Communicating Trust

    Jan 24, 2019

    Recently, I broke down and bought one of those “Roombas.” If you're not familiar with this techno tool, allow me to explain. It's absolute magic for anyone who can't stand housework. It's a round gadget, about a foot in diameter, that has little wheels and travels around a room automatically vacuuming everything in its path. It's absolutely great. Today, I vacuumed while I wasn't even home!

    As I watched this machine go to work, it was pretty obvious that it knew what it was doing. I soon felt comfortable enough to leave it on its own. A half hour later, the machine beeped that it had finished vacuuming the room. At that point, I got up, checked the job, cleaned out the machine, then placed it in another room to begin again. I chuckled as I realized the parallels between the Roomba and how people communicate trust.

    Do you manage employees? Supervise volunteers? Delegate to others? Then you know how important trust is. It's the foundation of relationships. Without trust, there is doubt, uncertainty, and untold stress.

    If you trust people, let them know it. But how? Here are some suggestions:

    • Delegate; don’t micromanage. All professionals take pride in their work. That's why, whether you delegate or not, you want the end product to be of excellent quality. Sometimes, when we micromanage, it's because we are coming from a place of fear. The temptation to control every minute detail is immense because we care. The recipient of this micromanaging reads the behavior as mistrust. In addition, it's discouraging and demotivating to be under the thumb of someone. It allows no room to grow. People become much more productive when you delegate to them and then, let go.
    • Communicate parameters. When you're working with other people and counting on them to pull their load, make sure you clearly communicate what you need and when. Leave the “how” up to the people who are doing the work. That doesn't mean they have carte blanche; it means they can use their creativity and expertise toward achieving common goals.
    • Keep on communicating. Build in milestones and regular checkpoints when you will be advised of a project’s status. If possible, face-to-face updates are best. These can be formal or informal, depending on the nature and complexity of the project. These touch points will help you maintain your comfort level and assure that the task assigned is on track. Trusting someone doesn't mean that you relieve yourself from responsibility. Quite to the contrary: you're still responsible, so staying connected makes sense. Just remember to stay connected, not crushing.
    • Support from afar. Once you've delegated tasks, let the person know that you're accessible. Then, make sure you're available when he or she needs you. Support may come in various forms such as providing training, assuring adequate funding, and being available to provide guidance, approval, and decisions. Assuming a hands-off approach doesn't mean abdicating your role as the lead; it means giving others enough space to do their jobs without being suffocated. The space communicates trust. Being accessible communicates support.

    If you want harmonious relationships, trusting others—and communicating that trust—is essential. Assign the task, then let your people go to work and do what they do best. If they “beep” and need your help, give them the support they need to get them going in the right direction.

    I'll remember these lessons every time I speak to a client about delegation...and every time I use my Roomba.