Once when I was a systems analyst for a large, national firm, I worked in the Seattle office while reporting to a manager, Brad, who was in the San Francisco office. He had an annoying habit of calling me on my office phone almost every Friday afternoon around 5pm. He never said it but I knew he was checking to make sure I was still working and hadn’t left early. He had strict policies about such things as work hours, no telecommuting, and detailed status reports. One time he actually came into town for the weekend without telling me and showed up at my office at 5:05pm on Friday to see if I was there. I found his style irritating.
Then I started reporting to a different VP, Darrin, in the same San Francisco office. At first, I kept to the same policies of strict office hours and detailed status reports. But the first time I let him know I’d have to be out of the office in the middle of the day, he quickly told me he wasn’t concerned about keeping such close tabs on me. He said he trusted me to get the work done and that’s all he cared about.
Which manager got my best performance? It was by far Darrin. Why? I’m a professional and always motivated to do my best in any circumstance. But I was happier working for Darrin because his style resonated with me. He trusted me to do the right thing without imposing unnecessary rules and monitoring tactics. Being trusted made me feel more emotionally positive. Science has now proven that when we feel emotionally uplifted, it improves our cognition and creativity. Our minds become far more sharp and clear, we’re better able to see possibilities, our memory recall is improved, and we’re better able to mentally analyze large amounts of data. All of these factors significantly improved my performance as a systems analyst.
We hear a lot about the Millenial generation not wanting to be told what to do, but the fact is that employees of all generations are becoming less tolerant of authority. We all want autonomy in the workplace. The good news for businesses is that relaxing unnecessary authoritative practices will actually boost the performance of an organization. The emotional positivity that trust generates is much more effective than authoritative tactics.
I find it odd that so many employee engagement surveys measure the trust that employees have in their leaders, but they don’t typically assess the level of trust that employees feel from their leaders. This is a key measure of employee engagement and contributes greatly to performance.
If you need to get greater performance and agility from the group you’re leading, think about how you can reduce the rules and restrictions and put more trust in your people. As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.Share