Trust and Growth in 2014

Jack Welch is credited with saying, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

One of the single most frustrating aspects about being a business leader is growing those that work in your organization.

There are some individuals who actively seek out more responsibility and the appropriate authority to manage new areas of control. These people seek growth, opportunity and ability to make a positive impact.

One side of this issue is that sometimes these individuals are not doing as good job as you want handling what they are already responsible for.

I’m not saying the Peter Principle is at work here; but I can speak to the fact that having diplomatic, candid conversations with the emotions removed about what is not being taken care of are seldom, if ever, held.

The leader is solely responsible for any subordinate not knowing where they stand, and telling them what needs to change about how they manage and handle their responsibilities to better achieve desired results.

Then there is a matter just how much and how willing the leader is to give up more responsibility and authority to a person that is trusted on a basic level … but is not deserving of receiving a higher level of trust.

I have asked business owners and leaders a question which gives me a good sense for how they see the people that work for and with them.

The question is: who in your business do you trust unconditionally?

This sometimes requires clarification so I add, “If you had to go away for six months, who would you trust to run your business the way you do right now?”

This is a question that some can never answer. They don’t want to answer it, because they trust no one completely.

The more the leader gives up, the more vulnerable they are, and the organization is, to the potential and real mistakes made by an employee, even one they trust.

This, more than anything else, frightens the leaders of every organization I have worked for or provided advice to.

It is often a “no man’s (or woman’s) land” of trying to decide how much information or authority to provide to a subordinate.

Give too little authority and information and an employee may inadvertently make a costly mistake. Provide unlimited authority and too little control and the business (clients, cash, reputation) may quickly disappear.

The other side of growing people is that there are always going to be some in the organization who will not accept more responsibility and don’t want more authority either. They are content to stay in their comfort zone.

I’ve noticed that these are the same people who want regular raises and promotions, but they want the benefits without having to invest in learning more, doing more and taking on the responsibilities and the risks of accepting more responsibility and authority.

2014 is approaching quickly. The leaders I frequently speak with want this next year to be better than 2013. More revenue, better clients, stronger cash flow and higher profits are desired.

Albert Einstein said that insanity was defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I recommend tackling 2014 with a new approach, something you likely have not tried before.

Simply put each employee (and vendor) into one of three columns on the same sheet of paper. The first column is “trusted and capable of more trust.” The second is “Trusted but not ready or worthy of more trust.” The third is “Not trustworthy.”

Everyone (and every vendor company) must be put into one and only one, of the three columns.

If you wanted to significantly grow your business in the next 15 months, which individuals and vendors would you have address the greatest opportunities that lie in front of you?

Which individuals and vendors would you assign the task of taking on your biggest problems?

And which column of your current employees and vendors should you seek to replace as quickly as possible?