Retirement Advice: Don’t Even Think About It

April 19, 2014

Time to Retire - ClockIf you can watch more than 30 minutes of television without hearing the word “retirement,” you are better than me.

(Actually, if you can watch more than 30 minutes of TV at any time, you are different from me.)

The number of advertisements for people willing to charge you a fee for doing what you could be doing for yourself is amazing. You can even sell your home without really selling it (called a reverse mortgage), so you can “enjoy your retirement – and the best part is you still own your home.”

If you believe that line, give me a call; I have a bridge I want to sell you. Actually, if you look closely, there is an asterisk that leads to about two inches of fine print that is so small nobody can read it on the screen, and they only show it for a second.

The other phony line is where they want to sell you death insurance. I call it that because that is what you are insuring. “You cannot be turned down, your benefits will never go down, and your rate will never go up due to age.”

(Of course your rate probably will go up because the insurance company is going broke, but why should they tell you that when they are trying to sell you the death insurance?) It is total hogwash.

Another frustration is “Long Term Care Insurance.” I purchased policies for myself and my wife over 15 years ago because our financial advisor told us that “You want to get in when you are young and the rates are low because you can lock in that rate for life.”

So, after paying the premium for over 15 years, last year they jacked up my rate by something like 13%. What? I was told the rates would never go up!

I just received the bill for this year, and my rate has now been doubled. Whoops, I call this “Long Term Screw Insurance” because I am already invested and cannot get out of it without sacrificing what I have already put in.

Basically they are saying “Tough luck you banana. We promised something we cannot deliver so you pay, or you do have the option to drop your coverage.” Time to call a lawyer.

When I left my day job at the large company where I had worked for 31 years, I was not sure what I wanted to do with myself, except I was sure “retirement” was not going to be it.

The statistics for how long people live after officially retiring are pretty scary, but I think there are a lot of old wives tales in the figures you hear.

The last time I Googled the word “retirement,” there were over 96 million hits, and the majority of them were for groups telling us how not to outlive our money in retirement or trying to convince us to spend some of our money with them so our retirement will be happier.

I think the way to live a longer life is to stay alive, and I firmly believe retirement (if it means just relaxing all day) takes us one giant step toward death.

I am not advocating that everybody should work at a full time job until the day they die. Rather, I am suggesting that it is the passion for doing whatever you like in life that is the stuff of living. Some people like to travel, or paint, or play golf. Some people like to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.

Whatever your passion is, that is what should consume your time and energy. If your passion is to just do nothing but “retire,” meaning do nothing useful, then you are most likely taking a shortcut to the grave.

Some people really do enjoy their working environment and cannot wait to get to work every day. Many organizations know how to treat people well and value their contributions. People who work there are the lucky ones.

For others, work is something that is to be endured. It is no fun having to turn off the alarm clock every day and drag out of bed so you can trade your time for the dollars needed to survive.

You drag into the workplace after surviving the daily “parking lot” on the freeway, and you endure the clueless morons who run the place and your juvenile coworkers for eight hours, but not a minute more.

That existence is for the young and desperate, and those people are even better off than the throngs of people who would like to work but cannot find a job.

Instead, I think the ideal life is to wake up when your body wants, full of energy knowing that this day you get to do whatever you wish in life, and that wish is to do something useful. To wake up with nothing constructive to do rings as hollow to me as an empty silo.

I hope never to retire. I will keep working at my craft as long as my body holds out and as long as someone will benefit from my effort. If I make some money as I help others, that is fine, but that is not my purpose for living and working.

When people fixate on the joys of relaxing in retirement, they might as well be wishing their lives away.

The promise is false; I like the bumper sticker: “Golden Years My Ass.”

I think the world would be so much better if we all replaced the notion of retirement with the concept of “my next passion in life.” Find out how to contribute in a way that makes you feel fulfilled. Pour yourself into activities that keep you young instead of encourage you to get old before your time.

Why focus on marching toward the grave when the alternative is to march constantly toward greater satisfaction in life.

Must Trust be Earned?

April 12, 2014

earnI start out all my trust seminars by asking the audience to define trust. I enjoy watching the faces of the people as they wrestle with the challenge.

Clearly, trust is a word that we all use on a daily basis. We all know what it means, in general, but we have not stopped to try to come up with a precise definition.

It’s kind of like what Justice Potter Stewart once said about hard-core pornography, “It’s hard to define, but I know it when I see it.”

