Speaking the Same Language

Consider the following hypothetical cases and options for response.

CASE I: You know what you are doing, enjoy doing it and have been performing at a sustained and acceptable standard for an extended period of time. You find yourself with a new supervisor who feels the need to repeatedly tell you what you already know and closely supervise your pull-through of those instructions.

  1. Do your best to listen to what this supervisor has to say and endure the micromanagement that is unfortunately included with the unneeded instruction. It’s not like you haven’t “been here and done this” on numerous occasions with other managers during your career already. As the saying goes, “This too shall pass.”
  2. Communicate your familiarity and performance track record for the task(s) your supervisor feels the need to incrementally control. Beyond that, transparently impart how this style of leadership somehow robs you of the work-related joy you experience when you are trusted to deliver the results you have proven you can deliver.

CASE II: You somehow have been given the responsibility for a project of significance and have no idea what you are doing. You find yourself quietly amazed that no one in a position of formal authority seems to recognize this reality. Your supervisor keeps telling you how bright you are, how lucky he is to have you on the team and how confident he is that you “have what it takes to pull this off.” Why can’t he simply tell you what you need to do and how you need to do it?

  1. Take a deep breath and stay calm. There is no way your boss would be putting you in this set of circumstances if you didn’t have the potential to succeed, right? There are probably a number of people (far less talented than you) that have been put in similar situations and figured something out. Perhaps when you have the opportunity to take a bit of a deeper dive into the particulars of this opportunity something will come to you.
  2. Wave your hands in the air (jump up and down if you have to), get your supervisor’s attention and call a timeout! Convey sincere appreciation for the high praise; express your heartfelt desire to effectively contribute in a tangible manner, but ensure you get the direction you need before charging off into the darkness.

If your reaction to Case I was something like:

  • “Response Option #2 clearly makes the most sense”
    • Then ask yourself this question: “Why do so many high-producing employees tolerate micromanagement at the expense of their work-related engagement?”

If your reaction to Case II was something like:

  • “Again, response Option #2 …”
    • Then ask yourself this question: “Why do so many high-potential employees avoid opportunities to get the clarity and direction they need to succeed?”

Now, consider a world where employees engage in active partnership with their supervisors/managers to figure out the periodically messy dynamics of all that is leadership. So, as opposed to a set of circumstances where managers learn and implement leadership strategies with employees who are basically innocent bystanders, the employees learn and implement the very same leadership strategies in service of organizational productivity and engagement. Because effective leadership is something you don’t do to people — it really and truly is something you do with them. And, that is so much easier to pull off when you are literally speaking the same language.


  1. Identify a set of circumstances where you are being overled (Case I) or underled (Case II) and answer the following questions:
    1. What is the specific task or activity you are responsible to perform?
    2. Are you currently performing that task at a sustained and acceptable standard?
      1. Are you confident? Committed? Motivated?
    3. What, specifically, could your supervisor/manager be doing differently?
  2. Approach your supervisor or manager, discuss your assessment and contract for a more effective leadership style!