Leadership Soapbox – How Much Should We Trust Our Staff When They Work From Home? Part 2

Why we should trust our staff when they work from home


Hi, I’m Neil Poynter, and welcome back to part two of this two-part video series around trust and monitoring people at home.

So if you listened to part one, you’ll know where I’m going on this, but the idea is if we don’t trust people by monitoring them at home, what’s the impact?

Now, I want to give you three pieces of theory that back this up.

Now, the first place that I want to go on this is a bit of psychotherapy. Now, I work in the transactional analysis field of psychotherapy and that’s where my training is and we talk about ego states and the places people can occupy, is parent, adult, and child.

I can be in one of those three zones in the way I’m behaving and thinking. If I’m in adult, I’m grounded in the present. If I’m in parent, I’m adopting behaviours that I’ve learned from people in a parental type position. If I’m in child, I’m back in behaviours, thoughts, and feelings that I learned in childhood.

Now, let’s just think about where we want to communicate to our team from. I would put it to you that we very much want to be communicating to our team from adult to adult. Now, if I was going to draw this, and we’re going to go really high-tech here with this diagram. So we’ve got two people here. You can see P-A-C, P-A-C, parent, adult, child. It’s called the PAC Model for very obvious reasons.

Now, if I’m going to just add to this, okay? Where we want to be is not in parent, but adult to adult. So I’ve just drawn that on there. Adult to adult conversations. We want to be engaging across the middle.

Now, if I say to someone, “Yes, but we’re going to monitor you from home.” Now, I might try and dress that up as being from adult, but what’s the real message?

Now, in psychotherapy, we call this the ulterior message. Where am I really talking to? And the ulterior message is the one that hits home. So what are they going to hear? Well, I’ll put it to you that actually what they’re going to hear in this case is parent to child. They’re going to hear that message coming across. I don’t trust you. I might be dressing it up in adult, but actually it’s really that.

Now, if someone talks to us in child, how do we respond? Well, it can go one of two ways. Either we can really push back and go, “Whoa, hang on a minute.” Now, actually, where is that coming from? It’s probably going to be a highly emotional response, so were am I coming from? It’s quite likely to be an aggressive child back to the parent, and I’m going to kickback. So what we’re going to end up with is a communication that rather than being adult to adult, it’s now parent to child and back. And that’s going to set a tone, because are these people really going to produce their best performance for us if we’re in a parent to child relationship? No, especially if it’s not a rebellious child. If they’ve gone to a place of going, “Stuff you. I’m not going to behave like, I’m sorry, I’m not interested.”

And actually, or the adult goes, “Oh, I’m sorry I’m not being treated like an adult here. I don’t like this.” We’re not going to get the performance we want, okay?

So there is a really clear model here. I want adult to adult. How does an adult treat an adult? They’re trusting. This is what I need from you. How are you going to deliver? I’m going to do it like this. Okay, great. That’s what I propose here. Let’s not monitor people.

Okay, something else. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People want to feel good about themselves, okay? So once they’re part of the group, level three social, okay? So they’ve joined the organisation, they’re now part of us. The next stage up, level four, is all about feeling good about myself, about what I do. If I’m being told we’re going to monitor you, ooh, I’m going to question whether that’s going to help them get up to that place, okay?

We want to be affirming them. Going, “Great. Off you go. Let’s go. Let’s do this work.” So there’s a second piece. Let’s not go there.

Now, the third piece is what’s called McGregor’s X-Y theory, a brief introduction. This is one of the oldest pieces of leadership theory. And McGregor’s X-Y is the idea that you’re either an X type manager or a Y type manager and it’s all about what you believe, and therefore the behaviours that you display, and therefore what you get back. Now, if I’m an X type manager, what I believe is that people are out for themselves, they’re good for nothing, they’re looking to rip me off, and basically I don’t trust them.

Ooh-ooh, how am I likely to behave? I’m likely to behave, I’m going to monitor them, I’m going to keep an eye on them, I’m not going to trust them, I’m going to do lots of things to control them. Guess what behaviour I get back if I’m an X type manager? I’m going to get what I expect. And this is the whole point about McGregor’s X-Y theory, you get what you expect.

Now, the Y theory manager believes that people want to be engaged in something. They want to be a part of it. They want to contribute. They want to be actively involved in what’s going on. Now, okay, if I believe that about people, how do I behave? I trust them. I want them to be involved. I invite them in. I get them involved in what we’re doing. I don’t push them away.

Guess what I get? Guess what I get? Now, okay, there’s going to be the odd person who perhaps tries to take a flyer on me. Okay, we deal with it. But the vast majority are going to respond positively to this.

So my case here, three bits of theory. One, transaction analysis, the PAC Model. We want adult to adult, not parent to child, okay? Let’s have adult to adult conversations. Let’s trust people.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People want to feel good about themselves. I put it to you that not trusting them is not going to do that.

Thirdly, McGregor’s X-Y theory, if you don’t trust them, you will get behaviours that prove to you that you’re right. If you trust them, if you invest in them, if you believe in them, you’re going to get the behaviours that tell you you were right.

Okay, so this is really important. Let’s think about how trust, positive trust, is going to impact on the performance of our people, because I think this is just so important, especially now with this situation we find ourselves we. What we want in business is high performance. Monitoring people is not going to deliver you high performance.

Okay, that’s it. Let’s have a conversation about it. If you’ve liked this, please hit the Subscribe button, so you don’t miss any of the others. I’m aiming to get, from now on, one out per week and let’s see what we can have as a conversation. If you’re interested in taking this any further, neil@neilpoynter.com, and we’ll see where we go with this.

Thank you very much for watching and I look forward to getting your comments. Thanks.

Explore the series:

  • Building trust with work at home staff – video 1
  • Building trust with work at home staff – video 2