Trust and initiative

A client put his finger on the problem: The CEO doesn’t trust the people working for him.

This CEO is an excellent salesman, financier and manager of his Board of Directors. But when it comes to everyone else, he gets his way or … he gets his way. The client put it this way: Since he doesn’t trust people to do things the right way, he judges their performance on one criterion only: Are they doing exactly what I asked? As soon as one of them challenges his directions, that person becomes suspect and eventually gets discredited.

Lacking trust in people below him, the CEO judges them only on loyalty and conformance. The result: lack of commitment. As the client said, “If you know that your decisions are going to be second-guessed, you stop taking responsibility for making them.” It’s much easier to let things go until “the Word” comes down from the top. It saves a lot of stress — and removes intiative.

This is a disease often seen in large organizations. Top management does not delegate any real authority to the lower levels of management, so the managers stop trying to take initiative.

But this client’s firm has fewer than 100 employees.
Can you guess how long this enterprise will last without intiative coming from the ranks? The most creative and driven people will leave, and those who are left will not make the effort to distinguish this company from the competitors. Even if it survives, it will not be a fun place to work.

Are you languishing in a position without real authority? There’s only one way make things better for the long term. Put your job on the line and demand the authority that is needed for your initiatives to be effective. Keep demanding it until they throw you out or make you the CEO. Or something in between. If you fail, you’re better off somewhere else anyway.

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    About John Levy

    John Levy works with senior managers in mid-sized organizations who are responsible for development and delivery of major software or hardware/software products. He helps them gain confidence that their projects will succeed.

    Development projects can fail in many ways. You need a guide who speaks the language of business and is knowledgeable about technology. John aligns Development with the organization's strategy so it will contribute efficiently to the success of the enterprise.

    John has been consulting for over 20 years. His book on managing high-tech teams, Get Out of the Way, was published in 2010.

    For more information, email him at, or call 415 663-1818.
    And check out John's profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter!