Treat Your Team Like the Adults They Are

Integrity defined: Doing what is good, right and proper even at personal cost.

It’s amazing what happens when you treat people like adults. They tend to behave that way! Unfortunately, instead of expecting Integrity, a micromanager settles for enforcing Integrity. In too many situations, leaders micromanage their team’s decisions and find out that their team has been hiding things from them. The sad outcome is this: A leader’s lack of trust in the people they lead can create the exact behaviors the leader is trying to avoid.

In my twenty-year career in the corporate world, I had multiple opportunities to take over established teams. Early in my tenure, I sometimes caught a good person in a lie. But the truth was, they weren’t always outright lies. For example, they might simply neglect to tell me when they took personal time. Either way, however, they made a choice which damaged their Integrity, and therefore it damaged trust between us.

I realized it was my Duty to give them clarity on what Integrity I expected from them. I decided I would treat them like adults. I let them know, “If you have to leave early to drive to an away soccer game for your kid, that is fine. All I ask, is to let me know. If you need to do a few personal errands in the middle of the day—also just let me know. Or if you need to take a half day to catch up on admin, we can make that work too. Just do one thing—let me know.”

An amazing thing happened when I trusted their Integrity without micromanaging their decisions. They actually handled their freedom with Integrity.

When we expect Integrity, we rarely need to enforce it. Anytime they called me to let me know they needed time off, I never told them, “No.” There was no need to. Why? Because they were already making good decisions. I’ve been happy to say, based on my experience, that those who are given trust, act with Integrity and still get their work done.

This Integrity went one step further within the team as a whole. The team began to hold each other accountable. I’d hear stories about peers challenging someone else’s work ethic. Because of my trust in them, my role became simpler due to shared accountability. There were only a few occasions, when individual team members let me know someone on the team had an Integrity issue. That was when I stepped in and did my Duty by enforcing the Integrity we all expected from each other.

When a leader makes the choice to trust the people on the team, those people tend to follow suit. Micromanaging often feeds the fire and creates the problems the leader is trying to avoid. Conversely, when people are given the freedom to make decisions, those decisions create an environment where trust flourishes because Integrity is expected—not just enforced.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • How can you hit the reset button and move from enforcing to expecting?

  • Why do micromanagers create the problems they are trying to avoid?

Exercising Integrity takes work and is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Integrity daily, which is why we have created FREE tools and resources to guide your journey.


To make it easy to keep the definition of Integrity visible on your screens and devices, we would like to share our FREE Integrity backgrounds for desktop and mobile available for download at: https://www.becomingaleaderofcharacter.com/tools-resources

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