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Guide

An introduction to learning to trust others within your organisation as a leader

Being able to trust others is an important part of leadership. If you don’t trust staff, you’ll end up trying to do everything yourself and struggle to find the time to focus on the wider business strategy.

If you founded your business or have worked there for a number of years, it’s likely you’ll view it as your “baby”. As a result, it can be hard to let go and trust someone else with crucial tasks or important clients.

Being able to trust others is an important part of leadership. If you don’t trust staff, you’ll end up trying to do everything yourself and struggle to find the time to focus on the wider business strategy.

Trust goes both ways, too. A lack of trust in employees can negatively impact their motivation and perception of the company.

Research from Gallup found that only a third of employees trust the leadership of their company. This low level of trust is usually fuelled by factors like poor delegation, micromanagement or insufficient communication.

The amount of trust you place in staff can ultimately define your work environment: 70 per cent of the variation between a great workplace and poor workplace can be explained by the quality of the leadership.

This guide will outline some of the factors that influence your level of trust as a leader, common mistakes people make and quick wins for learning to trust others within your organisation. The next step will be to use our action plan to direct your change and improvement.

What factors influence how much you trust others within your organisation?

The extent employees are challenged

One of the best ways to overcome your concerns about whether staff can be trusted is to set them a challenging task and watch them succeed.

This doesn’t mean suddenly dropping them in the deep end. You might ask them to give a short presentation in the next company meeting or take the lead on a new client project.

Establishing a culture where employees are regularly challenged in their roles will help them develop their skills, which will build up your confidence in their capabilities.

Previous track records

You might be sceptical about someone’s abilities if they haven’t got the best track record: maybe they made a costly mistake earlier in their career or missed the mark on a previous project.

However, people can develop and change. If you purposefully don’t delegate work to them or give them new opportunities, they will never have the chance to prove themselves.

Try not to get too caught up on past mistakes – see them as a learning curve and not a definitive be-all and end-all reason not to trust someone.

How invested you are in the business

Not every employee will care about their job as much as you do, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be trusted.

Getting caught up in your emotional investment can affect how you think about others in your organisation. If you’re always looking for people to start early, work late or sacrifice everything for the business, you’ll probably come up short.

It’s important to have realistic expectations for employees and what they can do to earn your trust.

John Ridpath, Decoded

John Ridpath gives his staff the space to experiment at tech education firm Decoded

“It’s important for managers to do a certain amount of letting go. You need to give people the freedom and space to experiment, and that’s a different thing from the management point of view.”

John Ridpath, technology and learning consultant at Decoded

The cold hard facts

Common mistakes when learning to trust others

Underestimating your team’s abilities

Underestimating your team creates a negative environment and means that you’ll never get the opportunity to see just how well they can actually work.

This can lead to business underperformance because you’re not properly utilising the skills you have under your roof. You’ll end up taking on more work yourself, rushing to get things done – resulting in lower quality work – and having less time to focus on the wider strategy.

Being too emotionally involved

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is getting too emotionally involved in what’s going on and becoming overly attached to every aspect of the company. Being too close to things can restrict your perspective and result in micromanagement.

It isn’t just an exhausting way to work – it will be incredibly demotivating for your team too.

Focusing too much on other people

If you don’t completely trust your team, chances are you’ll inadvertently spend a lot of time checking up on them. Are they working to a high enough standard? Are they using the right systems or following the same process you’d choose?

It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the details of what everyone else is doing and forget about where you could add the most value. This kind of micromanagement can also restrict progress – how will you find new, more efficient ways to do something if everyone has to stick to the way it’s always been done?

Bulldozing, not delegating

Successful delegation takes work. Delegating tasks won’t have the desired results if you’re going to compulsively check employees’ work and end up redoing it anyway.

Poor delegation creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t trust employees, you’re more likely to micromanage and make changes that reflect how you would have done it. However, if staff know you’re going to correct everything they do, what’s the point in making an effort in the first place?

As a result, you’ll end up with lacklustre work – which will confirm your suspicions that you can trust others to complete work to the same quality.

Caroline Plumb, Fluidly

For Caroline Plumb, being able to ask others for their opinions is a crucial part of leadership

“The leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.”

Caroline Plumb, founder and CEO of Fluidly

The cold hard facts

Quick wins to build your trust in others within your organisation

Delegate tasks based on employee skills

Spend some time looking at the skills you’ve got in your organisation. You can do this by talking to line managers, looking at recent performance appraisals or learning which training courses staff have attended.

Once you’ve got a good understanding of the expertise in your workforce, you can figure out how best to distribute work so that delegated tasks correspond with employee skills.

Choose a small number of tasks to delegate and explain to each employee why you want them to complete that task. Letting staff know that they’ve been chosen specially will give them a much-needed confidence boost and they will be more likely to work hard to do a great job.

Foster a culture of trust

Speak to other managers in your organisation about the benefits of delegating work and having faith in their team. Reinforce that they will have more time to focus on their own responsibilities if they delegate more often.

Make sure this is a two-way discussion so managers feel comfortable talking about their own issues with trust and how you could better support them.

Check you’re holding employees accountable

In order to build up trust in your team, you need to be sure that they’re working effectively and any tasks you’ve delegated are being completed to the same standard.

Set clear expectations for tasks you delegate and decide how you will measure success. Going through this process should ensure everyone involved is on the same page and understands what the results should look like.

If something isn’t right, don’t leap to conclusions and assume that no one can be trusted to do the task well. Look at what went wrong, speak to your employees about it and work with them to find ways to improve next time.

“I believe that a leader’s job is not to know everything about the business, but to know how to get the best from their teams. Admitting when you’re wrong is vital and using the experience and knowledge of your teams is essential to any business’s success. Acting as though you need to know everything implies you don’t trust your team to do things themselves.”

Jenna Ackerley, founder and MD of Events Under Canvas

The cold hard facts

Delegating tasks to your team and letting them use their expertise can make a huge difference. Studies show that employees who are allowed to do tasks they’re good at are 57 per cent less likely to burn out.

Now you’ve learnt about what it takes to trust others within your organisation, use our action plan to direct your improvement efforts.