Trust

The Single Hardest Thing You'll Do as a Business Owner

The Single Hardest Thing You'll Do as a Business Owner
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Of all the things we do as business owners, there is one simple act that is more challenging than the others, that is more emotionally taxing and more likely to add unwanted gray to the top -- or sides -- of your head. Can you guess what it is?

Yup, you guessed it (or did you?). It’s the willingness to trust.

Notice it’s not the ability to trust but the willingness to do so. We all have the capacity to trust yet whether we choose to is a different story. It’s understandable, too. After all, your business is your baby, your livelihood, your purpose and passion, so trusting others to do right and do well with it is no small feat.

Related: 4 Ways to Build a Culture of Trust Culled From My Time in Pro Football

Natalie Nucho of Natalie Helen Consulting, Inc., sees it all the time in her recruiting practice. 

“It’s always the same story again and again -- newly minted entrepreneurs who have trouble trusting others with their businesses, so what happens is they try to do everything themselves, they get burned out and their business performance plummets -- quickly,” she says.

If you want to scale your business to the next level, even if it’s just moving from working alone to working with a partner, you need to build trust. Here are three ways to do it (and they all begin with the letter "D" for your alliterative pleasure):

1. Delegate responsibility.

It has been said before that the best way to build trust is to extend it. You do this when you delegate work rather than describe how to work. Set the guardrails for innovation rather than dictating what color those guardrails should be. The former is indicative of leadership, while the latter is a sign of micro-managing, and nobody, except maybe new employees, wants to be told how work.

People work for purpose, autonomy and mastery, according to Daniel Pink’s 2.0 theory of motivation, so tell them what they're responsible for, sit back and watch self-selection unravel.

2. Decide to trust.

Inherent to trusting others is making the decision to trust. There is no gray area when it comes to trust -- you either trust someone or you don’t. If there’s just “something” about John that makes the hair on the back of your unshaven neck stand up, chances are you don’t trust him.

Related: 11 Signs Someone Is Lying to You

The next step is to examine why. What about this poor, hypothetical character named John is untrustworthy? Generally speaking, there are two capacities upon which we base trust for one another: character and competence.

If John is a taxi driver, for instance, you must trust he's competent enough to navigate traffic and get you to your destination. You must also trust that he won’t drive the taxi off a bridge and lead everybody to the scene of an unwanted crash. Yet if you don't trust John in either of these capacities, to drive and to drive safely, you're stuck in complacency and won't go anywhere.

3. Dissolve the silos.

Physical obstructions such as high cubicle walls (if you’re vertically challenged) and distance (if walking just isn’t your thing) certainly impede communication and resulting trust, but there mental barriers, too.

The common belief that knowledge is power has become outdated. Nowadays, with the seemingly interminable reach of technology, knowledge may be powerful but sharing knowledge is the true source of power simply because it enables others -- it allows people to make decisions based on the direction and objectives of the company rather than waiting for “mommy” or “daddy” to make a decision. Dissolving silos is how you scale your business, but doing so warrants trust.

Here’s an example: One of my coaching clients became more transparent with his sales team with company and team information so much that it enabled his team to operate off the same sheet of music and thus hold each other more accountable. Each sales rep is now armed with the same information that they can now "row" in the same direction based off a shared understanding of what "right" looks like. The result? His team is now number one in the company.

Trusting others can be challenging, especially when you’re unfamiliar with their backgrounds and work experience. There comes a point, though, that to trust becomes a must (notice how that rhymes?) if you want to get ahead.

Related: Multiply the Trust Factor Inside Your Organization