Trust and Empower

In response to all the questions I've been getting, I've been posting a lot about myself. Please feel free to respond or leave a comment and make it a discussion instead of a monologue about me!

"What's my management style?" My flip answer is you don't really manage people*. My more serious answer is that I strive to trust and empower.

  • Trust people to do the right thing. Trust them to have good ideas. To want to make the project, organization, team or company successful. Trust them. They want to do good.
  • Empower them. Make sure they know you trust and believe in them and give them what they need to execute on their great ideas. Maybe it's a computer, or a person to bounce ideas off of, or help convincing others, or some space, or fun people to work with, or a better understanding of what the company is trying to do … My very first manager at HP came to me one day and said "Stormy, what can I do for you? What can I do to make you more effective?" (I responded with "go to my meetings for me" and he said ok!) I've kept that in mind ever since. A manager's job is to make their team effective.

And then circle back around. It's not enough to say "I trust you" and throw a bunch of money at them. They might not know what to do with the money – they might need some help. (Or they might be in the wrong job – one they don't believe in.) And you need to know enough so that you can convince upper management that your team is doing a good job and everyone should let them keep working on their great ideas.

People get hung up on whether managers delegate well or not. Delegating does not equal managing. (Not delegating can equal bad management, but delegating isn't managing.) If someone is having trouble delegating, one of two things is up.

  • The first is simple, they just might not know how to delegate. This is easy to fix. If you want to learn to delegate, grab someone whose management style you admire and ask them to sit in on a meeting you are running. And either during the meeting or after, have them point out places you could have delegated.
  • The second reason people don't delegate is a bit more complicated. It's lack of trust. Either lack of trust that the other person will do it "right." Or lack of trust that people will actually believe they are doing anything useful if they are delegating everything to other people. However, if you trust and empower, your team will not question whether or not you are working. They'll love you and they'll get lots done and so your manager will love you. But it's a leap of faith in the beginning.

There are often complicated and valid reasons people don't trust others. Sometimes you "know" you can do it better or faster or easier. You can read more about how it's hard to delegate at Why you shouldn't do it all yourself.

So that's my "management" style. What's yours?

* Seriously, if you are a manager, the word "manager" should not show up any where in your resume except in your title. "Managing people" is not something you get paid to do. You get paid to make things happen.

5 Replies to “Trust and Empower”

  1. Hi Stormy,
    I would love to work for manager like you. At the same time I have the feeling that you are describing what would happen if the management and the leadership are combined. I will quote Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People
    In the words of both Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
    Personally, I work in organization where the lack of leadership is big problem. But at the same time I have to say that I have learn a lot. Mainly What NOT to do! Do you have an advice how to deal with situation like that? My manager talks about empowerment all the time, but at the same time keeps micromanaging everything. Not only that, but he changes his mind constantly. One of most frustrating moment for me is when we (the team) spends long hours discussing any given problem. We decide on particular plan of actions, but after the meeting very often he have private meeting with one of his buddies and later we are finding out that accepted solution is not valid or has been modified to point that is useless.
    Also I would like to ask you about the so called ‘Internal Customer’. It does not make sense for me. The Customer relationship exist only in free market. Inside the corporation there is no market. Inside the organization we can have a team, but not customer-supplier relationship.
    p.s. I discovered your blog by luck and I love it. My best wishes.

  2. Sounds like a good approach to motivating people. I think the word facilitator is what management types should see their job as.

  3. You sound amazing, i would love to work with you. If you need any help with GNOME and your role, please call me.
    Empower me to help my favourite desktop

  4. Note that I did say *strive* to be.
    I think of the times I was “wishy-washy” and it was usually because I couldn’t figure out what my management wanted or they didn’t think my way was best or the company changed directions.
    I think the hardest things about large organizations is keeping a common goal in mind. Because they’re large you end up with lots of layers between you and the real goal (like internal customers.) And there’s usually more than one goal.

  5. It’s a bit facile, but one of the phrases I try an apply is “The manager is there to take responsibility for problems and become invisible when success occurs”.
    i.e. your are there to help people do their job and help fix problems, not to massage your own ego or polish your CV.
    There is a lot of detail behind that of course, but I think it helps engender the right frame of mind.

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