Trust, But Don't Forget to Verify

  • Have you ever expected something to get done or be taken care of, but then it didn't happen?
  • Have you ever assumed something would work, but when you needed it, it turns out it was broken??
  • Have you ever trusted someone to do something, but they didn't do it???


This article will help you with my 3rd Empowered Leadership tip for leaders...

If you'd like to check out the other tips in this Empowered Leader Series here are the links: 

And you can sign up for the full EMPOWERED LEADER e-course here :) 

But first a quick personal story to kick off the concept a bit clearer.

I once bought a used car and then years later ended up getting a flat tire. But when I went to use the spare tire in the back of the trunk, it didn't fit the bolts on the tire. So I was stuck and had to figure out another way to fix my situation. I ended up getting someone to drive me to the repair shop to get a new tire that would actually fit... I was disappointed but was glad it hadn't happened out in the middle of nowhere!

A situation that could have been avoided. But because I had totally assumed that it was fine & would work, I ended up putting myself in a frustrating situation. 

I had TRUSTED that it would fit, but never VERIFIED that it was correct!

I used to work in an Executive Office with high-ranking military leaders and had the opportunity to learn many valuable skills and leadership techniques from all of the amazing senior leaders that worked in the office over a period of about 6 years.


One of the top lessons or leadership advice I took away from those years was the concept of "trust, but verify."

You may relate... as a high-achieving, super self-motivated employee, I always appreciate having autonomy and independence, combined with mentorship when needed.

So when leading my teams, I tended towards giving a ton of space and freedom to get their work done, how and when they felt appropriate given all the priorities and high-tempo environment we were in.

But this ended up catching me off guard multiple times. 

Perhaps this had happened to you before too??

Despite checking in with my staff that they were on track with some deadlines for a very high-profile event, I didn't actually visually see the work they were doing. I just asked, "how are things coming along with _____?"

And from this one employee, I was told that it was on track. So I figured we were all good and left it at that. But it turns out we weren't actually as far ahead and on track with the timeline as we needed to be.

So I found myself running into this issue again and again until I started applying the Trust, but Verify concept!



This is because I had the TRUST part but wasn't doing the VERIFY part correctly.


And I see so many leaders run into the same challenge. Because we want to trust that everyone is doing what they should, when they should, how they should. This even goes for systems too, errors and omissions and mistakes happen. 

It is OUR responsibility as leaders to put the things in place to minimize risk, error and problems in all areas of our business systems and team interactions. 

This concept applies to many different situations:

  • Checking that work is being done on time, the right way.
  • Ensuring money is being managed & allocated correctly.
  • Double-checking your work or that of your staff to be sure mistakes are caught & fixed. 
  • Reviewing that processes are actually being followed. 
  • Personally, ensuring your finances are on track, you're following your fitness plan, your kids brush their teeth, your cats are eating their own food... so many areas! 
  • Even confirming that your spare tire will fit! ;) 



In my current role as a Director on a Board of Governors, we also are put in a similar position of trusting the CEO to do the job well. But given that we are jointly responsible for the business and outcomes, including personnel and finances, if we don't check and VERIFY that things are going correctly, we could do serious damage to the company, clients and employees.

This responsibility includes: auditing the financial situation annually, tracking KPIs monthly to ensure we're on track to meet strategic goals and adjust where needed, tracking & following up with grievances & union issues, plus so many more areas of business. 

This is our SOLE purpose of the board, to VERIFY that things are being done well by the CEO. A second layer of assurance that the CEO is doing their job and to protect the business, the employees and customers now and into the future. 

So why does VERIFYING matter?

  • Because it is a very common challenge among leaders, new or experienced.
  • Because we want to trust people to do a good job. To give them space to succeed and learn from their own mistakes.
  • Because we don't want to "micro-manage" or get in other people's business.


But as leaders, we also need to be sure that things are being done correctly. Work is being completed, finances are being managed properly, people are being treated correctly and customers are getting the service and support expected.

Because risk is there and we need to help those we lead be their best and the organization to be resilient!


So the term "Trust, but Verify" is a very powerful combination.

It brings the trust part together with the accountability part. So they can co-exist harmoniously.

As leaders, then we can give the space and autonomy that allows for genius to come through.

While also having the checks and balances set up to ensure risk is minimized, while overseeing the people and organization that we run.

  1. So what do you do currently to VERIFY the important things in your team, business and organization?
  2. What do you VERIFY in your personal life?
  3. Where are the gaps???


To help you see where you may be able to apply this Trust, but Verify concept, here are some examples from my own career and from some of my clients' experiences:

Check the tires: I already shared this example in the intro to this article but am repeating it here because it is a non-leadership scenario.

When you get a new car, you naturally assume that the spare tire will fit. Because the tire is made for exactly that purpose!

But if you don't check, you could end up like I was, stuck with a spare that didn't fit and so I had to figure out another solution.

Fortunately, there was a mechanic across the street from my office so it wasn't a big deal. But it could have been worse if it had happened out of town on some back road or far away from a place that could help.


Check the work: With my direct report example I also mentioned earlier in this article, I asked how things were going but didn't actually check the work. Instead of checking in verbally, getting a physical demonstration of what had been done would have properly VERIFIED the results.

To avoid this in the future, I have had employees submit their completed work for me to review which naturally had a check built into the process.

As the trust builds, this is naturally decreased.

But there still needs to be a point of verification, whether that's built into the financial approvals & delegations, sign-off of documents or reporting and auditing processes.


Set up Systems & Reports: I have known many leaders who have found themselves also caught off guard because they didn't have a reporting process or systems that allowed them to be able to VERIFY regularly. Instead, they TRUSTED but without the "safety net" of having the checks in place. OR they trusted the systems & reports were being done correctly, but were not being followed or were inaccurate in some way. 

To avoid this, look at key areas that are high risks to your business or the work of your team.

Some examples could be around money, sales, client acquisition, personnel management, client service, or anything that you rely on.

And even if you do have a system in place, do you confirm that it's being used properly?

What is the verify process for that?


Without these things in place, you are actually the one at fault.

Just like I described in my earlier article about being a POWERFUL LEADER. 

To help you apply this concept in your work and leadership role this week, I've developed a series of self-reflection questions to either read or use as journaling prompts to see where you can up-level your TRUST, BUT VERIFY approach.

  1. What and who are you responsible for in your role?
  2. Where are areas you've been burned in the past for not having a VERIFY system in place?
  3. What did you do about it?
  4. What are come current areas of risk that you need to increase the VERIFY aspect?
  5. What are you going to do this week/month to address 1-3 of your top risk areas?


If you'd like to discuss this or brainstorm your ideas, we'd love to continue the discussion over in our online community: High-Achieving, Visionary Leaders

Just join the group and post your take-aways from this article.

And we look forward to hearing what changes you make, how it better supports you and your organization to THRIVE by putting in the verifying systems to ensure you are leading responsibly and as an empowered leader!



This is one of many tips I share with my 1:1 VIP clients to help ensure you are well supported by your teams, minimize risk and maximize productivity!

I am launching my new 1:1 VIP program called The EMPOWERED LEADER and would love to help you and your organization THRIVE!

This is a high-support, high-level, personalized and private coaching program for leaders looking to become EMPOWERED themselves and increase their energy, ease, productivity & impact while also learning how to create EMPOWERED LEADERS within their organization, so I am only accepting 2 clients this month.

So if this sounds like exactly the support you need and you'd like to get my personal expertise to help you apply this and many other key leadership lessons to your own work, I'd love to connect!

You can apply here!



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