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Delegating with trust !

When we are delegating something to someone, are we offering them our trust? Although it's often tempting to go it alone, we all know that we rely on others to a very large degree.

One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life. Edouard Morgan Forster (UK novelist)

As I'm sure you have too, I've seen people get themselves into "another fine mess" (to quote Oliver Hardy) when entrusted with things. My feeling is that when we are delegating something to someone, we must often offer much more trust. But it can be hard, particularly if you have been disappointed in the past. "Once bitten, twice shy", they say.

Just thinking about this led me to consider a few pretty basic questions for managers that have come to hate delegating:

  1. Why should I offer more trust ?
  2. What is stopping me from doing this ?
  3. How can I offer our trust when I do not feel like doing so ?

So play along with me for a moment and ask yourself this question honestly: why should we offer our trust?

First, why should we offer our trust ?

But before answering this, let's turn the question around:

  • Do you feel it when someone is delegating to you with no/low trust?

More than 90% of people answer that they do feel the presence or  absence of a person's trust when asked to do something.trust horse hand

  • How does the absence of trust affect the way you deliver what is asked?

Answers usually fall into 3 categories:

  1. I will get rid of the task as quickly as possible, thus being ready to lower my quality standards
  2. I will check and re-check meticulously all the details of what is expected, thus running the risk of over-focusing on the trees and losing sight of the forest
  3. I will prove to the asking person that she was wrong not to trust me, thus risking confusion between the opinion of the person and the task to be done.

I'm not sure which of these options is the most dangerous, personally.

  • When you are delegating something to someone with no/low trust, will you obtain the best possible result?

By not offering our trust, we are almost sure to obtain (much) less than what we could have obtained. As managers, we simply must offer our trust!

Second, why are we not offering our trust when are delegating?

Usually, people invoke these reasons: we lack trust in the person; and/or we want to avoid being disappointed when we receive the results.

In the first case, we are confusing "having trust in a person" with "putting our trust in a task". We can put our trust in a task even if we do not trust the person doing it (see how later). Who knows? This could even lead us to revise our opinion about the person!

In the second case, we want to avoid feeling uncomfortable in the future - our own disappointment with the results - by taking away our trust in the present. But we cannot suppress now our (hypothetical) future disappointment: the best we can do is accept our disappointment when it comes and try to learn something from it. And by refusing trust, we also actually increase the risk of our own disappointment with the results!

Third, how can we offer our trust when we do not feel like doing so?

Even if we do not trust the other person or if we are afraid of being disappointed, we can offer our trust for a specific task by following these 3 steps:

1. Being honest about the facts underlying our lack of trust for the specific task.
2. Taking our responsibility for the clarity of our expectations.
3. Offering actual support together with our trust.

Meanwhile, down at the officeÂ…

That's all very nice, you might say. But how does it work in the office? Let's take a regular example

Step 1:
"The last 2 times I asked you to prepare a status report on your project, you came with a 20-page presentation where I was expecting a maximum of 5. It was difficult for me to explain and share the essential points with the management board." --- The reason I lack trust.

Step 2:
"What I need is a short status report presentation with maximum 5 pages and the essential points for management. I understand that what I mean by 'essential points for management' might be clear for me but could be fuzzy for you." --- Taking responsibility for the clarity

Step 3:
"So to help clarify what I expect, I can:

  • Give you a copy of a good status report presentation from another project leader
  • Introduce you to this project leader so he can explain how to prepare your status report.
  • Schedule an appointment with me to help you identify these essential points from your draft for your next status report presentation.

What would you like me to do ?" --- Offering support.

Honesty in motion

So to get out of the delegation jitter syndrome, try these three steps. Trust should not be blind. Offer your active trust when you are delegating something to someone.

And because we all love lists of three, here are what I see as the three main benefits:

  • We have a better chance of obtaining the best results.
  • We have a chance to positively revise our low trust in the person.
  • We have an opportunity to practice the catalyst of human relationships: honesty.

It probably makes for terrible Laurel & Hardy routines, but it will help your stress level considerably!

I think we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.
Henry David Thoreau.

Serge Pegoff and Michael Leahy

Return from delegating with trust to team building techniques

Return from delegating with trust to team building results

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