Just because someone will look it up if I don’t, Webster has numerous definitions for trust, the first one is about “assured reliance.”

Ultimately, after a few awkward moments, people start to spill out various definitions. I frequently get 15 or 20 different definitions from the group.

We then explore the idea that trust, while the phenomenon is well known to us all, is far more complex and ubiquitous than we realized before the exercise.

Clearly there are several kinds of trust. Let me share just 10 examples:

1. Count on – You have my back and have integrity.
2. Consistency – You do what you say.
3. Reliance – You do what is in my best interest.
4. Values – We share common values.
5. Safety – It is safe to voice a concern.
6. Vulnerability – You are willing to admit mistakes.
7. Humility – You do not need to always be right.
8. Dependability – I need you to keep me safe.
9. Mutual – I trust you because you trust me.
10. Equality – You are fair.

One concept that usually comes up early in the seminar is that trust is something that is earned. In this article, I would like to kick around the concept of earning trust because there are situations where trust is not earned but granted anyway.

Suppose you walk by an ice cream vendor on a street corner. You purchase an ice cream bar and begin to eat it. It would be impossible to eat the ice cream without trusting the vendor in numerous ways. Yet the vendor did nothing before you bought the ice cream to earn your trust.

In reality, you are trusting the local authorities to have some rules in place that force the vendor to have a license to sell food etc., but the vendor did nothing to directly earn your trust, except perhaps put on a clean apron.

We can think of many situations where we trust someone else, but that trust is simply given without being earned. In the long run, it is true that we will test others to identify if they are trustworthy.

That is a kind of slippery slope, because no person is 100% perfect. Every individual has some ability to mess up or behave in an untrustworthy manner at some point. Yet we put our faith in the individual and take the risk we will not get hurt.

What we are really doing is playing the odds. If a person convinces us through numerous actions and appearances that he is to be trusted, we have a kind of equity build up where we feel the risk of a betrayal is very low.

In this case, we grant trust because the person has earned it. We know it is not 100% safe; that is the nature of trust, and it is why no trust can ever be at the 100% level. There is always some risk being taken when we extend trust.

If we want to earn trust from other people, we need to convince them of a number of things quickly. I say there are five C’s that people look for before they will trust us. This is a simplistic view, of course, there are many more variables to consider, but these five are all important.

1. Care – Do you really care about me in a way I can recognize?
2. Character – Are you a person who has high integrity?
3. Congeniality – Are you the type of person whom I like?
4. Competence – Do you have the ability to deliver?
5. Consistency – Can I count on you to do what you say?

If you can convince me that you have the five C’s, then I will likely trust you until you give me a reason not to. I believe it is possible to demonstrate the five C’s rather quickly when meeting a new person.

Actually, I think it can be done in only a few seconds.

The most difficult one is to demonstrate consistency. After all, to be consistent means doing the same thing time after time over a long period of time. Yet I believe it is possible to convey that you are the type of person who is consistent rather quickly.

For example, if we are meeting at a convention and I tell you that I will send you a copy of an article, then follow up with, “can you give me your contact information,” that demonstrates a kind of consistency that I will follow up on my promise.

The Five C’s are far from an exhaustive list of ways to build trust. In reality there are several hundred things a person can do to earn trust. They all contribute in various ways to the formation of a relationship based on trust.

One of the key factors is whether I show trust in you. If you believe that I trust you, that will be a huge enabler of you trusting me. Reason: Trust is usually reciprocal.

I think the process of earning trust is an infinitely fascinating topic. There are so many variables involved, and trust, in any setting, is a very fragile commodity. One thing is for sure, before you can sell anything to anyone, that person must trust you.

Recently, Seth Godin put out a blog on the topic of earning trust. He ended the blog with, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”

Golden Rule or Platinum Rule?

April 5, 2014

Black pot full of gold coinsThe most important rule in business is the one your parents taught you. The famous “Golden Rule” applies to nearly every situation and will normally provide the right answer to any quandary about what to do.

If more leaders would simply treat other people as they would like to be treated, we would have a major improvement in culture in organizations. There is one significant challenge to the Golden Rule that is a special case.

Let’s say that I am a leader in an organization, and I am most happy when stacked up with so much work that it seems impossible to get it all done. I just love to be overloaded.

If I would treat everyone around me by piling more work on them than they can handle, that is not going to produce happy or productive workers.

So, in the special case, where a leader wants things that other people would not appreciate, the Golden Rule breaks down. I claim that does not happen very often, but we do need to allow for the possibility before blindly applying the Golden Rule.

