I Don’t Trust My Team


As an Executive Coach and believer in empowerment as part of management strategies, Trust is one of the top issues that is first raised when I start working with a new company.  And it is often one of the least understood in terms of where trust is missing.

Regardless of whether you have built the team yourself or they are inherited, asking yourself the question of whether you trust your team is important; trust could mean the difference between good and great. 

Case Study

I recently worked with a team where the Chief Executive had come into post during 2014 and, after having a number of difficulties with the staff in post, replaced them all. He had great responses to recruitment drives and hand picked the new staff. Yet the new team was not working as he had hoped, he didn’t trust them and was still micro managing to a very uncomfortable level. He also couldn’t work out why the team was still experiencing turnover and not fully established. So why was this?

Over the course of the coaching relationship it became clear that he had no idea that the trust issues sat mainly with him. He was still referencing the old team in many conversations and using the historical situation to shape the current one. He regularly made comparisons to the before and after, citing how much more improved it was, but not conveying that message in his behaviour. He had developed a style that said to staff ‘I don’t trust you’ through the continuous need to know their every movement and activity. Even assurances from senior management within the team that things were on track or going well were not enough for him to become comfortable in his CEO role.

He had also hired staff to his weaknesses, a move he had thought would provide him with strength, but had a serious negative impact on his relationship with those staff. He didn’t know enough to challenge them and felt inferior in discussions. He was not able to handle this and ultimately behaved poorly towards them, using isolation and micro management to try to retain some control over them. There were more 1:1’s and team meetings in the diary than was necessary and the managers were needing to work at home in the evenings to get things done.

So, the team below him had created their own strategies for managing him. They had all been ‘bitten’ by his behaviour within the early days of starting in the job and after repeated incidents and no direction, came together to try to improve their working relationships whilst excluding the CEO altogether. The senior team agreed to cascade information upwards and downwards, effectively creating a barrier for the junior team to protect them from the CEO. The senior team members were all job hunting and the ineptitude of the CEO was a major talking point, often over spilling outside of the office.

The overall affect on the team was significant and had the potential to result in a 100% turnover again within the year.

With issues like this, it is virtually impossible to resolve them without some form of external facilitation, which is where a business coach or facilitator can provide a platform for all parties to address and resolve the issues over time. It can become tempting to ‘say it how it is’ but that strategy does nothing to repair the problem, neither does just getting rid of staff. In this particular case a whole toolkit of solutions were needed with the CEO to manage the sensitivities without destroying their confidence and to open their perspective to where the problems were, including 1:1 coaching, team facilitation and the development of a charter.

As a leader you need to understand that trust is not black and white and requires a more analytical approach rather than an instinctive one. If you need to take action to address issues similar to this we can help your team move from good to great. For more details please do contact me via [email protected]. 

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