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Skills to be a Manager: Lead Through Trust, NOT Control

By Emilie Shoop (1245 words)
Posted in Management on February 19, 2013

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By Emilie Shoop, Creator and Leader of Shoop Training & Consulting

“The times they are a changin’” Bob Dylan 

Years ago, managers and leaders got work done through power, control, and competition.  Markets were smaller, not global.  Information was scarce, not at your fingertips.  And the main way to react was in person, no email or web meetings.  Back then, skills to be a manager were implied by the title they held, not by their ability to motivate and lead.


Most of us learned that we should trust our boss because, well, they were “The Boss”.  They earned that position and therefore they earned our trust.  Management was tasked with maintaining order and getting things done and we trusted them to make the right decisions with our work, our money, and our future.  They would know when we should be promoted, right?


That is not how it works today, and I am thankful for it.  Unfortunately, too many people were put in positions of leadership and given power that should not have been.  It eroded the workplace and team dynamics.  Businesses suffered, yes, but ultimately the employee suffered the most.


One position I held in my career, I was shocked that no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a way to trust my manager.  Yes, you read that right.  I was actively looking for a way to trust him, but he kept proving himself untrustworthy over and over again.  Thinking back, he probably did something almost daily that was questionable.


The biggest hindrance to being able to trust him was his need to control.  When someone wants to control you, they are showing you a lack of trust.  The more they don’t trust you, the more you don’t trust them. Begin the vicious cycle.


I’d like to share with you a few ways that he chipped away at my trust for him, and ultimately destroyed it.  Use these as a self-check of your own skills in case you are accidentally doing them yourself.  Or, be sure to employ the alternative solutions I suggest. 


Talking Badly About Others

When I started my job, I quickly felt like I was “sold” my position.  All the wonderful things I was told about the organization were not exactly there.  Always the optimist, and wanting to help fix things, I reported to my manager that it seemed as if everyone was unhappy.  This person didn’t like how this was done.  This project fell through due to lack of the right resource, so this person was frustrated.  And so on. 


My manager’s reaction shocked me.  He informed me that everyone being unhappy was each individual’s fault and proceeded to tell me something “bad” about each employee.  At first it felt like a compliment because I was better than everyone, right?  That wore off very fast when I realized he likely was telling everyone else how “bad” I was.


As a leader, you will get people in your office from time to time who are upset with another person.  It’s human nature.  However, you should never complain about either person to the other.  On the surface, the person will be happy, but they will begin to wonder if you say anything about them.  No matter if you do or not, they will never know for sure.


Do Nothing to Resolve an Issue

Not only did my manager talk bad about others, he also blamed each of them for why nobody was happy.  I had never worked somewhere where the majority (if not all) were miserable.  Normally, it’s a bad apple here or there that is just an unhappy person, right?


I thought if I brought it to my manager’s attention, he would want to fix it.  Who wants an unhappy team?  Apparently he was ok with that.  Eventually I learned that keeping people unhappy gave him a sense of control over them.  Occasionally he would come in and fix something and they would be happy for a brief moment and that gave him power.


Unfortunately, what he didn’t realize was that if the team was happy all the time, he would have even more power and influence to get more done.  If an issue is brought to your attention do your best to help resolve it.  Evaluate if it’s a learning lesson for those involved, or if it’s something where you need to step in.  Perhaps it’s something you can change and resolve without involving anyone else. 


Happy people are more trusting.  Trusting people work harder!


Hold Yourself Accountable

When it comes to controlling others, the easiest way is to set a bunch of restrictions.  You must do this.  You can’t do that.  Answer my email, text message, phone call, or instant message immediately at all times. 


Some people look at that as having high standards for their team.  If that is the case, I challenge them to see if they are holding themselves accountable to the same restrictions.  It has been my experience that they probably are not.


My manager came and went whenever he felt like it, but we had to have a set schedule and couldn’t leave one minute early.  If I had a question he was almost impossible to reach, but if I didn’t respond immediately to him he reprimanded me.  He knocked off a couple hours early after the Christmas lunch so he could finish his shopping, but the team had to go back to the office and wait until 5 p.m. to go home.  None of this built trust with the team.


Today I would like to challenge you to ensure your skills to be a manager include the ability to lead through trust, not control.  Give it some time and let your team rise to the test.  You will be glad you did, and so will your team!


