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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Don’t Trust Someone to Achieve? Have You Ever Given Then the Freedom?

A word which seems to come up time and time again in any discussion of leadership is Trust and it elicits several and varied reactions. 

A simple definition of trust says that when an individual is trusted, the trustor (if that is the right ward) effectively abandons control of the situation and allows the trustee to perform the allocated task without hindrance. 

Easily said and difficult to achieve simply because of the perceived lack of control especially when the leader may have a tendency to wanting to know at all times what is going on. 

The question is: how long should it take to be able to trust someone to undertake a task without the aforesaid hindrance from any one? 

If the leader is courageous it is feasible to take that route from the beginning on the basis that he/she will be able to learn from the results and either begin to develop trust or realise that some coaching may be required. 

For many leaders it can be a painful experience to relinquish control of the achievement of a task particularly when the individual is relatively inexperienced and consequently needs to learn. 

When I started my working life in engineering we were allocated to some machine operator for example who would show us what to do and we would learn from an expert. 

Eventually  the operator would allow us to do the job ourselves but under his strict supervision until such time as he was content that we had learnt what to do and how to do it. 

At this stage trust was established and the operator often felt that he could wander off for a chat somewhere to leave us to it and frankly to earn some piecework on his behalf. 

It was a micro-version of the one of the functions of a great leader who understands the necessity of the coaching role.  In effect if the leader knows what to do and how to do it then it stands to reason that he/she should demonstrate, coach and teach until a level of trust has been established which enable to leader to stand back and allow the work to proceed. 

I still think, however, that the leader who is prepared to take a risk, the very act of allowing someone to undertake a task without interference can be a significant learning experience in itself. 

The clue is in that word Interference which, it must be said, is the usual complaint when the leader tries to influence progress.  It’s an irritation to both sides, in fact. 

So then, if the leader has trusted a team member to undertake a task, then he/she has one or two criteria to consider.  Firstly whatever the reason it is essential not to be seen to be interfering and that can take quite some strength of character.   

Secondly there must be a no-blame environment so that even if the team member ostensibly fails to achieve the task, then it must be considered a learning experience. 

All in all, trust must eventually be a two way process so that with mutual trust, there will be mutual success and a developed relationship.
 

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