The truth about not trusting your teams (spoiler: you might be the problem).

“I don’t trust her/him/them to get it done’.

It’s something I hear a lot as a leadership coach. Whilst there are a lot of reasons you might be struggling to trust your teams, the reality is that some of these reasons might be down to you, rather than ‘them’.

An example: A client of mine was frustrated. He has asked a member of the team to do something that he believed was relatively simple, yet important. “A 10-minute task at most” he said. When the task remained incomplete by the date my client needed it by, he was frustrated – instantly recalling other times when the team had failed to do ‘that one simple thing he had asked’. His conclusion? He couldn’t trust them.

So how do you handle this lingering doubt that your people will deliver what you ask without making a futile attempt to micromanage every project?

As is often the case, it’s important to look inward before kicking out. In the case of my client, we explored this.

Here’s what my client had said:

Please can you change that piece of copy on the website. It’s a ten-minute job.”

The ‘why’ context

What my client should have asked, so as not to be disappointed and so that he would get the outcome he wanted was:

“We’re planning a new marketing campaign and that will drive people to the site. They’ll look at the product page and there’s an error in the copy. We go live on Thursday, so could you tweak the error by Wednesday evening please. It’s a small but important job. Could you drop me a line to let me know that it’s been done?”. 

So, what’s the difference?

The second approach has a ‘Why’ (context), a deadline and a specific action request.

This is not about trusting your teams to do something. It’s about clarity.

How did the member of staff know when the change needed to happen?

The “it’s just a 10-minute job” suggested it wasn’t critical – and in my opinion very few jobs are ‘just 10-minute jobs’, and usually those who believe they are have never undertaken that task themselves. There was not context, no deadline, no requirement to confirm the task had been done.

If not trusting your team comes from a place that they are consistently failing to get things done – make sure you’ve given a ‘why’, a deadline and an action request.



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