{#/pub/images/20120913174147_DSC_14831small.jpg}Written by Emilie Shoop, Creator and Leader of Shoop Training & Consulting A sought after Coach, Mompreneur, Strategist, Mentor, Speaker, Author, Trainer & Business Consultant, Emilie works with people who are ready for that next level of success, and realize how they work with people is KEY.  Her coaching will help you lead, delegate, sell, collaborate, perform, influence, and relate with people to launch your success to the next level. She provides clients, teams and organizations the skills and tools for leadership and professional excellence.

Do you have a management question for Emilie?  Post it in our First Time Manager/Supervisor Community and she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert



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ManagingAmericans.com is a community of Business Professionals & Expert Consultants sharing knowledge, success tips and solutions to common job issues.  Our objective is to mentor and develop professionals to be better leaders, managers, team players and individual contributors. Ultimately, helping people succeed in their careers.  

Comments (13)

asif murtaza sindhu posted on: February 20, 2013

Managers and leaders get work done not by power. they worked batter planning and control and by adopting open door policy and completed their targets. Ya they have power to control batter planning inplemenatation.

David Shaffer posted on: February 20, 2013

Interesting article and my initial thought is that trust is built by clearly defining expectations and being consistent with employees. Too many managers try to be "friends" to employees rather than effectively communicating expectations, linking accountability to areas that the employee has direct control over and following through with what was established as the scope and objectives of particular assignments and job descriptions.

Greg Basham posted on: February 21, 2013

Trust comes from clarity of expectations, transparency and collaboration. Too often persuading others that worked at first levels of supervision get locked into as people rise. Visioning and Collaborating vs the Directive styles are key.

Heather Stone posted on: February 23, 2013

Hi Emilie,
Great content and thanks to Dan for sharing it with the BizSugar community. Who can forget Governor Tarkin's immortal words in Star Wars when boasting about the privileges of power? "Fear will keep the local systems in line." Of course, we all know what happened to him. Better management styles are both available and preferable. Let's make use of them!

Mark Herbert posted on: February 25, 2013

Trust is foundational to any healthy relationship whether personal or professional. If you don't have that as a foundation you will never be an effective manager or leader.
BTW- it doesn't come with the title or position on the org chart, you have to earn it....

Anjali Tandon posted on: March 27, 2013

One without another is of no use..

freedom should be given with the closely monitoring of the lead..

The ideas has to be suggested by the team but approval should always been given by the higher authority providing the feedback

Arben Dubova posted on: March 27, 2013

Trust establishes productive rapport that stimulates people's thinking and problem solving. Control will limit thinking and creativity.

VINCENT AWALA posted on: March 27, 2013

When there is trust the need for so much control or exercise of power will be minimized. Trust is important. Everybody will hook on the team goal and determine to attain it.

Bell Yepp Raymond posted on: March 27, 2013

Trust is very good but control is just backing and sustaining trust. It is very important to control to highlight some areas of failure and fine solution, instead of just trust somebody and fine clash at the end.

Ron Edre Marinas posted on: March 27, 2013

Trust is good. but for your team to be able to trust you they must first believe in you. that's when power come's in. correct me if I am wrong I am still new at this. but trust goes both ways right?? :)

madan gupta posted on: March 27, 2013

your trust in the team will . allow the team to rise and succeed.
this quality makes you a leader.

VS Krishnan posted on: March 27, 2013

To be honest, there is no one 'right' answer....it varies from situation to situation...even, given a situation, it varies from subordinate to subordinate! Possibly in this Forum it is fashionable to say 'Trust your team' but there can be genuine fire-fighting situations when the team turns to you to say 'Hey, where were you?'.....and there might be no time for them to call in 'sos'! The key, to my mind, is to be sensitive to the need of the hour & allow 'enough & more space' for subordinates to experiment & grow & yet step in if things go awry. The team members will take on more risk to seek greater accomplishment for the whole Group, if they know that the Leader will, when push comes to shove, step in non-obtrusively to bail out!

VS Krishnan posted on: March 27, 2013

My mantra in leading teams is that, in any case, the Leader should not be working on something his/her team members are capable of tackling....as they develop & grow, the whole team migrates to a higher level....or else, one of the worthy subordinates becomes Leader, allowing the earlier one to take on even higher responsibility. In this case, the Leader has encouraged his team members to 'set fire' under his chair.....to , catapult him/her to even higher orbit! Cheers,Krish

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