The Adaptive Agency Blog

Teams Perform Better If They Feel Trusted

by | Sep 16, 2022 | Culture

I know a small business owner with an 80% net margin.

Yes, I just said “80%”.

And his customers have offered to double his business for years.

But he’s been avoiding it. Why?

Because he’s the only person in the world who can do his job. He would have to clone himself to take on more business.

What does he do that’s so specialized?

He orders commodity products for his customers and stocks their shelves.


Yeah, that’s it. I mean, he’s good at it, and his customers love him.

But you and I could buy that business tomorrow and triple revenue within 18 months.

So what’s going on?

He can’t hire someone to help him because he can’t trust anyone.

Think about that for a second: He could probably double his income within a year if he could just hire someone to deliver product and stock shelves.

Not gonna happen.

Anyone he hires will fail. Guaranteed. There’s no other possible outcome.

If you’ve ever worked for a manager with trust issues, you probably felt it sucking the motivation right out of you. Not being trusted feels horrible.




At first, it makes you want to earn their trust. But soon it hurts your self esteem and leaves you resentful. You try giving your best, but it will never be good enough, so you go into survival mode.

The person cutting your check feels like the enemy–anything you do feels justified.

And unbeliveable numbers of business owners treat their teams that way. Then they wonder why nobody cares about their business.

I’ve got almost 100 employees and they do amazing things.

We don’t supervise them. We make sure the path is clear for them to do important stuff. One way we keep the path clear is by not making them step in our trust issues.

We start trusting them on day 1, before they’ve earned it.

That’s how it trust works: if you want your people to trust you, you have to trust them first. Otherwise it will take forever, and the longer it takes, the greener the grass on the other side of the hill looks to them.

Sometimes we trust people and they let us down. It’s rare, and we make sure it happens before we’ve trusted them with really big things.

But most of the people we trust grow into it, become self-managing, and do awesome stuff.

(By the way, many people have been abused for so long by other employers that they need time to get used to being trusted. We give them time and double down on trust until they get it.)

Our people care about our business the way most companies wish their employees would. They perform at a level that often exceeds our expectations.

That’s what trust will get you.