Knowing this conundrum, people got clever and invented the “Platinum Rule,” which states, “Treat other people the way they want to be treated.”

The Platinum Rule was posited by Karl Popper in World War II in The Open Society and its Enemies. That rule seems to avoid the problems with the Golden Rule, but when you stop and think about it, the Platinum Rule has even more flaws than the Golden Rule.

Reason: all people would like more money, less work, more freedom, less responsibility, more cake, etc.

If a leader of an organization would follow the Platinum Rule, it would be a disaster, because the business would quickly go bankrupt. Giving people everything they want would not be good for them or the business.

So, if you cannot always treat people the way you want to be treated, or treat them the way they want to be treated, how do you treat them?

The answer is disarmingly simple. You need to treat people the right way. What does this mean?

Treating people the right way means understanding a lot of things at once. Here are some considerations you must think about before deciding how to treat people.

1. What are their needs? Each person in the world is unique. We cannot assume that what is a good policy toward one person will work for others.

When you treat everyone the same way, you are actually discriminating because you inadvertently favor one over the other.

John Wooden, the famous basketball coach from UCLA, once said, “The most sure way to play favorites is to treat every player the same way.” That quote sounds backward until you stop and think about it.

2. What is in their best interest? Many people lust after things that would cause them harm. Just step inside a jail, and you will see that the overwhelming majority of people are there because they tried to beat the system or break rules.

But here we also need to use judgment, because what may not be in the best interest to one person may be perfectly okay for someone else.

For example, throwing an ice cream social for employees might be a positive event, but if some of the employees have diabetes, the party may be ill advised.

When leaders try to determine what is in the best interest of an individual, it is a little like playing God. A leader cannot fully comprehend what an individual is experiencing in life, so trying to guess what is in the person’s best interest is never a perfect science.

3. What is right for the organization? It is often the case that people cannot have everything they want in order for the organization to survive.

We can invent a set of rules for a utopian existence for employees, but ultimately they will not be employed very long because the organization will die quickly.

Leaders need to consider a complex blend of individual and organizational needs before making up rules.

4. What is right for the planet? We are increasingly aware that our fragile spaceship is hurting. Life is already becoming intolerable with brutal swings in weather patterns.

It is not hard to imagine the suffering that mankind will be forced to endure if we are unable to reverse the trends we already see.

We do not want it to be too hot or too cold or too dry or too wet. We don’t want 30 foot waves crashing through our front windows. We would prefer that tornados become a thing of the past and earthquakes stop their rumbling.

When you stop and think about the very narrow set of conditions in which we are comfortable and all the possible ways things can go wrong, it is a miracle we have managed to survive as a species so long.

5. What treatment shows people that we care? That is a complex question, because we care about a lot of things simultaneously.

We need to balance all these things and make judgments in how we treat people. Given the infinite variety of people and conditions, that means some people are not always going to feel well served.

While we need to keep all these questions in play, my thesis is that the good-old “Golden Rule” is a pretty good first approximation for how to treat others.

It takes into account all of the variables above, and it works in most cases. If you are a person who would want what others do not want, you need to make the appropriate adjustment to the rule, but for the rest of us, we should seek to treat others the way we would like to be treated if the roles and situations were reversed.

Do You Pad Your Numbers?

March 29, 2014

Tax calculator and penWe had an interesting discussion in one of my MBA classes last week. I asked the students to discuss the practice of padding estimates.

At first, most of the students said it was a wrong thing to do from an ethical perspective. One should tell the truth at all times and not play games trying to outwit the system.

On closer inspection, it became obvious that adding contingencies to estimates is not only ubiquitous, it is prudent business. Still, I believe there are some precautions to be followed, and this article is for the purpose of discussing these.

We are all familiar with the manager who is reaching the end of the fiscal year trying to encourage people to spend the budgeted money on anything, justified or not, just so the next year’s budget would have less chance of being cut.

It is a real trust buster for a frugal and careful boss to throw a lavish year-end party in an obvious attempt to somehow spend the full allotment. People see through the ploy, and it adds to the feeling that we are “playing games with upper management.”

Padding estimates for project work is so common that a project with no uplifts is suspect. The honest approach to reducing risk of overspending on projects is to allow a “contingency” line in the budget.

This practice recognizes that there will be several surprises during the course of a project, and although some surprises may be happy ones, my experience is that about 70% of them mean spending more than the original plan.






