Thursday, October 15, 2009

Carry on trusting ......

As regular readers know I’ve often written on Simplicity Blog (and in many other places) my firm belief that front line employees should always be TRUSTED to just get on with the damn work.

I’ve always said the best leaders know they should just need to set out the broad parameters of their expectations of employees and then get out of the way and trust the people to get on with the job. I often use the famous quote of Henry Stimson, US Secretary of War in World War Two; ‘The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him’

I’m not going to change my mind on any of my core beliefs above. I still firmly believe I am right to trust employees.

BUT ….

It hurts me to the very core when a manager (like one I’m coaching at present) does all the right things about setting clear parameters and expectations for the team and every individual within that team and then some employees totally let down that manager by abusing the trust placed in them.

For a fleeting moment I think to myself; ‘Do I need to change my view about trusting employees?’ …. But I quickly realise there will - sadly - ALWAYS be a small minority of employees who will abuse the trust you place in them.

Am I disappointed – Yes.
Am I angry – Kind of.
Am I surprised – Very.
Most Important - Will I change my views about trusting front liners? – DEFINITELY NOT.

Do you get disappointed sometimes when employees abuse the trust placed in them and if so how do you rationalise it?


Rocky said...

No need to rationalize. There will always be a minority of people that will abuse any and/or everything. That does not detract from doing what is right. The wrong thing would be to give up and become cynical. Most people love the freedom of being empowered and the benefits definately outweigh the negatives. You just deal with the problems when they arise. A wise friend once said "Lead People, Manage Things" Lead people and manage the problem. A manager would give up on the right concept. A leader pushes through and corrects the problems and moves forward. Rock on with Simplicity!! It is always right to live with right principles. It will win in the end. Trust is a right principle. Tell your client to keep rattling the cage. I could certainly share some great stories with him how the idea of believing in the front liners is absolutely the right thing to do, especially in the face of poroblems.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks as always Rocky. As usual you are right on the money with your comments. These challenges always crop up but I'm sure we have to stick with our principles.

I think the day I start to 'not trust' our front line folks is the day I give up and die.

J.KANNAN said...


A good topic and very well presented as usual.

You are right in your thought and belief trusting on the front line staff in any organisation....................and if one does not "Trust", he becomes one that you remove the alphabet "T" from "Trust" to be precise one becomes "Rust" if one does not Trust the front line staff. The very word "front line" signifies that they are on the front and dealing/interacting with customers/visitors etc in the first place and instantly and keep the Managers/Leaders informed of the real situation/problems etc. and becomes some what easy to handle and solve issues by Managers. This is my personal and unbiased opinion please.

As rightly mentioned by you, why only best, all leaders must set out broad parameters of their expectations out of the employees and effectively communicate with the employees and leave the trust on them so that the Leaders does not gather rust.

Probably Henry Stimson wants to doubly ensure that he does not get rust, that could be one of the reasons, he has created a most appropriate and valuable quote The only way......................................Trust Him."and your mentioning of your firm right to trust employees looks absolutely OK and I endorse with your views.

But...................for your But my suggestions would
Managers/Leaders should have vigil and control, all said and done having trust on the employees to ensure that they don't take Managers/Leaders for a ride. Circumstantial and appropriate diplomacy toward employees can eliminate the problems, some Managers/Leaders might encounter.

I, in my long career as a Senior Manager/GM was never disappointed by the employees whom I trusted, but was taken aback and simply managed to to keep things under control and re-imposed the trust in them,making the realise their flaws without me becoming "Rust". I shall continue to carry on trusting the front line staff.


hucknjim said...


As one of those front line employees, you just knew I had to weigh in on this one. First, I have to say that management at my hospital from the top down does place their trust in us. Second, as you say, a small minority of employees will abuse that trust to avoid work and generally get paid just for showing up. In over 20 years at my current job I've seen it happen, rarely but more often than I'd like.

It saddens me, but the question that no one seems to be addressing here is what to do with them? Ideally management would work with them in a firm but supportive manner to upgrade their work ethic. If that fails they would be given an oral warning, then a written warning, and finally termination from their jobs as a last resort.

Happily, on my unit this sort of process is the with a few exceptions. Unhappily, I know of at least one other floor where this philosophy seems to have fallen by the wayside. Whether that's because of politics, which are always rife within any organization large or small, I don't know; but I suspect politics play at least some part.

In short, the return for trust is or ought to be responsibility. Our responsibility as front line employees is to do our jobs to the best of our abilities and to rise above and beyond by giving constructive feedback or by responding to the needs of the moment. One man's opinion, but I think a valid one.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks JK and John - wise words from you both.

