Emerging Tech

Five reasons you need to trust your staff

Trust your staff and avoid micromanagement to help your staff grow, help the organization better meet its goals, and help your own career.

Micromanagement. The word is generally construed as a negative management trait to be avoided at all costs. For hands-on technical people who have come up through the ranks, it can be a tough trait to shed. But, there are five really good reasons you should embrace your inner CIO and let your staff do their jobs. Here they are:

1. You'll inspire confidence.

Trust begets trust. Do you trust your staff to do their jobs and do them correctly? If not, you have a situation that needs to be resolved. Your issue may be that:

  • Your staff truly doesn't have the skills to get the job done. If this is the case, you need to train your staff or add people with the correct skills.
  • You may not have the self-confidence or experience to lead an experienced staff. This can manifest itself in a need to interfere or micromanage.

Obviously, there is a difference between general management and micromanagement, and even the best leaders can sometimes devolve into micromanagement when stress is high. But when you have confidence in your staff, they will know it. No one wants to be micromanaged; people want to work for those who value their contributions and who treat them like professionals.

There is also a difference between micromanagement and rolling up your sleeves and working alongside your staff when necessary.

2. You'll get more done.

Every minute that you spend too closely monitoring someone's efforts is a minute that you aren't spending on strategic IT issues that can help propel the organization to new heights. Further, when you're riding someone, that person's productivity also suffers. As a result, both of you are doing less.

Instead of sitting down with your staff and explaining to them exactly how they should do their jobs, consider a different approach to managing projects. When the need arises for a new project and you've decided to assign the project to one of your staff, provide them with an assignment that consists of:

  • A project explanation
  • General guidance and expected outcomes
  • Deadlines
  • A project communications plan that provides you with updates in an agreed-upon manner

From there, expect the person to provide you with regular reports on progress and to come to you when there is an exception of some kind or a need for clarification. There's no need to constantly go to the person's office and ask for updates as long as the person is providing you with information at the agreed-upon intervals and milestones are being met.

This frees you up to work on your own projects and keeps your staff focused on their work and meeting your expectations. Sticking to the agreed-upon communications plan also works to inspire confidence from your staff since they know that you trust them to be professionals.

3. You'll breed new leaders.

If you're micromanaging people all the time and doing their jobs, they're not getting the opportunity to grow. When you let them do their jobs and hold them accountable to outcomes and expectations, you're helping them work better on their own. By not jumping in and attempting to solve all the problems they may encounter, you force them to seek solutions and answers. Obviously, don't be cruel. If someone is truly at a roadblock that only you can clear, do it. Watching people suffer isn't really fun.

4. Your staff will stick around.

When people have opportunities and can see possibilities, they'll stay. If you're the kind of leader who inspires confidence and trust, people will want to work for you. On the other hand, if you're the kind of CIO who has to push your DBA out of his chair and take over the keyboard to write a query for him, you'll probably see some resentment that will eventually take the form of staff departures, morale issues, and complaints about their horrible boss.

5. You will get promoted.

Many CIOs have come up through the IT ranks and have significant difficulty letting go. I say that from experience. However, I've been fortunate in that if I do happen to step too far (hey, I'm only human!) they respectfully tell me. I like to believe that they trust my intentions and have enough respect for me to let me grow as a leader as well.

CIOs who have worked their way up the technical-side of the ladder sometimes tend to focus on the technology at the expense of overall company goals. If you're a CIO who has come up through the ranks and you're spending most of your time doing the jobs of your staff members, you're not focusing on being a CIO and will lose the respect of your executive peers.

On the other hand, if you're able to move beyond your technical roots and can help propel the business, your opportunities are endless.

Summary

I try to avoid words like "always" and "never" because I absolutely, completely, definitely do not believe in absolutes. In some circumstances, you'll need to break the micromanagement rules for a perfectly valid purpose. But that should be the exception, not the norm.

Trust your staff and avoid micromanagement to help your staff grow, help the organization better meet its goals, and help your own career.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

21 comments
JJMach
JJMach

While it was tangentially touched on as part of "getting more done," one of the problems I have had with micromanagement in the past is where a manager is so focussed in on nit-picking a minor situation, that they blind themselves to larger issues and loose sight of the project's goals. Sure, you might get an overly-optimized solution to one small aspect of the project, but likely at the cost of integrating poorly (time or feature-wise) with the rest of the project. Not to mention all sorts of other details the manager has let slip / fester / compound in the mean time.

albayaaabc
albayaaabc

give them what they need to be honestly with you and clear as you could your opinion as Hoky Monster.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Already two people are telling "true stories" about how trusting employees ended or damaged their careers... and yet, the main thrust of the argument is against micromanagement. (I put true stories in scary quotes, because a story may be true and yet - when told in a certain context - be propaganda) Are these people saying micromanagement would have saved their skins? In both cases it sounds like actual management would have sufficed.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

As a manager, I treated my staff as though they could really do more than they were doing. Most rose to the challenge and did stellar work. One was highly resistant and sank my career.