Some managers advocate no contingency line item, but I think that is a dangerous practice because it encourages covert padding.

As the conversation became deeper, one individual asked, what happens if you are the only person in the pack who is not padding and everybody else is including contingencies either overtly or not.

This is reminiscent of the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” experiment, where the optimal result occurs only when individuals elect to cooperate with each other and trust the other person will cooperate with them.

In this case, upper management needs to set the tone of no padding of budgets. Of course, since padding is by nature a secret event, it usually becomes a cat and mouse game.

Top managers unwittingly contribute to padding when they take a look at submitted budgets and demand a 30% cut before approval. Lower level managers quickly get the idea that in order to have adequate funding to do the job, they need to submit an initial budget that is inflated by at least 30%. That kind of escalation goes on in projects every day.

There are some mechanical systems invented to reduce the tendency of padding budgets. Zero-based Budgeting is one such technique.

This is where you start with a clean sheet each year regardless of the former pattern of spending. The technique sounds good on the surface, but it normally does not last longer than one cycle, just ask Jimmy Carter.

Reason: Even though a zero-based budget starts out with a clean sheet, managers have their historical files for comparison, so ultimately the good intention to start fresh breaks down.

The best antidote for padding is a culture of trust. If top leaders begin to stress that we are telling the truth here and not playing games with each other, then things may begin to change.

It may take several cycles, and top leaders need to be incredibly patient with people and consistent in their message, but it is possible to get to a real situation on budgeted funding.

Improving the Vision of Leaders

March 22, 2014

SpyglassIt is universal; every leader would like to obtain higher trust within his or her organization.

It stands to reason, because trust has been shown to link directly to the profitability and market value of an organization (see Trust Across America: Trust Around the World Trust Reports ).

Reason: when trust is high, people are working together with high productivity toward the vision of the organization. Low trust groups waste time and resources in unproductive bickering and dysfunctional blind alleys.

I see a conundrum where top leaders are often unable to see the connection between their own behaviors and the level of trust within their organization.

They feel somehow trapped by a system that demands herculean quarterly financial results while having to navigate through oppressive regulations, trying to motivate selfish employees, and keeping up with a daily avalanche of information. It seems impossible to achieve the expected results every quarter when dealing with the realities of leading an organization.

The thought of trying to build a culture of high trust while constantly feeling like a gladiator in the lion’s den strains credibility. Top leaders try to survive, and that often means taking some actions that appear to compromise the trust.

This paper deals with a way out of the dilemma and offers a vision that the key to solving the puzzle is already in the hands of the senior leader.

Leaders often cannot see how their actions are preventing the very thing that will create a much more successful and pleasant existence for them. They are effectively blind to the possibility that if they would change their own behaviors relative to the culture in their organization, things would rapidly move to higher performance with lower pressure.

Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

In this case, the vision is the ability to see the connection between a leader’s behaviors and the results he or she is getting. So how can a leader begin to see more clearly? Here are eight ideas that can improve the vision.

1. Become a Level 5 Leader – as described by Jim Collins in Good to Great (2001). Get some coaching on humility and begin using the “window/mirror” analogy.

This is where a leader looks out the window at others in the organization when things are going well, but looks in the mirror at himself when there are problems.

Less trust-building leaders do exactly the reverse. They congratulate themselves when things go well but blame employees or other managers when things go poorly.

2. Reinforce Candor – Create a kind of culture where people feel rewarded when they bring up doubts about the wisdom of a certain action or decision.

When people feel encouraged to voice a concern, it gives the CEO a new set of eyes to see clearly how his actions may be compromising trust.

That skill is vital to allow a kind of self-correcting culture that is always moving in the direction of higher trust.

3. Become a mentor – Seek out several informal leaders in the organization and begin to mentor them. The process of building trust with strong subordinates will allow more flow of critical information about whether the leader is sending mixed or incorrect signals.

4. Do more “management by walking around” – This may seem awkward at first because the CEO may prefer the security and isolation of the ivory tower. That is one hallmark of the problem.

Too many meetings and private lunches give rise to insulation that renders the top executive insensitive to organizational heat.

5. Conduct a 360 Degree Leadership Evaluation – A periodic measure of high level leadership skills is one way to prevent a top leader from kidding herself. There are numerous instruments to accomplish this.

Doing an assessment is important, but taking the data seriously and creating a plan from the information is crucial.

