One of the most interesting things I have encountered as a career coach is why people consider changing employers. The reasons are varied, but there is a common theme that typically emerges as we dive deeper into what is happening in their day-to-day work life: trust — or, rather, a lack of trust.
In some cases, this lack of trust is due to changes within the organization, such as a merger or acquisition or a change in leadership. Sometimes, it is a mistrust of co-workers. The most common type of trust problem, however, is managers’ lack of trust in an employee’s ability to complete an assignment independently without being micromanaged.
Micromanaging can manifest in a variety of ways, from sending email inquiries and reminders before a deadline has arrived to continually checking on an employee’s work before he or she can move on to the next step toward completion. This type of seemingly innocent checking on an employee’s progress often creates feelings of frustration, disrespect and decreased engagement.
There are different methods that managers can implement to approach almost any situation. Often, the approach, or the tone, is what sets the stage for how an employee receives a communication. While some supervision is necessary to ensure that projects are advancing according to established expectations and deadlines, covert or excessive supervision that inhibits an employee from completing his or her work seamlessly can be construed as intrusive, restricting and distrustful.
How can leaders determine the appropriate amount of supervision to ensure that employees are completing their tasks properly and in accordance with deadlines, without hindering their ability to do their job? More importantly, how can they create a company culture of trust that fosters employee engagement and encourages autonomy at all levels? Here are eight tips managers can use to develop a leadership style that fosters employee engagement through trust:
1. Start With Introspection
Uncovering what creates or feeds your fear of placing trust in your employees can provide great insights on how to shift your mindset. A common cause is a fear of delegation, which often reflects a lack of confidence in your ability to oversee a project without being hands-on. If this description sounds like you, consider how this fear is serving you.
2. Factcheck With Data
How many incidents or problems have occurred with each employee? Do the number of incidents warrant the time you are spending to micromanage them?
3. Encourage Open, Two-way Communication
If your employees are comfortable approaching you to ask for clarification or direction on an assignment or project, you probably don’t need to frequently check their work for accuracy.
4. Ask for and Value Employee Insights
When employees are entrenched in a task, they often develop insights that an outside perspective cannot see. Asking for feedback and suggestions for improvement can increase productivity and the overall success of the project, but it can also encourage employees to see the bigger picture and help them feel valued for their contributions to it. This strategy alone can go a long way in improving employee engagement.
5. Review Your Employee Training Procedures
While it is challenging to set aside time initially to thoroughly train an employee on a new task, being proactive can reduce the risk of errors, build confidence, and save time spent on revisions and modifications.
6. Establish Benchmarking Intervals for Meeting Updates
By establishing regular meeting updates at key intervals throughout a project, you can set the expectation that periodic reviews are a necessary part of the process. You can also maintain or improve productivity by eliminating random unscheduled check-ins that can slow down or halt progress.
7. Create a System of Checks and Balances
By establishing systems and processes in your workflow, you can set up checkpoints using automation or peer review at places where errors or lags in activity may occur. Then, you can make sure they are proactively corrected. This independent review can offer additional insights, while freeing up your time.
8. Establish Consequences for Trust Violations
While some mistakes are inevitably going to happen as a result of human nature, you can minimize the occurrence of acts that intentionally violate trust in the workplace by establishing and communicating clear consequences.
Establishing a culture of trust and respect in the workplace starts at the top by modeling and communicated the expected behavior. Once an organization has hired and onboarded employees, its leaders must trust them and believe in their capabilities. By allowing employees to do the job they were hired to do without micromanaging them, leaders speak volumes about their own ability to do their job: developing them into the best employees they can be.