Q: I’ve gotten feedback that I withhold information, second-guess people and don’t delegate enough. I’ve figured out that it’s driven by lack of trust, but I don’t know what to do about it. Incidentally, this only is happening at work; I’m fine with friends and family. —Phillip, 50, vice president, operations
A: Your first step into self-awareness will serve you well as you seek to address your lack of trust. Let’s take it a bit further.
Is this a new issue? If you’ve been more trusting with co-workers in the past, consider what has changed.
One likely scenario is that your confidence in others has diminished as you’ve moved up in the organization. It makes sense; your success has been founded on your individual contributions. You may well have internalized the messages that your way is the best way and that others won’t do things as well as you.
Since this is not a conscious belief, it’ll be challenging to uproot. Take time to reflect on your career and the steps that have led you to your current role.
In particular, consider your interactions with peers and those up and down the hierarchy each step of the way. Have they changed?
You won’t take action unless you really believe that change is needed. Look at the costs of your lack of trust. You’ve been successful, but could you have had even better outcomes? What about now? You may have hit a wall created by your own behavior.
Be hard on yourself here, at least for a moment, as this is a decisive point in making the changes you say you desire.
Another possibility is that you’ve been burned by misplaced trust (haven’t we all?). Perhaps you’ve shared information and had your confidence betrayed. Maybe others have missed important deadlines or you’ve had to fix poorly done work.
Remember to consider all the times that it has worked out well to depend on others. The weight will clearly be on that side of the scale.
In order to build trust in others, start by trusting yourself and your ability to make good choices.
In the case of information-sharing, discern what people need to know and share at the appropriate level of detail. There will be things that, at your level, will need to be confidential.
Put yourself in others’ shoes and think about what they need in order to be effective.
If you’re second-guessing or failing to delegate, get humble. Focus on seeing the brilliance of the people around you.
After all, you likely hired many of them. With any luck, you’ve chosen to surround yourself with strength, so let these people shine.
This is also a chance for you to grow in your leadership skills. Ask instead of telling. Use questions to elicit their ideas instead of imposing your own.
Be transparent, letting people know that you’re trying to change some unproductive behavior. Make it safe for them to step up.
In closing, one gentle question: Are you sure this hasn’t carried over into your personal life?
Use your work on trust to enrich all aspects of your life.