Organisational Trust is How to Think More Strategically – Less Operationally, and Without Micro-Management

We are starting to get back to work: ‘WFH’ (Working From Home), for some possibly one of the biggest challenges in their management career, managing remotely, and for those leaders who have adopted a micromanagement leadership style and approach to management, your eyes are possibly now ‘eyes wide open’ with a reset button to see that micromanagement can damage the work environment and that it is a result of unhealthy communication skills.

Today’s leaders are faced with a unique challenge – staying calm in the face of a pandemic and mounting a response befitting to the level of threat the company is facing.

Any crisis is characterized by two traits – unpredictability and uncertainty. It is the mark of a true leader to not dwell on yesterday’s developments but to look ahead and plan for a more secure tomorrow.

A predefined response plan is always less effective than assessing the real threat and taking measures to minimise.

Micromanagement is one of the most hated management flaws in business today. We have all heard the term and are familiar with it, at least theoretically. But how do you tell when you’re becoming a micromanager, and how do you step back from that place?

Trust more, control less

Micromanagement is a destructive way of leadership. It can destroy trust, morale, and you could damage your line of communication. You can get disengaged employees and then creativity will drop.

Employees’ self-esteem will then drop as well and over time, their performance. All in all, you become a large contributor to a hostile and dysfunctional work environment.

The traditional hierarchy of an organization might not be effective in containing or managing the crises.

Senior execs need to be ready to offer more responsibility and liberty to make decisions to their network of teams. The members of these network of teams have the updated information necessary to direct the crisis response of an organisation.

It is the responsibility of the senior leaders to ensure that they offer the responsibility to the correct people, who can correct crises.

With the evolution of a crisis, the team leaders may need to appoint more decision-makers from the network of teams or replace the ones affected by the situation.

Having a plan to appoint new temporary leaders among the network of teams during an unpredicted emergency can perpetrate confidence among the employees and promote the deliberate calm that can keep operations running irrespective of the location.

Some readers may remember a blog I wrote around leadership in ‘Is Micro-Management delusional or can it be effective?’

Most out-of-the-box or disruptive ideas are badly handled by a bottom-up resource allocation process.

It is top management that has to ask, “Is there a technology under development that looks inferior or uncertain today but will undermine our business from beneath once it is properly developed?”

The notion of a top-down strategic process depends upon central control of all steps in that process.

That level of control almost never exists in a large organization — quite the reverse: at the same time that corporate staff is beginning to plan for and roll out initiatives, operating managers invariably are already acting in ways that either undercut or enhance them.

Each leader develops techniques, procedures, and processes to accomplish their art.

Seen as tools in a toolkit, they use each one when the situation dictates to generate trust, produce a vision, or motivate a subordinate to deliver their goods. In this vein, micromanagement is nothing more than another tool in your toolkit. You use it when the situation dictates.

When there’s a high-value, critical project underway in your area of responsibility you do not have an option of failure.

Fulfilling Expectations of Superiors. Call it self-preservation. Call it pandering. I call it ‘smart’. Micromanagement sometimes needs to be deployed to satiate superiors who themselves wield micromanagement as their normal operating mode.

The following keywords are fundamental to leadership and organisational effectiveness:

Keyword: Trust
Trust is a key component to drive employee engagement. Have faith in your employees and leave them room to perform. You will soon see an increase in productivity. Trust will also give you valuable feedback, as micromanagement leads to employees shutting down the lines of communication.

Keyword: Time
You spend a lot of time micromanaging, is it worth it? Could you be better at time management? Should you focus on growth strategies instead of being detail-oriented?

Keyword: Communication
When you micromanage you are shutting down lines of communication. Your employees will stop talking to you in fear of becoming micromanaged. Laying low will become a strategy in your office, resulting in no communication, no engagement, no growth, and you will not have enough information to do your own job effectively.

Implement Trust, Free Time and Communicate

Crafting strategy is an iterative, real-time process; commitments must be made, then either revised or stepped up as new realities emerge.

In my career, I have had to tolerate a chief executive who was a bully. I was forced to accommodate a chief executive who was a caretaker. I had to adjust to a chief executive with a big ego. I had to abide a chief executive who took credit for my ideas.

But I was never able to tolerate, accommodate, adjust to, or abide a chief executive who was a micromanager.

Micromanagers make up for their total lack of imagination by deflating ideas and creating chaos over minutiae. Leadership inspires freedom, not serfdom.

Employees must be free to think, to talk, to act, to suggest, to solve, to invent, to dare, and even to interrupt.

No one is really managing a company successfully by shuffling numbers. Anyone can draw new organizational charts. Anyone can recite business-school maxims, ratios, formulas, and percentages.

It takes a leader to manage people – and skilled people to make a successful company. Even football coaches who call all plays from the sidelines allow their quarterbacks the freedom to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Why shouldn’t chief executives?

The most important question a leader should ask is: Are you placing the good of the organisation first? This is what leadership is all about.

Time and again, though, we see those same CEOs forgetting about the need to translate strategy into specific organizational capabilities, paying lip service to their talent ambitions, and delegating responsibility to the head of learning with a flourish of fine words, only for that individual to complain later about lack of support from above.

To be fair, CEOs are pulled in many directions, and they note that leadership development often doesn’t make an impact on performance in the short run.

At the same time, we see many heads of learning confronting CEOs with a set of complex interwoven interventions, not always focusing on what matters most.

But as the pace of change for strategies and business models increases, so does the cost of lagging leadership development.

If CEOs and their top teams are serious about long-term performance, they need to commit themselves to the success of corporate leadership-development efforts now.

Final thought, leaders need to focus on behaviour to transform culture – instilling new cultural characteristics requires a shift in values, mindsets and behaviours. Leaders need to model, acknowledge and recognize the behaviour that drives the desired cultural change.

To summarize, leaders are at the forefront of driving the cultural transformation within an organization.

Undoubtedly, every employee plays a crucial part in the process but ultimately it is the leaders who have the ability to set standards and a foundation for change and growth.

A great quote by John Stoker:

“Authority — when abused through micromanagement, intimidation, or verbal or nonverbal threats—makes people shut down & productivity ceases.”

0 Replies to “Organisational Trust is How to Think More Strategically – Less Operationally, and Without Micro-Management”

  1. Thank you Geoff, an insightful, though provoking and welcome read. At this time an area for leadership that can influence micro-management is composure under high stress and uncertain times. Strong EQ, values based and vision/purpose led leaders are a pre-requisite for the future.

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