A Blog Series by STS Federal President and CEO, Cliff Ingari

Everyone’s heard the famous President George Bush gaff, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Unfortunately, I think a lot of leaders think of trust from the perspective illustrated by President Bush – being vulnerable to being fooled. Don’t get me wrong, trusting others does have an aspect of vulnerability to it, but it also breeds strength and resilience. Let me explain.

In his book, Love WorksJoel Manby describes trusting as “placing confidence in others.” In relation to your business, if you want it to grow, you must place confidence in others – it’s unavoidable. You must hire and trust good leaders, and you must trust employees to execute their roles in the company.

But what does “trusting” really mean in terms of the corporate environment? I think it means trusting yourself, placing confidence in your leaders, and including the input of your team – especially for decisions that impact them.  Like most business leaders, we encounter situations where trust was violated.  In some cases it’s a minor offence with a subtlety that has little to no impact on the business, but does impact our soul.  In other cases, it could be an egregious act, that drives a spike through the core of the organization.  We tend to overcome those disruptions but find it more difficult to overcome our ability to put trust in those that are responsible for leading the organization.  The first offense sets you back, but over years of broken promises and commitments, it gets harder to overcome and restore your faith in people.  Many of us experience this but overtime we must overcome the fear and of let go.  Everyone has different motives and objectives, but if their motives align with the organization’s values, it’s okay if their objectives and the way they carry them out is different than yours.  At STS, we hire on 3 simple principals: Trust (first and foremost), Judgement, and Passion.  If you can possess these characteristics in your people, your organization will thrive.

First, trust yourself. As a company manager, director, executive, or owner you likely have the education and experience required to execute the job and take care of the people who work with you to achieve corporate goals. When you have confidence in yourself, you convey security and competence to employees. It’s important because the buck really does stop with you in many ways. Beyond demonstrating confidence in yourself, you need it to hire the right employees at the right time for your company. And that’s where trusting others comes in. When you hire people who are also skilled and experienced, you can be sure that your trust is in good hands.

Trusting your employees, to a large extent, means listening to them. Manby says, “interrupting and not listening tells people you don’t care about them and that you think you are better than they are.”  He unequivocally states that, “Interrupting is a sign of distrust.”

It’s important to listen to employees. They will often tell you something you hadn’t thought of or hadn’t considered before. Also, you hired them to be the experts in a particular area and they are working through the day-to-day problems, so they likely have the solutions for which you are looking.

Most importantly, when you decide to go in a different direction than the one a subordinate recommended, explain your rationale. The higher-level leader you are, the bigger the picture you have of the company. While employees frequently have great solutions, sometimes those solutions don’t consider the second- and third-order effects on other aspects of the business. When explained, they will understand and respect you for it, even if they don’t love your choice.

Manby uses the RACI tool for decision-making and explains the method in Love Works.

  1.      Define who is RESPONSIBLE for the decision.
  2.      Define who APPROVES the decision.
  3.      CONSULT the people directly affected by the decision.
  4.      INFORM the team.

While unilateral decision-making might be faster, we have to remember that it is the team that has to execute those decisions. When they are not involved and don’t like the decisions, they can find ways to make it fail. When they are involved, their support of the decisions means faster and more effective execution.

Being part of the decision-making process and knowing the role each person plays in the process, diffuses a lot of the confusion, poor decisions, and hurt feelings, Manby says.

Allowing employees to participate is a sign of trust from leadership. Good leaders set expectations and trust their employees to perform. In my opinion, it is always people that make great companies. STS Federal has great people, with whom I place a lot of trust, and I’m proud to say we’re a better company for it.

Next month’s blog will be about being unselfish.

To purchase Joel Manby’s book, Love Works, visit https://joelmanby.com/love-works/.