6. Get a good coach – Every leader needs a coach to help prevent myopic thinking. Seek out a trusted advisor for a long term relationship that is candid and challenging. Coaching sessions can be efficient by doing them after hours on the phone or by using online technology.

7. Develop a leadership study group – A leader can grow personally in parallel with others by investing some time studying the inspirational writings and video work of top leadership authors or benchmarking leaders from other organizations.

There are literally thousands of resources already available that can both inspire and challenge any group. These investments are very low cost, and all that is required is to read the books and carve out some discussion time with direct reports in a group setting.

Many leaders prefer the “lunch and learn” sessions. Some leaders work with a skilled facilitator to keep things on track; other leaders prefer to proceed on their own without outside assistance.

If face time is impractical due to travel, that does not prevent an online discussion on leadership concepts from literature.

8. Subscribe to some Leadership LinkedIn Groups – There are dozens of excellent leadership groups on LinkedIn.

These groups have tens of thousands of leaders who can benchmark each other and help resolve typical problems.

There are also numerous local and national organizations on leadership development that can provide provocative ideas for growth.

These are just a few ideas that can broaden the view of a top executive. Becoming less blind has the wonderful effect of helping a leader become more effective over time.

I believe it is incumbent on all leaders to have a personal development plan and to give it a high priority in terms of effort and budget. Seeking to constantly grow as a leader is truly important, and growing other leaders should be the highest calling for any leader.

Once a leader has become sensitive to how his or her behaviors are impacting trust within the entire organization, then conditions start to improve rapidly.

People are not playing games with each other, and productivity goes up dramatically. Everyone feels better about the work and the culture, so people feel empowered to go the extra mile.

Performance goals start being met and exceeded as the whole organization becomes aligned with a new vision.

Trust starts with the behaviors of the leader.

When Ken Blanchard was asked what gives rise to incredible levels of improved organizational performance, he said,

“It’s always the leader, it’s always the leader, it’s always the leader” Ken Blanchard “It’s Always The Leader”

Short Staffing

March 15, 2014

two doctors discussingA student in one of my MBA classes made a remarkable statement the other day. She wrote, “Short staff think only inside the box.” The unusual wording made an impact, and I decided to write on the concept.

Of course, she was not referring to people of lesser stature. She was commenting on the habitual practice of numerous organizations to run so thin on staffing that they compromise the viability of the business.

Knowing the “correct” level of staff is a tricky business for sure. I have done consulting for organizations where the employees are screaming that they are totally overloaded. Later on, working with these same groups, people would grumble about how most people are not pulling their fair share of the load.

In truth, most organizations get only a small fraction of the discretionary effort inherent in the workforce. My own unscientific estimate is that a typical organization these days manages to extract only about 30% of the capability of their workforce.

Some leaders use the amount of screaming for more resources as a guide to hiring. If the whining is not there, they figure the organization is running too fat.

If people are complaining but toughing it out, they conclude things are about right. If people are becoming ill and if turnover is sky high, they grudgingly agree to put on a couple more people.

Gauging the level of staff based on the complaint level is dangerous on both extremes.

If things get so thin for an extended period, the best people will just leave. If you wait until people whine to hire anyone, then you are probably running a Country Club.

Back to my student’s comment on the impact that running thin has on creativity. I thought her observation was spot on.

You can observe overworked people in numerous venues. According to many students, one typical place to see the stress is in nursing.

According to the Gallup Organization, the nursing occupation is the highest trusted occupation category of all every year since they have been measuring trust in organizations. Yet, nurses are normally so stacked up with critical tasks that they don’t find time to eat let alone try to figure out creative solutions to problems.

I am only singling out nurses because it is easy to observe this situation, in reality the problem occurs in numerous types of jobs.

In an effort to improve productivity, leaders stretch their resources like a rubber band. The problem is that if you do that, eventually you will exceed the elastic limit of the rubber, and it will permanently deform or just snap.

In those conditions, people are going to do the requirements as best they can and not be very engaged in improving the conditions. They become case hardened and bitter.

When people feel abused, they go into a survival mode, which severely limits productivity, so the managers get exactly what they deserve. It becomes a vicious circle.

The antidote is to work on changing the culture so that the current workforce is producing at a multiple of their prior productivity instead of just a tiny percentage higher than the prior year.

That means working on trust rather than forcing existing people to work in a constant state of overload.

It means investing in the resources you have, and maybe even adding some, rather than continually cutting back in an effort to survive. You may survive in the short term, but your long term prognosis is terminal.

