The girl, the bike, the light, year one.

Trust Requires More Than Words

Every boss needs to control their employees, but many struggle to do so effectively. Too often, bosses give their employees freedom and trust and before they can say “No!” the employees have destroyed everything.

Okay … obviously satire. In today’s work environment, most leaders agree that giving employees freedom and trust will destroy a lot of things. Sometimes, those things will need fixed, but more often, the things employees break will actually improve make their lives easier, improve productivity, encourage innovation, and boost morale. 

Anybody in a leadership position will take steps to encourage independence and demonstrate trust. But many also cling to outdated rules or “business processes” that will discourage employees and negate their positive steps.

  • Rigid Hours: Instead of forcing employees to adhere to a strict schedule, allow them to set the schedule that fits them best. Additionally, don’t force them to ask permission every time they have to leave midday. This simple act of flexibility will send a clear message to anybody you supervise that you trust them to manage their time, or more generally, that you trust them to act responsibly, like an adult.
  • Butt In Seat: An even more extreme extension of the rigid hours, and even more debilitating to employee morale. Often, when I have to focus on writing, I’ll jump on the commuter train and ride it for an hour or two, and it will prove the most productive two hours of my day. Let your employees work where they work best.
  • Screen Monitoring: If you have kids in your house accessing the Internet, putting a computer in a common area you can see the screen makes sense. But you have adults working in your office. Let them set up their desk area as they want.
  • CC 2 CYA: Email has simplified a lot of things, including the ability to “loop” everyone into a conversation. Please, stop. If you’re a boss, trust that your employees can make decisions and communicate with others without your hand-holding. For everyone else, stop the “cover your ass” approach of CCing the boss(es) of whoever you’re working with on a project. Trust your peers to coordinate as needed with their boss, just as you will coordinate with your boss. Yes, conflicts or difficulties may arise that necessitate CCing the bosses, but once you stop CCing everybody you will find, refreshingly, you need it far less than you think. Use the CC, don’t abuse it.
  • No Accountability: This goes to the heart of trust and independence. Hold your employees (and yourself) accountable for their decisions and let them resolve issues on their own whenever possible. Many of the examples people offer about why they can’t trust their employees really stem from a lack of accountability. Alternatively, holding employees accountable tells them that you trust them to do their job without your micromanagement, but it also means you trust them to fix their own problems.

Photo credit: “The Girl, The Bike, The Light (Year One)” by Peter Heeling.

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