Trust is a difficult thing. Lots of people have trust issues. Either they trust real easily and get burned a bunch, or they don’t trust anyone and keep everything close to their chest. A lot of the latter started off as the former. I’ve been both, but while it scares me, I think I’m better off being the former. As a leader, I think allowing myself to be in the position where people might let me down makes me a better leader, and I am absolutely positive that it makes the people I lead more apt to become leaders. Holding onto things so tightly that the only person who can let me down is me may get things done (key word here is “may”), but does it promote growth? Or does it breed boredom, dependency, resentment? Or perhaps even withers me? Does it ensure things get done?
There is another motivation for holding onto things that is perhaps just as ill-advised as fearing letdown, and that is fearing burn-out. A lot of leaders don’t want to burn out those they are leading, so rather than risk it, they hold very tightly onto things; preferring to burn themselves, and be at fault for only self-destruction, rather than risk burning others and being at blame for their destruction. Well, as I told Becky last night, “If you don’t put up a bar, no one’s gonna jump,” which is a variation of “If you don’t set the bar high, no one will perform high,” but that is for a post about what to when you trust people. This post is about not trusting. What happens when you don’t entrust people with responsibilities is that everything is done behind closed doors. Decisions are made unilaterally from one leader or a very small group of leaders, and no one is entrusted with the responsibility of becoming the next generation of leaders. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be developing?
Now, I’m not saying leaders who seek to develop leaders shouldn’t have their fingers on the pulse of the leaders they are leading for signs of being overwhelmed. Because, it’s being overwhelmed that is often misdiagnosed as burn-out, and being overwhelmed is much easier to rehabilitate than burn-out, which is a last stage symptom of being overwhelmed. I’m not saying that leaders shouldn’t employ processes and systems that check and seek to ensure the mental health of the people they lead. I’m saying that you need to pull the cards away from your chest, involve people in decisions beyond the closed doors. Challenge people to jump by putting a bar up there.
There are dangers to holding onto everything that go beyond just a lack of growth. Things are done less efficiently because as a leader, you are doing things that should be delegated to the people you are leading. Therefore, your 40 hours (or whatever) is absorbed and you don’t have the time or energy to execute a move to the next level you may have envisioned. There is the danger of miscommunication, late communication, lack of communication because you are sending all the messages, and no matter how good you are, it gets dang difficult to keep track of it all. I know. I pride myself as being an expert at keeping track of things, and I fail. There is the danger of resentment. You feel like you value someone, but they don’t feel valued because when you hold onto everything and make all the decisions, they feel like a drone controlled by a remote control, which you hold. There is the danger that you will only have the minimum number of people needed because since there is no growth model, there is no need to expand and help others grow into second, third, fourth, etc. generations of leaders. You have six people that fill the roles and create a healthy rotation. There is no progression model, so there is no need to find more people. If there is no progression model, then how, realistically, can whatever you are leading grow?
Some people don’t trust people just because they don’t trust people, period. That is a real problem. I bet those folks have relationship issues across the board. I’d love to help you find someone to help you with that, but it’s probably not me.
There are things that others cannot be trusted with, sure, but most things, especially functionally-speaking, warrant trusting others with leadership roles and responsibilities and a voice in the planning process. Strike that, they don’t just warrant it; if you want growth (in aptitude, spiritually, physically, numerically, intellectually) they require it. Trust!
This has been brought to you by Matt Murphy, a recovering trust-phobic.