Trust and Managing People

I’ve frequently heard managers express the need to “trust” their employees with the work they hired them to do before giving them full control over their responsibilities. On one level, this makes sense. But it is a very basic level, usually involving detailed tasks. Hiring an individual into a help desk position, for example, might require several weeks of detailed supervision to insure the new hire understands the ticket system, proper phone etiquette, and the systems they will be required to support. When I hear the “trust” criteria come from C-level executives, however, it’s usually a reliable red flag for control issues likely to limit growth opportunities for the new hire or perhaps even the organization.

The trust I’m referring to is not of the moral or ethical variety. What one holds in their heart can only be revealed by circumstance and behavior. Rather, it is the trust in a fellow employee’s competency to perform the tasks for which they were hired.

If you’ve just hired an individual with deep experience and agreed to pay them a hefty salary to fulfill that role, does it make sense for a senior executive to burden himself with the task of micro-monitoring and micro-managing the new hire’s performance until some magical threshold of “trust” is reached regarding the new hire’s ability to actually fulfill the role? When challenged, I’ve yet to hear an executive clearly articulate the criteria for trust. It’s usually some variant of “I’ll know it when it see it.”

Better to follow the military axiom: Trust, but verify. Before you even begin to interview for the position, know the criteria of success for fulfilling the role. Much easier to monitor the individual’s fit – and more importantly make corrective interventions (which are likely to be very minor adjustments) – on an infrequent basis rather than attempt to do two jobs at once (yours and that of the position for which you just hired someone.)