Real business story

Trusting staff with responsibility made productivity higher than ever

Trusting your team with responsibility can drive productivity and boost morale. But letting go is a challenge in itself for many business leaders.
Alex-Michelle Parr, Wolfestone Group

Alex-Michelle Parr has had more time to look at the bigger picture having divested more responsibility

While trusting others with responsibility does not always come naturally to business leaders, it’s a skill that should be learned and honed.

Give staff goals, rather than tasks

Trusting others with responsibility is a skill Alex-Michelle Parr, managing director of Wolfestone Group, had to learn. The self-proclaimed micromanager even used a glass office to ensure that everyone was working hard enough.

But since learning to trust employees with responsibility, Alex said the team is more productive, employees are happier and the translation services business is growing at record levels.

“By trusting staff and giving them goals rather than tasks, I’ve got a lot more out of them. Productivity is higher than it’s ever been. Collaboration has improved. Because staff know that I’m trusting them and managers are trusting them, they feel happier because they don’t feel like they’re being watched all the time,” Alex said.

Trusting others with responsibility has improved the company’s hiring process and retention levels. While Alex plays a key role in hiring senior employees, she now trusts department managers to hire their own mid- and junior-level employees.

“Managers know the job and their department better than I’m ever going to so I let them make the decisions. By empowering my managers to have those interviews and make the decision, but also know if they get it wrong it’s not the end of the world, that’s really helped with the quality of staff we’ve brought on. Our retention levels have increased substantially, too,” Alex said.

With all the time saved from letting managers do their job unchecked, Alex has been able to look at the bigger picture and focus on global ambitions for the company. The company has expanded into the US, opened new offices in Germany and is growing at 30 per cent a year.

“People come up with stuff that I never even thought of. A few years ago I thought I had to come up with every idea and make every decision. I was ok at that but it’s nothing compared with getting intelligent people to look at problems."

Alex-Michelle Parr, MD, Wolfestone Group

Build trust at every level

For Wolfestone Group, it is essential to build trust at every level of the organisation. To achieve this, Alex sets clear company goals that filter down to perfectly-aligned individual goals.

Three months before the end of the year, Alex starts planning for the following year. She then shares the plan with department managers and sets them objectives, which they are free to achieve in their own way.

“Within two months, managers have meetings with their staff and explain what their role is within the plan and what their individual objectives are. That way, it’s clear what the main goal is, what the manager goals are, what employee goals are and how they all tie together. There’s no confusion. Everybody is trusted to play their own role,” she said.

Trusting people to achieve objectives in their own way has helped the business identify new ideas and more efficient ways of doing things.

“People come up with stuff that I never even thought of. A few years ago I thought I had to come up with every idea and make every decision. I was ok at that but it’s nothing compared with getting intelligent people to look at problems,” Alex said.

As well as driving performance, empowering staff and inspiring new ideas, increased trust within an organisation breeds loyalty.

“We are all human beings and we all like to feel that we are good at our jobs and can be trusted. If you can demonstrate trust at every level of the business, you’re going to get the best out of your staff. You are also going to get people that really believe in the company and want to stay within the company. It breeds loyalty and the business will do better in the long term,” she said.

Sometimes business leaders are nervous about asking staff what they want because they are afraid of what might come back. Alex urged leaders to overcome that fear.

“Don’t be nervous. You’ve employed these people for a reason. They’re intelligent. They’re motivated. If you put a bit of trust in them, they'll repay that tenfold,” she said.

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Top takeaways

When employees feel trusted with responsibility, they are more likely to work productively and be happier in their jobs.

By setting clear company goals that filter down to individual goals, everybody can be clear on their role within the business.

When employees are trusted to reach objectives, it can inspire innovation, new ideas and different approaches.