Trust, leadership, Performance vs. Trust

Performance vs. Trust

When it comes to hiring and building a great team, there are numerous metrics and qualities that leaders might look towards and for. While no two teams are the same and, thus, no two leaders should be looking for identical qualities, there are still two traits that come up quite often: performance and trust. More precisely, these two traits often come up more or less in opposition with one another. When presented the challenge of hiring somebody who scores better on performance and somebody who scores better on trust, what should you choose?

Performance might seem like the obvious answer, performance is what gets numbers on the board, after all. However, and as usual, things aren’t usually quite that simple. Performance vs. trust.


If performance is what drives numbers and success, why would you hire for anything else? The answer, simply enough, is that individuals don’t drive company success—not on their own. When you’re building a team, either at the hiring stage or later on, you shouldn’t just be on the lookout for superstars with impressive track records of their own. You need to be on the lookout for team members who trust one another. You can find parallels of this concept all over, especially in sports. Michael Jordan, for example, is one of the biggest names ever in basketball—a bonafide superstar. When it comes to winning, however, that just isn’t enough. After joining the Chicago Bulls in 1984, Jordan was performing incredibly well on his own. The team, however, would struggle to match this superstar performance, consistently struggling to do very well in the playoffs. The team didn’t start to thrive until the adoption of the famous triangle offence, a strategy that would sacrifice some of Jordan’s individual statistics, but would center a more cohesive team-oriented strategy. The result? 6 NBA championships throughout the 90’s. Legendary.

Training Through Trust

As Simon Sinek argues, trust needs to come first when building any successful team. Individual superstars firing on all cylinders can only do so much good if their work doesn’t come together for the organization. Moreover, an individual that scores high on performance but low on trust might not just find it difficult to work as a team, they might actively work against it—call it pride, or stubbornness. That being said, clearly, performance isn’t unimportant. In fact, after trust, it’s probably the most important trait that great team members should have. They should be able to trust one another, but they need to trust one another to do their jobs well. If presented the opportunity to hire high trust and high performance, that’s golden! Otherwise, however, you can hire for trust and train for performance.

Trust goes multiple ways and, in particular, it must go to and from the leader. As a leader and as a mentor, it is your responsibility to build and lead a great team, and that means investing in your team members and helping them grow to their fullest potential—inside the business and out. In the same way that hiring high trust and high performance is gold, hiring high trust and lower performance is an investment. That high trust makes it easier to build a healthy connection and relationship, and work towards building the necessary skills to become a high-level performer.

Being Prepared for Anything

More and more, it seems, we need to be prepared for anything. A relentless pandemic has forced us to put more than a few things into perspective, and one of these things is just how quickly everything can change. Historically, businesses that are high-performing might be thriving for some time, but fall incredibly short when it comes to dealing with sudden change. Acclimation is tough, and it isn’t always the most profitable in the short-term, but it’s necessary to keep moving forward. In a world that seems excited to change overnight, do you want a team of impressive CV’s or a team that will carry each other through tough times? Are you prioritizing performance or trust?

Living Pono is dedicated to communicating business management concepts with Hawaiian values. Founded by Kevin May,  an established and successful leader and mentor, Living Pono is your destination to learn about how to live your life righteously and how that can have positive effects in your career. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us here. Also, join our mailing list below, so you can be alerted when a new article is released.

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