E-Book: The Top 10 Myths About Democratic Management

Confidence and being in control

How do you stay confident and in control in the 6 ft. Organization?

The 6 ft. economy requires different ways of organizing. For the foreseeable future, offices will be set up differently and remote working will remain necessary. In fact, it may even become the new “normal”. Working remotely has a number of benefits but, it’s essential that the work gets done, and that it maybe gets done even better.

Organizations that were set up with a different mindset, have started realizing that the question of whether or not their employees are allowed to work remotely is no longer relevant to being successful. Besides, in the current situation, much of the traditional, implicit controls that the office set-up offers, have been dropped. Managers checking on things, like when someone gets to work or how long someone’s lunch break is, has been replaced by a strong feeling of mutual trust.

What can you do to strengthen this confidence?

It’s one thing to say you want to give your team the confidence to function independently, but an entirely different thing to actually practice it. So, how should you act accordingly and how do you stay in control without being controlling? In this article, let’s take a closer look at these two inextricably linked themes.

Go from implicit to explicit trust

Overall, the COVID-19 situation has proved that people can be trusted to do what’s expected of them. For, work is continuing as usual despite some difficult situations such as children being at home and needing help with schoolwork or caring for sick relatives. With the mandatory work from home protocols in place, managers need to have implicit confidence in their team – whether they want to or not. But, implicit trust alone is not enough because freedom comes with responsibility. And, that’s why it’s helpful to explicitly agree upon what managers and team members can expect from each other.

Thinking together and making decisions together

It’s important to understand that trusting people doesn’t automatically mean everyone’s decisions are aligned with what’s best for the company. Many entrepreneurs are currently concerned about the survival of their businesses. For their part, employees are doing their best to keep things moving and are working fast to develop new methods and to attract new customers. But, they often don’t know if all the time and energy they’re spending will be sufficient. Are they doing the right thing to avert financial disaster? Is the existing approach in line with the chosen strategy?

In the midst of such uncertainties, the current work situation connects us because all of us are facing similar concerns and challenges. But, we also need to remember that when we work remotely, it’s easy to lose sight of the common thread.

So, it’s important to get employees onboard to tackle the challenges faced by the company. Explore together what’s going on within the organization and identify where the opportunities and threats lie. Share the short-term goals and progress made by being more transparent. Let your employees think and participate in the decision-making process to help the company get out of this difficult situation. Remember, nothing can be more binding than surviving a crisis together. When you do it together the company has not just one or two people, thinking and actively working to save it, but an entire crew.

Show confidence

There’s no denying that the current work situation requires trust. But, it’s even more important to demonstrate that trust by showing that you have confidence in your people. Nothing can be more undermining to a work relationship than the feeling that the other person does not trust you or think of you as an equal. In short, managers have to really believe it themselves first before their people can feel it.

Some practical tips to demonstrate confidence in your people:

  • Walk the talk: Trust depends more on feeling and less on words which is why it’s so important to “walk the talk”. Acting on the basis of trust is crucial – so don’t do unsolicited checks on the work of others or judge people on their qualities.
  • Be vulnerable: Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability and ask people to give you feedback on points you could improve. It’s also a good idea to be open and honest if, for instance, you find it difficult to function in this situation, doing all that’s required of you as a manager.
  • Create psychological safety: A culture based on trust is characterized by people having the courage to speak up. You can promote this by openly asking for feedback on ideas and decisions, and, above all, not pushing through decisions in conventional, top-down ways.

Steer not only on trust, but also on expectations

In our experience, we see that just trusting employees ultimately leads to nothing. A strange statement perhaps, because we intuitively think we’re certain to win by placing trust and confidence in our people. But, organizing based on trust requires a little more – like clear agreements and unambiguous statements on mutual expectations. This removes any gray areas and prevents managers from suddenly pulling away the reins from the team – either because the results are disappointing or because an exciting moment is coming up.

These agreements deal with the following questions:

  • What results do you want to achieve together?
  • What qualities do you expect from each other?
  • What are the important pre-conditions to take into account?

Please remember that the number of agreements you make should be defined by the output and tangible results you’re aiming for. Agreements about things like when you work, and how long you work, can not be checked and more importantly, imply distrust.

Ensure everything is as transparent and as simple as possible. What are the situations where people can make their own decisions about and which ones require the intervention of managers or executives? Remember to keep this as simple as possible because this is the way to foster trust within the team.

If you’re unsure about the steps that need to be taken towards teams, then consider if giving away responsibility and trust feel like too much too soon. In that case, start with one team or a single project. But, expressing what you will start with explicitly and acting accordingly is crucial.