I don’t trust my employees

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Often when talking to clients about delegation they work around to telling me that one barrier is “I don’t trust my employees”.  My normal response is to ask “Do you think they trust you?”  We generally then get to the point that my client isn’t accusing his staff of stealing each others’ sandwiches from the kitchen fridge, or selling company secrets online – it’s just that they don’t think they care enough or understand enough to be trusted with more responsibility.

If your staff are overloaded, fed up with getting grief from unhappy customers, feeling unloved and underpaid, resentful towards management (that is, towards you)…don’t try to delegate stuff to them.

If that is the situation in your business then chances are that you too are feeling overloaded, fed up with getting grief from unhappy customers, unloved and underpaid…and resentful towards your staff.

This is a recipe for a downward spiral.

How then to break out of this situation?  And break out of it you must, or things will just get worse and health, wealth and happiness will become a distant memory.

Taking a leaf from the AA handbook (that’s the drink problem people, not the motoring organisation) the first thing to do is acknowledge the problem.  Now they have another eleven steps that aren’t as relevant so here is the delegation creed instead:

  1. Acknowledge the problem to yourself.  Turn off your phone, shut down your email, switch off social media notifications – and spend five minutes writing down the things you are not happy about in your business and the impact they are having and will continue to have;
  2. Acknowledge the problem publicly – to your employees.  Stand up in front of them and explain how you feel about your business, your performance and their performance;
  3. Acknowledge publicly that it is your fault (because it is) and commit to doing things differently as a leader;
  4. State your faith in your combined ability to improve things and build a business that will make you all proud.  Admit that you don’t have all the answers, you can’t do it on your own and that you need their help;
  5. Commit to better communication on your side, which means blocking out diary time to communicate, listening, and respecting opinions;
  6. Ask employees to commit to better communication on their side, which means asking questions, giving opinions and speaking up when they see things going wrong;
  7.  Explain that in future you will be asking people to take new things on and each time you do this you will expect them to ask you to change something or do something differently to benefit the business in return.

This creed doesn’t mention delegation – and only in the last point does it start to edge towards it.  The point is that the act of delegation is the last step, not the first.  Trying to delegate in a negative, suspicious, chaotic environment will be seen as an imposition and will simply contribute to more negativity, mistrust and chaos.  First you need to build the conditions for successful delegation – and the foundation for that is trust.  To gain trust you have to give it.

The actual mechanism for successful delegation…well, that is a topic for another blog.  If you can’t wait for that, register for our next event on systemisation and getting things done through others.

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