I'm on the road most of this week and next so I'm catching up with Blogging slowly so I'm very sorry for delay in replying.

Scott Peters said...


The world would be a boring place if everyone followed instructions, did what they were told to do, and followed managements' expectations to a T. In fact, if everything went as planned, biz wouldn't need managers to oversee operations. As you know, and your manager will figure out, the percentage represented above is somewhat small and requires a majority of time; the so called 80/20 rule.

Many good managers realize that commitments won't be met and plan contigencies. I always told my managers that they weren't earning their pay when everything was on auto pilot and moving along fine; they were earning their pay when the wheels would fall off and they were tested as managers.

Mark JF said...

Maybe your friend's first inquiry should be to himself to ask why the team all keep abusing the trust placed in them.

If it's part of a wider problem in that environment, it sounds so endemic that I guess you've got to ask if it's time to move on.

But is he really communicating what he'd like done? Are they realistic and achievable outcomes? Are the team properly trained? Are they empowered to do it? Are they trying but others block them?

It's too simplistic to assume you can just liberate people, or even that everyone wants to be liberated. This situation strikes me as likely being the time when a manager has just got to roll up his sleeves, show people how to do the task and physically lead them through it a couple of times before gradually standing back. Then he can see if they deserve to work in a trusting environment.

Some people are trustworthy, some have to earn it and some have to be given it. A few don't deserve it and shouldn't be allowed within a country mile of it.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Scott – always good to hear your perspective on these issues given your experience of what it’s like to be treated in a ‘mistrust’ environment.

Rest assured in this case my friend some team members took advantage of the trust placed in them by this manager. She is learning fast about these things and I tell her repeatedly this is what real word management is about rather than what they try and teach you in a business school classroom!

I’m sure you agree with me there is nothing like getting your hands dirty with this stuff.

This experience she is gaining now will stand her in good stead later in her career – she just feels hurt right now and I understand why.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mark – always good to hear from you on these matters.

In this case the 80/20 rule mentioned by Scott definitely applies.

It was a minority of team members who abused the trust placed in them.

I was present when this manager very effectively communicated her expectations on the matters that I am talking about.

In a nutshell she feels let down and so do I.

I agree with you that some people will abuse the trust we place in them and that they should not be allowed 'within a country mile of it.'

The big problem is how do we know at the outset who we can trust?

I still believe - with a passion - that we must start from a view that we trust everyone otherwise we start from the view we distrust everyone and that just doesn’t feel right for me. Each to their own though as always.

I'm sure you agree Mark there is no such thing as ‘half trust' – that's like saying someone is half pregnant :-)

Trevor Gay said...

John – I’ve had a chance to fully read all the comments now and I love your views.

You always speak from the heart with such long experience and I always enjoy reading your comments.

Your views mirror mine in that we have to trust our front line folks. It is indeed sad as you say that some abuse that trust but rest assured that happens all the way ‘up’ any organisation and it’s definitely not restricted to front line people. Many senior people abuse the trust – look at the banking scandals we have seen in the last year or two.

The comments I’ve received in this posting reassure me that I am right to continue to trust people – it’s the only way for me!

Your view is always valued and welcomed here John!

Trevor Gay said...

JK – I think you are so right about managers and leaders always being vigilant in order to avoid being taken for a ride.

Having clarity of thought and purpose sets apart the very best leaders and managers from their ‘ordinary’ peers.

Your experience and advice is invaluable to me in addressing these issues and I find myself in complete agreement with you.

Thank you again Sir!

Mark JF said...

Trevor - oddly enough, in a funny sort of way I do think there is such a thing as "half trust."

I think it's about knowing your people and knowing what you can and can't expect them to do.

This isn't "half trust" in the sense you have doubts about someone's trustworthiness. It is about not applying an absolute scale or a "one size fits all" approach to everyone and every situation. You have to tailor trust and apply varying degrees of it to different people in different situations.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mark – I can see where you are coming from - However I still don’t believe there is any value in ‘half trust.’

When we don’t let go completely it is because we don’t have the confidence in the person we are delegating too. Therefore we do not trust them.

The best analogy I’ve ever heard about this is when a pilot is learning the trade of flying solo there will be someone in the back seat as an instructor on the last but one flight before the solo flight - that instructor might be behind you but he/she is still ‘there’. Then on the first solo flight there is another state called ‘not there’ … Then and only then is the person truly trusted.

I guess most of us want to have that state of ‘half trust’ in delegation and in effect that means we dabble in the other persons work and never really allow them to fly.

That how I feel about this - Great exchange thanks