The balance between empowering and micro managing

by | Nov 1, 2017

There are some key things you hear commonly in my line of work.

When you work in a virtual environment, there are common beliefs or thoughts that come to play that you have to self manage. Things like:

“I feel isolated.”

“I don’t feel challenged.”

“I feel like my work doesn’t have purpose.”

“I’m being called out on stuff that I don’t believe is a reflection of what I do.”

“I fear retribution when I make mistakes.”

“I don’t have the power to make necessary decisions.”

These are very common things that we experience in a remote environment. Mainly because it can feel lonely and the need to connect is still a basic human need. And as a leader, the balance between empowering your team and looking like you are being a dictator can be a fine line. Finding things that we are doing right, needs to be a bigger portion of what I notice than the things we are doing wrong. If the only time my team hear from me is when there’s a perception of something not being right, it’s a quick way to lose their trust in my support for them.

Two things need to be taken into account in a workplace – the culture and the climate. Sometimes, these two terms are interchangeable but to me, they are different. Culture is the shared learning, belief systems and values amongst a group. The climate are the perceptions and attitudes of those in the group. So even though everyone might share the same values, the perception of how well we do that could be considerably different.

As with anyone, I feel that it’s up to team members to take full responsibility for finding motivation and purpose in what they do. It’s not up to anyone else to find it for them. However, leadership plays a key part in influencing the environment that allows people to feel they can have purpose and motivation.

Creating empowering environments take time. It can be assumed from Day 1 but people still need to feel that you’re there when they need it. Empowering is not letting go of responsibility, but a willingness to share power with the team, set goals, make decisions and solve problems. My team and I share the same culture. We share in our frustrations and we believe in what we do – putting client and staff priorities first. But the perceptions of how well we do that can be different. So it is important to be aware of this when it comes up, and manage the climate before it starts to impact the culture.

Some things will remain the same when creating an empowering environment. You need to provide recognition when the team succeeds and coach through mistakes. Don’t react. Don’t always tell people what to do. Show respect for where people are at in their level of awareness and development. Stop telling and instead, facilitate their thinking instead. Find reasons to share good news more than you share what isn’t so good.

There’s no need to micromanage anymore. Not in any environment.

If you would like to discuss or know more about working with virtual staff, go to or contact me directly. I would love to hear from you.

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