Trust is an important part of the relationship between a supervisor and our team. Indeed, it may be the most important part.

When a new supervisor comes in, and this can be anyone from a front line production supervisor to a CEO, there is a critical moment that sets the tone. If we handle it badly, it can haunt us for a long time.

As supervisors, we work with our team to be more self-sufficient. Make more decisions by themselves. Take more initiative by themselves. We build capabilities so the team can handle more without involving us. Only an insecure supervisor is afraid to do this.

Of course, there is risk when we do this. It may not go as we had hoped or expected. And that is the critical moment.

When (not if!) our employee solves a problem, writes a memo, or decides differently from what we would do, what is our reaction? If our reaction is to overrule the employee or redo the work, then we are doing it wrong. While there may be times when this is necessary, we need to ask ourself if their decision will get the same result. It will never be precisely the same result, but if, at a high level, it meets the requirements and gets the job done; we need to shut up and let their work ride.

If we constantly criticize how they do tasks, they will ask us to review more. If they feel we are going to override their decisions, they will check with us more. When that happens, we have created more work for ourselves and we don’t have an independent team. Our team sees we don’t trust them.

The first time we swallow our words and accept something different from what we would have done, is the first time we trust our team.

The first time we swallow our words and accept something different from what we would have done, is the first time we trust our team. The employee will see that and feels empowered. And maybe, just maybe, we learn that our way isn’t always the best.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t have discussions about what is important and why it is important. For instance, if they implement a change that misses a longer-term point, say not considering an upcoming infrastructure change, asking a few questions first to see if they took that into account is better than pointing out how we would have done it. They may have thought about it and solved it a different way.

Yes, there is a chance it will blow up in our faces. And we will feel embarrassed because we didn’t keep a close enough eye on things. But we need to stay focused on the larger prize: if we have a team that we can trust, and trusts us, and that team runs hard, our department will get more done than if we need to be in the loop on everything.

When a critical moment comes by in your job, remember that your team is watching. And that trust is a very powerful motivator.

Photo by John Bredesen

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