When I suggest to leaders that they need to invest in their culture, I often get an incredulous or outraged look in return. “How can we possibly afford to work on our culture when everybody is already at the limit of their capability?”

Well, you cannot unless you change your attitude about how people work. If you would try the alternate path, it would quickly become apparent that the road to long term health and even survival is to have the right level of resources so that you can invest in the culture.

When Does Micromanagement Become Harassment

March 8, 2014

Micromanage 2Two words that get used a lot these days are micromanagement and harassment. The two concepts come from different sources, but they converge in the extreme case.

This article dissects the two concepts and provides some guidance for managers who, despite their good intentions, often end up doing more harm than good.

Harassment is the abusive behavior toward another person that has its roots in a desire to annoy or hurt the other individual in some way. The practice is normally intentional, although it is possible for a person to harass other people without being aware it is happening.

Except in the rare extreme cases, the manifestation of harassment exists first in the opinion of the person who is being harassed. If I will not let you get to me no matter what you do, then you are not going to be successful at harassing me.

In fact, I may get a perverse pleasure out of thwarting your attempts to bother me: a kind of reverse harassment.

On the other hand, you may be such a sensitive individual that the mere thought of any person walking into the room sends you into a flight of panic: a kind of self harassment called paranoia.

We are all aware of the destructive nature of harassment that evokes anything from mild discomfort all the way to suicide. The distress is always amplified if the person being harassed believes he or she cannot escape and has to endure continual suffering.

Micromanagement doesn’t stem from sinister motives. To the contrary, it is normally the desire of a manager, or person in charge of getting things done, who wants things to go well but is horribly misguided in the best way to accomplish the task. It reminds me of my favorite Star Trek Quote when Mr. Spock says, “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.” (TOH Charlie Green).

The micromanager is not trying to annoy the victim (usually) but only trying to get things done according to his or her warped definition of how to accomplish the objective. In the process, of course, the victim has to endure the constant meddling that feels very much like harassment.

We are all aware of the antidote for micromanagement, which is for the manager to set the objective and some broad guidelines and then back off to let the individual figure out the details on how to get the job done.

Unfortunately, a little concept called “trust” is missing, so the manager does not believe the individual is capable of getting the job done without constant supervision. It is the lack of trust that is the root cause of most micromanagement.

We deal with the manifestations of micromanagement to some degree in most work settings. It is only the most extreme high trust environments where managers are willing to actually stand by and let subordinates do things wrong in order to learn what does not work.

They would rather intervene and at least suggest that holding the soldering iron by the pointed end might not be the best method. I use that extreme case because the motive of the manager in this case is to prevent the employee from doing bodily harm. What could be more noble than that?

Often what feels like micromanagement to the employee is done for the benefit of the employee.

The grey area between good intentions and oppressive hovering is playing out in the workplace every hour of every day. Managers find their own equilibrium, and employees either complain (or not) behind the break room doors.

The extreme case, where managers tell people how to do their work for the sport of always getting it done their way, crosses the line into harassment. Even if the conscious objective is to get the job done right, the spirit with which the manager directs every movement is debilitating.

To break the cycle of micromanagement and/or harassment, the manager needs to recognize that there is a better way to get results. If he or she continues to believe the muscle approach is the best way to get compliance, then grudging compliance is what will happen.

The problem is that in today’s competitive environment, mere compliance is a formula for extinction.

Any organization needs full engagement of the people in it to survive long term. So the first step is some education on how numerous organizations are reaping the benefits of full engagement.

Once that point is made it is necessary to have the obstinate manager take a good long look in the mirror.

Numerous studies have shown that the benefit of an improved culture is higher engagement and productivity. As a consultant, I would ask the micromanager if he or she would enjoy seeing something like a 100% improvement in productivity.

It is quite possible, but only once the manager recognizes the real enemy of better performance is the one staring back in the mirror. If a leader does not desire a vast improvement in performance, then there is not likely to be a cure for the micromanagement.

The antidote for micromanagement is to create a culture of higher trust. In this environment, the manager would be less likely to be overly directive. Also, in a culture of high trust, if the manager is pushing too much the employee would feel encouraged to politely ask that person to give a little breathing room.

No harassing behavior is required on either side, and the job gets done efficiently and correctly. Everybody wins, and nobody gets hurt. It all depends on the level of trust the leader is capable of creating in the organization.

The word create is the key concept here, because trust does not happen unless leaders enable it with their behaviors (and even words).


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