Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

From peer to supervisor – Part 12: trust

Posted in HR and personnel, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 11, 2010

I will have posted 453 installments to this blog with this entry and this is my 12th in this series on taking that first step into management. Much of what I write about is both analytical and process-driven, with details that hopefully at least would offer focused and practical help and advice. This posting deals with a very important set of issues for any manager, and in fact for anyone working in any capacity on a team, but it deals with a soft and less easily analytically characterized subject: trust.

Businesses and organizations in general are built on foundations of process and underlying strategy, and according to analysis of options, opportunities, limitations and priorities (and see SWOT analysis with its focus on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threat analysis.) But all of this has to rest on a foundation of trust to work and even with the soundest and most through due diligence in place and at every step.

Very often when a member of a team is moved into a position of responsibility for managing a team, they start out viewing this primarily as a requirement that they lead, and proactively. That is a part of the job but leadership has to be based on a foundation to work. The people who report to you need to be able to trust that you have the skills and abilities to manage and lead. They need to be able to trust you in being supportive of them as individuals and as a group that you will look out for their interests as they seek to fulfill their responsibilities. They need to trust that you will be fair and open with them, and that while you may criticize at times you also give credit too.

• Look to what you would want from an ideal manager you would report to, and think through where you have found managers to be inspiring and where you have found them wanting.
• No one is or can be perfect in this, and in fact perfection is a moving target and an illusion. But strive to be the manager you would want to report to and someone who can earn and gain respect and trust.

Trust, I add, is a 360 degree process and it flows or fails to flow in multiple directions. If this posting is about you as a new manager it is about the people who report to you and your same level peers, and the people you report to in turn. It is about your clients and both in-house and external, and it is about the stakeholders who count on you, and for publically traded companies it is about the shareholders.

In a way this is one of the most important postings I have added, and both in this series on transitioning into management, and in the Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as a whole. I also see it as one of the more personal postings I have written as I find myself thinking back to the places I have worked at and the people I have worked with as I write this. I admit in that regard that while I have made good calls and have had successes, I have also made mistakes and sought to learn from them. When I wrote of perfection being an illusion above, I had that in mind, and the experience I have seen in myself and in others.

An expert is sometimes defined as a person who has made every conceivable mistake in some field and who has learned something from every one of these experiences. Trust and building a foundation for trust is one of the fruits of honestly pursuing the learning curve of management and in fact learning something every single day and every single time. And ultimately that willingness to learn and to grow professionally and as a person is the strongest foundation you can build for instilling trust, and for developing a team who you can and will trust too.

I add this into this series as a topic for new managers but this is all about a career-long and lifelong learning curve.

My next posting in this series is going to look into some of the issues involved in performing your first performance reviews. This is often a crucial test challenge for a new manager and it is one where issues of trust are put to the test in all directions.

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