Impulse 20. You betrayed my trust!

Roundabout half a year ago, two close colleagues of mine betrayed my trust. We had an agreement, but neither one of them kept to their word. They abused their position of power and there was nothing I could do against it! What should I do next?

Should I take revenge?
Not put my trust in anyone ever again?

An Employee recently remarked that I put ‘a remarkable amount of trust’ into other people in general. Am I an idiot who just doesn’t get how you need to cooperate with other people in this world?

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is complete control, by taking everyone on a short leash and by keeping employees and business partners under close supervision.  Well, I am a person who wants to know about everything in detail, who is ambitious and, naturally, someone who likes to discuss the details of diverse projects. Otherwise, if I had not had problems with letting go myself, I wouldn’t have been able to write the book  – ‘Letting Go For Leaders’. The longer I’m in charge of my employees and the longer I am working independently and the more I speak to other managers after my keynotes and during my seminars, the more I realise that only those who trust a lot can produce great results.

Chicken or egg? What comes first: Good performance or trust?

At this point you could say that you should only start putting your trust in your employees and allowing greater freedom during projects and tasks, if the employee has earned this trust. I always recommend doing it the other way around; as long as the tasks falls within the competencies you assume the employee in question to be able to take on the responsibility successfully.  

Trust first! Then expect your employee to deliver

To me, the same is true when it comes to working with my business partners. Of course, there is a need for written contracts. Of course, oral agreements are not always sufficient. But if we want a safety net for everything and each and every time, we might – perhaps – experience fewer disappointments. Above all, we would have to invest a lot of time to protect ourselves. We would have to arrange for everything in written form – as in many companies – and thus we would ensure that our progress is much slower.

Mistakes do not exist!

The problem in companies is the constant lookout for a scapegoat instead of working towards concrete solutions. We could be so much more efficient if we finally realised ‘Mistakes do not exist’! Well, of course there are mistakes, but often discussions on mistakes revolve merely around blame, loss of face and inconveniences for career and reputation.

But this is not the point why mistakes exist!

Why don’t we begin with rewarding mistakes with admiration? Because someone had the courage. Because that colleague didn’t do merely the bare minimum, but because he did not seek validation for every tiny detail, but because he showed dedication and made a mistake as a result.

Why don’t we begin by making use of mistakes as a way of changing the course of the future together?

Why don’t we accept mistakes as an important and necessary part of the process?

Those who work a lot, make a lot of mistakes.

Those who work little, make few mistakes.

Those who do not make any mistakes at all are lazy.

There are so many kinds of mistakes: Mistakes due to a lack of concentration. Mistakes due to a lack of information. Mistakes due to someone willing to take a risk in a new ground.

When an employee makes a mistake – and I recommend this perspective to any manager – this mistake is always the manager’s fault, although the employee will of course need to be held responsible to justify his actions.

As managers, we are the ones in charge of changing course.

Our task is to choose employees who are a good fit, to train them, to develop their skills, and to give them more appropriate tasks when needed.

The fish rots from the head down. Always.

Responsibility, not blame: Accepting responsibility is the only way to steer into a better direction.  Therefore, I do accept responsibilities for my results. I, myself, am responsible that my colleagues betrayed my trust! I acted in a certain way which shaped the relationship to my colleagues. Thus, I influenced the decision taken by my colleagues – even if I did not do it consciously. In the future, I can deliberately choose to act differently to receive different reaction from my environment. If I were only a victim in this scenario, it could happen to me again on any given day. But: We are never victims. We are always responsible for the results we receive.

Do some of us have to deal with adverse, even extreme circumstances? Yes, of course. But every one of us is in charge of shaping our circumstances. And if others can make it, anyone of us can – if we are prepared to pay the price. We do not achieve extraordinary results in the comfort zone. That’s why it is necessary to take 2-3 big leaps out of our comfort zone at once. Then we have the best chances to influence things in our intended direction.

Dear managers, I hope that you take courageous steps forward, gather the required confidence and achieve well-deserved results!


Markus Jotzo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *