taking initiatives and generally thinking about their job. They had become somewhat institutionalized, like the old prisoners from the movie Shawshank Redemption who after a whole life spent in jail could not adapt to freedom.
If you micro-manage and control too much, you will have brainless robots instead of collaborators. You will be the only one proposing ideas and finding solutions to issues… Good luck then, it’s very lonely at the top!
But trust, to be reciprocated, has to be earned.
When I got my first management duty abroad, in another work culture, my first management speech was basically “I trust you to do the right thing: you know your job and its environment better than I always will, so I will not control you, but come to me if you need help” I felt like such a good leader then!
I spent my first month doing business development and did not see much of my team…
One resigned. When I had my exit meeting with her, I asked what her main reason was for leaving. I was expecting some lines along liking the previous manager better, but I was not ready for her “you are useless to me: you don’t want to teach me anything”. I had then a one to one with each Jr Consultants and it appeared that they were all rather depressed by the fact I did not want to help them… So I started talking with each of them every day and ask about how I could help them. It changed our collaboration for the better.
But the worst were my interactions with the Sr Consultants, when I approached them as well to do like with their junior counterparts, I mostly got silence. They were not needing help, they all proudly said. But their results turned to be very average at the end of the first quarter, and they did not accept well my push for better sales. I lost 2 of the 3 before I realized that they would never ask for help like that. I had first to give them ‘free’ support in the shape of sales leads, in outsourcing business to them or in helping with tough negotiation with their customers, in order to hope that they could open up to me. One remained, and together we had a very efficient collaboration based on regular discussions, exchange of ideas in order to see how to better do our jobs on our own or together.
One of our values (AC Mentoring values) at AC Mentoring is Benevolence. We understand it as trusting people from the beginning. This is our philosophy, the way we lead our lives, but we know that we can’t impose that to the rest of the world and that in most cases, people will trust us only if we show trust first.
With work and time, you will eventually ‘walk your talk’ and, as a leader, you will set-up a working atmosphere of safety within your perimeter of responsibility that will result in your team-mates speaking up and trying freely, and they will trust each other and you. It will be a great management success and it will allow all involved to thrive and hopefully have a thrilling work experience.
One last piece of advice though.
Always propose to everyone involved the possibility of some good old Cartesian doubt. It’s healthy. Especially, if you don’t want what happens in the following video to arrive to you too!!
Building a trusting atmosphere within your team should never become conditioning…