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How to Build Mutual Trust and Hold People Accountable

This is an interview excerpt from “Trust-Fueled Growth & Delegation: Unlocking Your Business Potential” when Steve Fisher was a podcast guest on Mike ONeill. It was a great opportunity to talk about how business owners and C-suite executives get “unstuck” with strategic thinking, a written structured growth plan and accountability.

Steve Fisher: When I start working with a business owner, I talk with them about whatever our focus is going to be and I acknowledge they’ve already taken a step to recognizing they have a problem they cannot solve by themselves. They realize there is a problem or multiple ones. Where it gets a little sticky is when I start talking with them about this idea of delegation.

I will ask something like, “Why aren’t you delegating that to Joe?” And here’s a typical response, “Oh, he already has so much to do, et cetera, et cetera.” But when you dig a little deeper, what you find is he does not trust Joe. When I point this out, the reply tends to be something like, “What do you mean I do not trust Joe? Joe’s been with me for 15 years. I trust him implicitly.” Then I have to bluntly say, no, you do not. Because if you trusted him, you’d delegate this to him.

They will either say a version of you are right and they will start trusting Joe or they will start delegating the responsibility to Joe and giving Joe the chance to succeed or fail. If you are in Joe’s position, you are being given this additional responsibility and you can look at it two ways.

One is, I am getting all this extra work and I’m overworked, and yada, yada, yada. This is going to go into it with the wrong attitude, and you will fail, Joe. Then Joe is going to be removed from the responsibility, which, in the end, is a benefit to the business as you don’t have the wrong person in the wrong position.

Or Joe is going to take it as I am being trusted with more responsibility. Then Joe is going to excel or develop the skills that he needs to excel. Now you have a much more valuable Joe in the organization. So again, the organization benefits.

While we’re talking about trust, delegation and accountability, another point I want to make is about working with Gen Z (or Y or whoever is next). There will always be younger people entering the workforce, but we older professionals need to keep an open mind and not immediately distrust them. They want to learn and develop just like you did when you were younger. One way you help them do that and keep them engaged is by continually giving them interesting things along with maybe some not so interesting things to do but are necessary. And if you explain to them why this responsibility is necessary, they will typically excel or they will not. They will quickly identify themselves as trustworthy and you can adjust their roles as needed within your organization.

Mike O’Neill: For those who are looking at this podcast on YouTube, they see me nodding. Up and down, up and down with a number of the comments you made. The comment that you shared about the case of Joe is the owner did not trust Joe. The word trust comes up a lot in my work with clients, and if you do not have trust in the organization, it is hard to build an organization that, in fact, could execute a structured growth plan. Has that been your experience as well?

Steve Fisher: Oh, yes, because there are so many steps involved, you must delegate steps to other people outside of the primary business owner. So, you learn to trust them.

Mike, you are the HR professional. You know you end up building a fantastic team with a foundation of developing trust. This development of trust takes the weight off the owner’s shoulders which is often an immense sense of relief.

I’ve had clients I’ve been working with over a long period of time tell me “I just want to really thank you because you, you let me sleep at night now. Because I’m not stressed that I don’t have a solution in place or I don’t have the right person in place.”

Building trust to delegate responsibility, holding someone else accountable and having the right person in place gives a business owner relief. As opposed to not having the right piece, the right tool or financing or something like that. There are ways we can work on those issues, too. But, in my many years of experience, it’s the personnel problems that keep business owners awake at night.

Click now to listen to the podcast in its entirety.