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The Energizer Blog

  • Writer's pictureEileen McDargh

Trust Withheld; Micromanagement Unveiled

Micromanagement and lack of trust are cries often heard in today’s business arenas. In this age of accountability, downsizing, larger spans of control, complex global competition, and job uncertainty, all managers are faced with getting results through people. Managers preach empowerment and yet, if the results are not right, who gets the blame? And so, I think, the issue of trust resembles a crystal with four facets. The first facet has to do with that term “empowerment”. Too often management throws out the term without clarifying what are the limits or parameters in which employees may make critical decisions. When boundaries are not clear employees naturally think the manager is sending mixed messages. When employees feel micromanaged, they’re basically saying, “Stop looking over my shoulder I can do this. Stop checking upon me. Why must I report in every step of the way?” Good question. Why? Clarify for yourself first, and then with the employee, what is the performance outcome you need. The more quantifiable, the better. Note the word “outcome”. This is not the same as “do it MY way”. As long as you get the outcomes and results keep the team and ethics intact, who cares HOW they got the job done. Ask yourself what are your “twitching” points. That’s my term for those areas in which you have special sensitivity, where you get a knot in you stomach or the hairs stand on the back of your neck. The sensitivity might be caused by demands which your manager has placed on you. Share these demands and then find out how your colleagues can help you meet them. You might have other “twitching points”. For example, I value relationships. Form letters, bored telephone voices, disregard for returning phone calls, and impoliteness drive me crazy. These are all things which I think show a lack of concern for the relationship. If I micromanage in these areas, it could be that I have not either trained my support staff well, have hired wrong, or have failed to explicitly state my sensitivity. Another facet of trust has to do with authenticity. “At the core of becoming a leader is the need to connect one’s voice with one’s touch,” wrote Max Dupree, former chair of Herman Miller. Is what you say and what you do in line? I am constantly amazed at the systems, practices, and behaviors found in corporate America which send mixed messages. the manager who claimed he had an “open door policy” but greeted anyone who entered with the statement “and this better not be a dumb question.” the company which touted itself as “innovative” and yet used a one-size-fits-all budget scheme for its diverse operations. the vice president who sent around articles on TQM but refused to allow employees to go for training. the executive who wanted her managers to learn leadership, communication, problem-solving, team-building, and visioning in a two-day training because “learning is important.” the vice president who sent around articles on TQM but refused to allow his employees off the job to attend TQM training. And the list goes on. Never, I’m convinced, intentional. And always detrimental. The third facet of trust has to do with fear. Of what are you afraid? What is your worst fear and what’s the chance of it really happening? Are there checkpoints or fail safe measures which you and your employees could put into place to short-circuit a negative outcome? And once done, relax and enjoy. As Mark Twain said, “I’ve had 103 catastrophes in my life, only two of which actually occurred.” The fourth facet of trust rests in self-reliance. We all have heard the dictum that a strength overused becomes a weakness. Perhaps our life’s experience has taught us that we depend solely by our own wits and wiles. Too many people have let us down. Or perhaps we take great pride in Frank Sinatra’s mantra “I did it my way”. Our world is too complicated and interdependent to live solely by our singular guts and brain power. We need the insights and ideas of others. Too much now lies out of our control and coronaries await for those who attempt to do it all. In the final analysis, trust is also a four-letter word; love. When people know we care about them, they respond in kind. Easy to say. Harder to do. Practice in action is the only key and trust blooms as a result. © The Resiliency Group.  All rights reserved. You may reprint this article so long as it remains intact with the byline and if all links are made live. Since 1980, professional speaker and Hall of Fame member Eileen McDargh has helped Fortune 100 companies as well as individuals create connections that count and conversations that matter. Her latest book is Gifts from the Mountain-Simple Truths for Life’s Complexities.  Find out more about this compelling and effective professional speaker and join her free newsletter by visiting

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