When you say, “I trust you” – what does that mean? What I have discovered people often say, “I trust you” and it really carries no meaning or attributable behaviors. I have never felt like words matter that much. People say “this and that” and yet until they do this or that it doesn’t mean much. I am really looking for behaviors that match the words they have spoken. I know we can argue on this point and parse words but that isn’t fruitful. Jesus said it this way, “Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I tell you”. He was big on words matching behavior.

So- when a leader says I trust you – ask them what that means. Does it mean I have hiring and firing authority? Purchase authority? Schedule authority? I could go on and on because I have heard from so many people along the way – “My boss says they trust me – but I can’t even ______”. What would someone you lead fill that blank in with?

As a leader when you say I trust you – define it behaviorally:

  • I will not be looking over your shoulder
  • You can purchase up to this amount w/o my permission
  • I trust you to get the results so I will stay out of the way

Just remind them – “When I say I trust you – I always reserve the right to speak into your job or ask questions for evaluation. Trust does not mean I cover my eyes and abdicate my role as a leader.” My role as I develop a leader at this level is more about making sure they have the resources they need than over-managing them. What do you think? When someone says they trust you – what do you expect from them? What will you give the people you manage?


process leadership