Believe, But Not Too Much

What It Takes to Be A Facilitative Manager – Part 1: Believe, But Not Too Much

By Oliver W. Cummings


Feedback from my previous blog post: Facilitative Leadership and the Middle Manager’s Relationship Hierarchy.

Bill asked: Considering the eagerness of emerging leaders to take on more responsibility and move into the rank of middle management, how long is the typical journey up the pyramid? Months? Years?

This is a good question and I have no precise answer.

As I see it, the journey is dependent on two main factors:

In my own experience, I have had many relationships develop to the trust level and some to a level of confidence over the course of just a few months. It has usually taken a lot of common experience with each other and typically more than a year to get to a mutuality of interests level.

The most important factors, I think, are authenticity and integrity on both sides.

I appreciate the feedback I receive on these posts and will try to include some of the comments – whether in agreement, additive to the idea, or critical – to the subsequent posts.

My next several posts focus on some of your primary musts and some related cautions when you behave as a facilitative manger.

Necessary—but not sufficient—traits that make for effective management include: decision-making ability; assertiveness and motivation to achieve; social sensitivity; emotional stability; and appropriate self-reliance and courage levels. In addition to exhibiting these characteristics, the facilitative manager will:

  • Believe, but not too much
  • Care, but not too much
  • Feel, but not too much
  • Foster trust, but not too much
  • Demonstrate what you can’t have too much of: Integrity

Each of these balancing acts is important to establish and enhance your working relationships with your subordinates. I will address them in turn in following posts.


I believe that people, given a non-coercive environment, will develop toward and behave in a positive manner. Employees in general want to do the right thing in their work. Or, as one of my management colleagues (a trained Adlerian Psychologist) liked to say, “Nobody gets up in the morning, stretches real big, and says ‘Ahh, I believe I’ll go out and really f***- up today.’”

Given this premise, poor or inappropriate behaviors arise from a lack of understanding or misinterpretation of circumstances or from external pressures that drive the behavior and not from “bad seed” or flawed human nature.

Holding this philosophical belief makes it easier for me to see and acknowledge the good things another does. It makes me just slightly slower to judge another’s mistake or omission as malicious.

What a positive belief does is set a tone in which aspects of judgment, establishing causes for problems, monitoring performance, and giving feedback can be handled in more constructive, facilitative ways. As greater focus on facilitative management around issues is achieved, a less stressful environment within which to work is created – a win for everyone.

Management research over the past several years has shown that collaborative relationships, committed employees, and recognition of a mutuality of interests between managers and employees all generally contribute to higher overall performance and more collegial interactions on the job.

The alternative philosophy to the one espoused above suggests that people must be controlled into good behavior. It promotes relationships based:

  • more on direction (or, often, coercion) than on collaboration;
  • more on compliance than commitment; and
  • more on position power than on mutuality of interests.

And, that is a heavy burden for any manager to carry.

But Not Too Much

There are elements in every human work environment that can get in the way of an individual’s positive development being reflected in their work behaviors. Therefore, don’t believe too much.

By the time a person reaches working age it is possible that their experience has impaired their ability to appropriately interpret some circumstances. You may initially believe in their motives, but when their on-the-job behaviors are counterproductive, you must deal with the behaviors. Doing so on a timely basis is important. So, you should not let your initial beliefs delay your decisions too long.

You must measure and motivate; and direct (or re-direct) as well as plan and organize as a facilitative manager. How you go about that is important and the higher your relationships are on the Manager’s Relationship Hierarchy the easier it will be for you to deal with the issues that arise.

Next time: Care, but not too much.

What is your belief about human nature (tendency to do good or do bad)?

In what ways does your belief about human nature impact your behavior in your job?

What might cause a manager, who believes people are fundamentally good, to fail to act when a person exhibits bad behavior on the job?

Reader Interactions


  1. mindprep says

    It seems to me that teaching is a possible “missing link” in many leadership skills sets. Is there a responsibility for middle managers to see themselves as teachers?

    • Oliver says

      Absolutely. More broadly than teaching, development of the staff members is a concern for any top middle manager. This can include direct teaching, and should include direct involvement in critical training, such as a unit-level orientation program for new staff. And also, should involve a host of other things like: helping them plan, select and attend relevant training; making assignments that are aimed at developing their skills and other key relationships; and providing them with ongoing feedback and coaching.
      One task of the facilitative manager is to prepare successors, not just for positions in their unit, but for their own position, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *