Working closely with management and leadership teams as The Fortune Group does, we frequently hear the question in workshops: Is trust earned or given? In other words, in establishing a relationship with a new employee or team, should managers/leaders place their trust in them? Or should they withhold that trust and expect that the employee/team earn it from them?
Many people view this question as a true dilemma, as if there’s no right answer. When it’s asked in a client workshop you can see the look in people’s eyes, the change in their body language as we facilitate the debate. And when it’s appropriate we’ll express an opinion, a position of belief, because to us there is a right answer to this question.
For those people who buy into the chicken-and-egg hype of this supposed conundrum, the subtext of the question is often flawed. Specifically, they interpret “giving trust” to mean that it’s done blindly and without conditions or boundaries. But when you take a pragmatic view of what it means to give trust, it’s immediately apparent that it’s a much more effective management strategy than expecting that it be earned.
When a manager gives trust appropriately, they still establish clear expectations with their employees around what the job is and how they will be measured: They outline a framework, they communicate expected results, they monitor progress and they follow up with ongoing support and feedback. Not only does this provide a great structure for the employee, it also instills a confidence in them that supports their overall development.
The manager who demands that trust be earned so often provides no structure and therefore does not build confidence. Guess how that usually works out!
What do you normally do?