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
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",
Just thinking about this led me to consider
a few pretty basic questions for managers that
have come to hate delegating:
- Why should I offer more trust ?
- What is stopping me from doing this ?
- 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
- How does the absence of trust affect the
way you deliver what is asked?
Answers usually fall into 3 categories:
- I will get rid of the task as quickly as
possible, thus being ready to lower my quality standards
- 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
- 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
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
Usually, people invoke these reasons: we
lack trust in the person; and/or we want to
avoid being disappointed when we receive the
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
3. Offering actual support together with our
Meanwhile, down at the office
That's all very nice, you might say.
But how does it work in the office? Let's
take a regular example
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
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
"So to help clarify what I expect, I
- 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
What would you like me to do ?" ---
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
- We have a chance to positively revise our
low trust in the person.
- We have an opportunity to practice the
catalyst of human relationships:
It probably makes for terrible Laurel &
Hardy routines, but it will help your stress
I think we may safely trust a
good deal more than we do.
Serge Pegoff and Michael Leahy
Return from delegating
with trust to team building
delegating with trust to team building