andmark
andmark

Sorry to hear about your experience Kathryn. It sounds like a disaster that could not have been avoided by trusting and empowering staff. Scott's article however does put forward some valid and theoretically sound reasons for placing trust and responsibility in the hands of the team. Perhaps the answer is not as straight forward in practice as the article may suggest. .

kathryn.k.james2.civ
kathryn.k.james2.civ

I became the head of a team for the first time at the age of 60. I told my team that I only wanted two things from them - to carry out the mission and to watch my back. When I gave them mission taskings, they refused to carry out the work and complained to my supervisor (onbe lady did not want to witness product test in the product lab because she was too busy planning her wedding at her desk!). This was a disaster for me.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I mean if it wasn't Staff member X's fault that they failed, it would have to be theirs... A most unfortunate and career damaging conclusion... If you are a manager and for whatever reason one of your people fails to the point where it looks like you've failed to manage, well you have... Even if said person was the world number one in the list of useless c***ts, how did you manage to let it to get the point where you were vying for that position?

Keighlar
Keighlar

When I read "As a manager, I treated my staff as though they could really do more than they were doing" I immediately thought not only of myself, but also of my numerous co-workers that are here for a minimum of 9 - 10 hours a day, and then work many many hours from home in the evenings and weekends. I could see myself resisting If my Manager treated me like I could really be doing MORE. As a whole, those in the trenches of the technology field work long, odd hours - and we work hard. Go ahead and treat me like that's not enough - like you want my blood, sweat and tears also - and see if I don't "resist."

gklatt
gklatt

..sank your career? That's terrible! Bear in mind that trusting your staff is just like trusting anyone else in your life. There are those who deserve it and those who dont. For those who dont, they need to be managed. regular chats, action plans and followup through HR will do a few things for you: 1) This will leave the impression with your team that if someone isnt up to snuff, you are willing to work with them to try and correct it, but if they chose not to participate, then perhaps this is not the place for them. 2) provide you with a solid papertrail to be able to act on less than favourable circumstances given continued resistance and 3) help establish you as a point of leadership and ownership in the team environment. I think the spirit of this message is as follows: - Trust on its own isnt enough, it's just one of the many components to leading a successful team - There is one key difference between managing and leading: Inspiration! (Lead from the front) - Honesty: Part of that trust is informational to. Cut to the chase with them. let them know the good bad and ugly and make decisions you can together - Integrity: If you make a mistake, be ready to stand up and admit to it. Solicit honest feedback and take the actions you commit to. - Challenge ideas - dont squash them. its a fine line between feeling like you have been usurped by your staff and feeling as though you have a well oiled machine. be a part of the conversations - trust doesn't involve walking away entirely.

AlainKaz
AlainKaz

Thus the importance of the "baseball" approach. 1st strike : You meet the person, tell him the problem at hand, the possible consequences of his behavior for him and the company and your expectations for the futur (regarding said behavior). You may have to offer some coaching or help if the company has some sort of program. 2nd strike : You meet the person again, tell him that the problem is still present despite the help that is being offered. Bottom line : Shape up or ship out! 3rd strike : You tried and tried, but nothing happened on his part. You have to let him go. You may already have tried something similar (or better) and : * have gotten little or no help from upper management * have gotten labor union problems for it * misc. road blocks... you get the point. I like to think that if I had been in your spot, I would have tried to help that person (as you probably did), but not at the expense of my reputation. Best of luck!!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Not replacing, not retasking, not being able to do either and or not being able to cope with said person sank your career....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Refused to carry out the work you tasked them with doesn't necessarily = untrustworthy...

sissy sue
sissy sue

Sorry that this happened to you, Kathryn. Off-hand, I would say that it doesn't sound as if you had the support of your supervisor. It is hard to lead if you don't have a manager whom you can depend upon to back you up.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

So to all managers, do you have any responsibility to address a situation where one of your people is failing, for whatever reason? An informal poll, just reply Yes or No with no subject. If you are going to go for other, I will expect some justification. Marks out of ten, will be given for orginality and creativity.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Not as you did, that the folks weren't putting in enough time, but as being more capable or handling more responsibility or technical depth. I've worked for bosses who operated on this latter idea and it amazed me how well it worked. Not just in myself, but in the other people on the team. Maybe we were just lucky, but that boss grew the best team in the directorate.

JJMach
JJMach

The author can clarify, but when I read that, it seemed clear that the intent was that "more" was with respect to the quality / complexity of the work, and not simply quantity. (I'm reminded of Dilbert's PHB telling him how to move the mouse.) Frankly, though, if a manager was to trust people to handle more complex work, and not pester them about every little thing, the lack of interferrence would likely increase their productivity as well.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

don't sound like management. Sounds like something Napoleon would ask for... but leaders always have goons to make sure the grunts follow. Something not to be overlooked.

Keighlar
Keighlar

It's quite easy to misinterpret written words to our own bias.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

A quick temporary fix, or permanent prevention, or on a good day both... So are you adding to quality, if you do it fast or right or cheap or ... Quality is a perception after all, never more so than in a software product or service.