Trust Requires More Than Words

The girl, the bike, the light, year one.

Every boss needs to control their employees, but many struggle to do so effectively. Too often, bosses give their employees freedom and trust and before they can say “No!” the employees have destroyed everything.

Okay … obviously satire. In today’s work environment, most leaders agree that giving employees freedom and trust will destroy a lot of things. Sometimes, those things will need fixed, but more often, the things employees break will actually improve make their lives easier, improve productivity, encourage innovation, and boost morale. 

Anybody in a leadership position will take steps to encourage independence and demonstrate trust. But many also cling to outdated rules or “business processes” that will discourage employees and negate their positive steps.

  • Rigid Hours: Instead of forcing employees to adhere to a strict schedule, allow them to set the schedule that fits them best. Additionally, don’t force them to ask permission every time they have to leave midday. This simple act of flexibility will send a clear message to anybody you supervise that you trust them to manage their time, or more generally, that you trust them to act responsibly, like an adult.
  • Butt In Seat: An even more extreme extension of the rigid hours, and even more debilitating to employee morale. Often, when I have to focus on writing, I’ll jump on the commuter train and ride it for an hour or two, and it will prove the most productive two hours of my day. Let your employees work where they work best.
  • Screen Monitoring: If you have kids in your house accessing the Internet, putting a computer in a common area you can see the screen makes sense. But you have adults working in your office. Let them set up their desk area as they want.
  • CC 2 CYA: Email has simplified a lot of things, including the ability to “loop” everyone into a conversation. Please, stop. If you’re a boss, trust that your employees can make decisions and communicate with others without your hand-holding. For everyone else, stop the “cover your ass” approach of CCing the boss(es) of whoever you’re working with on a project. Trust your peers to coordinate as needed with their boss, just as you will coordinate with your boss. Yes, conflicts or difficulties may arise that necessitate CCing the bosses, but once you stop CCing everybody you will find, refreshingly, you need it far less than you think. Use the CC, don’t abuse it.
  • No Accountability: This goes to the heart of trust and independence. Hold your employees (and yourself) accountable for their decisions and let them resolve issues on their own whenever possible. Many of the examples people offer about why they can’t trust their employees really stem from a lack of accountability. Alternatively, holding employees accountable tells them that you trust them to do their job without your micromanagement, but it also means you trust them to fix their own problems.

Photo credit: “The Girl, The Bike, The Light (Year One)” by Peter Heeling.

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Playing on One String

Guns N' Roses playing live

For nearly twenty years, I’ve owned a guitar with a broken string. I never learned how to play that guitar because of that broken string.

Recently, in an interview on the WTF podcast, Slash talked about learning to play the guitar as a kid. Did he have a broken string? No. He had five broken strings.

Too many times, we create artificial barriers for action, creating, even living. We don’t launch our website because we need the perfect theme. We don’t start the podcast because we don’t have the right microphone. We don’t start writing because we can’t find the right pen. We search for the perfect bike, the perfect knife, the perfect tent instead of just riding, cooking, or camping.

These barriers become even more daunting, and more common, for creative pursuits. Your fear will manifest many arguments to stifle your creativity, many of them anchored in perfection. Ignore them and start creating.

A Story About A Story (As A Poem)

Telling stories while hiking

Today, I will tell you a story.
It may not inspire or entertain.
When compared to yesterday. Or tomorrow.
Or, it might. Inspire. Entertain.
Even more than yesterday or tomorrow.

Today, I will tell you a story.
Yesterday, I told you a story. A different story.
And tomorrow, I will tell you a story. A different story.
Than today.

Today, I will tell you a story.
One of many stories waiting.
For me to tell.

Today, I will tell you a story.
Only one story, today.
Yesterday. And tomorrow.
And every day.
Only one story.

Today, I cannot tell you every story.
But today, I will tell you one story.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
Than the perfect story.
For today.