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What we want most from a manager

April 20, 2022

At the end of last month’s blog, I promised to tell you the top spot in my recent survey about what people want most from a manager. Any guesses? It was Trust to get on with my job.

Would that have been your answer? Maybe, if you’ve ever experienced micro-management. It can be highly frustrating being told how to do something when you’ve got the experience to decide for yourself, or closely monitored even though you’re responsible and confident enough to know when to give updates or flag up issues.

It makes me wonder about the times I didn’t feel trusted in my work. Was the root cause with them or me? 

Not all managers find it easy to be accountable for work someone else is doing, especially if they have perfectionist or high-achieving saboteurs. That’s when people compensate for feeling out of control by being over-controlling elsewhere.

But my limiting beliefs would have played into the situation too. For example, I struggle with a fear of getting things wrong which sometimes causes me to subconsciously hide what I’m doing until I’m happy it’s ‘right’. I can imagine that might have left my managers wondering what they were going to be presented with in the end! This in turn could have caused them to seek reassurance – which I perceived as micromanaging – and so you get into a cycle of distrust, each blaming the other.

So how can you break this cycle in a relationship, be that at work or home?

Breaking the cycle of distrust
  1. Accept that change starts with you (annoying as it is, we can’t force others to change!)
  2. Understand what trust is about.
  3. Take an honest look at yourself to see where you might benefit from acting differently. 

This doesn’t guarantee the other person will start to trust you (their own saboteurs may just be too strong) but it gives you a better chance of influencing their responses because behaviour is contagious.

Understanding what’s going on

To have trust between two people, each person has to be both trustworthy in themselves and trusting of the other. 

The trusting part is a leap of faith, a mindset, a decision we take. We make ourselves vulnerable when we trust so it’s a risk, but one of you has to take it or the relationship is ‘inhibited by caution and suspicion.’ [1] 

The other side – trustworthiness – has been the focus of much analysis. Stephen Covey [2] says you can behave your way into trust through behaviours like straight talking, clarifying expectations, delivering what you promise, admitting and correcting mistakes, being open to feedback and genuinely listening. Conversely, you behave your way out of trust when you pretend to listen, blame others, gossip, overstate accomplishments, withhold information, don’t keep commitments and skirt around issues.

Taking a look in the mirror 

The ‘Trust Equation’ is a helpful model. Watch this short video about it. It breaks the abstract concept of trust into four parts and you can rate yourself on each one to get a sense of what’s working for and against you in establishing your trustworthiness. 

  •  Credibility – the extent to which you know your stuff and successfully communicate that to others 
  •  Reliability – how often you do what you say you will in a way that serves others as well as yourself 
  •  Intimacy – the degree to which you inspire confidence that others will be emotionally safe interacting with you 
  •  Self-orientation – how pre-occupied you are with your own agenda rather than others’ 

The first three raise your level of trustworthiness; high self-orientation lowers it. This latter one is where our inner critic sneaks in in the form of constant worry about our performance and what people think of us. Realising this, you can see how self-obsession inadvertently communicates disinterest in what’s happening around you and a lack of confidence in your own abilities. Definitely things to alarm a manager who was expecting to leave a task in your hands. 

Applying this in your own life 

So how trusting are the important relationships in your life? What becomes possible if you decide to fully trust someone? If you’re not prepared to be trusting, how might that be interpreted by the other party? And on the other side, how trustworthy are you? Does one of Covey’s ‘unhelpful’ behaviours above make you wince in recognition? 

These are the types of questions we explore in coaching to help you rediscover your agency to improve relationships. If you’d benefit from the space and time to work on a relationship that is pivotal to your success or happiness, book a free 30 minute discovery call with me. 

[1] Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z. (2002) The Leadership Challenge. 3rd Edition, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco 

[2] Covey, S. and Merrill, R., 2012. Speed of trust. [Aarhus]: Klim  

About me

I’m Celia Clark. I’m a career development coach based in the dreaming spires of Oxford. I help you think clearly about your job, in all its ups and downs, so you can be happy and successful in your work.

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