Trust and Interference

There is a lovely story about a young boy and a lost horse.

One day a horse turned up on a farm. No-one knew from whence it came nor who owned it.

A young boy climbed onto its back and waited for it to start walking.

The horse would occasionally stop to eat or look to go exploring. All the boy did was keep it moving.

Eventually they arrived at a farm. The farmer looked up amazed. “How did you know this was my horse?” he asked.

“I didn’t” replied the boy. “All I did was keep it on the road, your horse did the rest”.

Remember when you were young and an adult trusted you? Something changed in the relationship, you knew you’d do anything that adult wanted because they not only believed in your ability but they also had your back.

Crucially, if they intervened, suggested you do something a slightly different way, you would follow their instructions unthinkingly.

Same happens in organisations. If a middle manager feels trusted from above and below, he or she will be inclined to interfere positively.

We call it autonomy and it begets autonomy.

But if there is little or no trust from above or below, that manager will tend to adopt a siege mentality which leads them to micro-manage because they are constantly watching their back and cannot afford to let their people have their heads.

Imagine the result if the boy had micro-managed the horse…

Positive interference reduces rework and increases productivity.

Negative interference creates rework and reduces productivity, morale and engagement.

But the type of interference depends upon whether or not the manager feels trusted. By his or her manager. And by his or her team.

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