Is respect given or earned? (How to not be micro managed)

December 2, 2009

In a meeting I recently attended, a leader shared that she felt her department was not respected. Her statement led me to look into the department in question. What I found was the department had poor results in expense management and physician satisfaction—and it also had low patient satisfaction.

Perhaps the lack of respect is not surprising.

Real respect is earned. And the best way to earn respect is through good results. Don’t get me wrong: the role of the department and the duties of the individuals that work there are always respected. But if the department as a whole is not respected, chances are the reason has to do with performance.

Liz Jazwiec’s book, Eat THAT Cookie, points out how easy it is to fall into victim thinking, and how easy it is to reinforce that kind of thinking when it develops in an organization.

When someone comes up to you and says he feels his department is not respected, or is being bashed or is not being treated well in some other way, he is exhibiting victim thinking. Here are a few suggestions on what to say:

  • Ask the person to share specifically why he feels that way.
  • Ask him what he is looking for.
  • Then, close in on performance.

My experience is that good leaders do not make “victim” statements about not being respected. Generally, it is the leaders whose results are lagging who voice these complaints.

Often, these low performing leaders will report that they are “micromanaged.”

This reminds of me of another story. I was meeting with 12 hospital administrators and some key senior leaders from the system’s corporate office.

At the first break one of the hospital leaders came up to me and said he was pleased the system was moving in this direction. He also asked if perhaps I could influence the corporate leaders to stop micromanaging him.

Later on, right before lunch, I went up to another hospital leader at the session and asked if he felt corporate micromanaged him. No, he replied. In fact, he added, the main thing he liked about the system was that they did not micro manage him and that he liked the autonomy he was given.

Now, these two leaders worked in the same system. They had identical roles inside the organization. Yet, they had two very different perceptions.

I had lunch with the corporate leaders. During lunch I brought up both individuals, without making any specific comments about them. When I mentioned the first one, the immediate response was, “We are concerned about this leader. He is not meeting goals.” When I mentioned the second one, they said, “We never have to worry about Tom. He hits the goals every year.”

In summary, the better leaders achieve their goals, the more respect they and their area will have and the more autonomy they will receive.


Quint Studer

Quint Studer, CEO

Studer Group

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