You ask the questions, and host Zach White answers! Enjoy the fourth edition of our fan-favorite Q&A series.
In this episode, you asked me about what to do when you have a micromanaging boss (who kills your motivation), and how to provide bigger value to the company (when your boss has no projects for you to tackle right now).
Thank you to Hadi, a Principal Engineer in Aerospace, and Sean, a Systems Engineer in Automotive, for sending me your questions!
So press play and let’s chat… it’s time to get some answers.
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The Happy Engineer Podcast
WATCH EPISODE 076: Q&A #4 WITH ZACH WHITE | DEALING WITH A MICROMANAGER BOSS WHO KILLS YOUR MOTIVATION | HOW TO ADD MORE VALUE IN YOUR ROLE RIGHT NOW
LISTEN TO EPISODE 076: Q&A #4 WITH ZACH WHITE | DEALING WITH A MICROMANAGER BOSS WHO KILLS YOUR MOTIVATION | HOW TO ADD MORE VALUE IN YOUR ROLE RIGHT NOW INTERVIEW WITH ZACH’S DEBRIEF
DEALING WITH A MICROMANAGER BOSS WHO KILLS YOUR MOTIVATION | HOW TO ADD MORE VALUE IN YOUR ROLE RIGHT NOW
You ask the questions, and host Zach White answers!
Enjoy the forth edition of our Q&A series for engineering career growth and leadership.
Question #1 – How to Deal with a Micromanager
From Hadi, a principal engineer in aerospace.
“My boss is micromanaging me and it makes it hard for me to do my job. Plus it’s frustrating and it kills my motivation. How do you handle a micromanaging leader?”
This is a really powerful question. Let’s dig in.
First, I’ll share a principle that comes into play in the problem of micromanagement and in other aspects of work and life.
The self-fulfilling belief cycle.
Hadi first and foremost believes her boss is micromanaging her. There are a lot of thoughts that come with that belief:
- Do you not trust me?
- Do you not understand the capabilities that I bring to the table?
- Do you not realize that you’re suffocating me, that I’m not able to do my best work?
Well, in our lives, our beliefs trigger actions.
What we believe will change what we do.
So let’s take this example and play it out.
If somebody’s micromanaging me and I believe that you’re a micromanager and that you’re annoying and frustrating me and that you’re the source of problems and pain in my life, what type of actions are going to flow from those thoughts?
Well, I can tell you some examples from clients I’ve worked with.
We start avoiding our boss because I don’t want them.
They don’t want to check their emails when their boss sends them because they’re dreading that next set of micromanaging questions they want answers to.
They might even screen their call on their phone because they don’t have time for their shenanigans.
But here’s the thing, your actions become the fuel for other people’s beliefs. That’s the self-fulfilling belief cycle.
Your beliefs become your actions. Your actions reinforce or create other people’s beliefs. And other people’s beliefs become their actions and their actions reinforce your beliefs.
Next thing I’ll share is an idea to combat someone’s micromanagement tendencies.
One of the things that most people do when they’re being micromanaged is resist it.
They want to somehow break that pattern quickly and tell their boss to stop doing it.
But what if you gave your leader so much information and so many updates that he actually had nothing else to ask you?
Rather than resist and pull away, which tends to reinforce your boss’ need for asking more and more questions, what if you went to your leader and said, “Hey boss, I know you had a bunch of questions today.”
“I know you wanted to be involved in this, so here’s what I was thinking.”
“How about I send you two reports a day of how the project is going, I’m going to include you on my summary call at the end of the day. And if there’s anything else that you need from me, I want you to tell me what that is. I’m going to make sure you get it right away.”
That’s a really powerful way to switch the energy around this is to actually go the opposite direction. Double down.
You don’t want to do it, but if you do it for a little while, all the energy that micromanaging will dissipate.
And then we can find a regular pace, a new normal, around something different.
And here’s the other benefit, when you start doing that, now you build some relationship bank account credit.
So I can go back to my boss and say, “Hey, I just want you to know this isn’t working for me all the time to be updating you at this cadence.”
Question #2 –
From Sean, a systems engineer.
“Hey Zach, this is Sean. My question is how do you provide value for your position where there’s not much work to be done? I’m currently in a position where I’m working remote and my job is, I wanna say, pretty laid back because there’s work to be done, but not yet there cuz the contract’s not awarded yet. So for me to provide value for the company, I don’t really have anything to put that motivation behind. And I’ve asked my boss a couple times on what to do, and he says, Well, just focus on this and that, well, we’re not awarded that yet. So it just kind of keeps me going, well, what can I do?”
If I’m in Sean’s shoes and I’ve got capacity, I’ll just tell you where Zach White would go.
First thing I would do if I’m absolutely certain that there’s nothing I need to deliver for my projects and my role in the company is I’m going to get focused on personal development.
Where do I need to grow? What are my gaps? This could be doubling down sessions with my mentors. It could be doing some networking inside the company or maybe networking external to the company to have those conversations.
I’m hiring that coach who I haven’t been able to invest into myself before.
The best return on investment is when you invest in yourself. There is an unlimited ROI.
The other thing that I would do if it’s me is give myself the grace and the permission to simply do less for a season.
While I totally love Sean’s heart, there’s another truth that everybody has experienced, that life isn’t a straight line. It ebbs and flows.
If you’re in one of those times that is slow, give yourself permission to simply enjoy that.
Invest in those kids, take care of your wife, take care of yourself, your health, your mental health. Double down on those meditations, the exercise, all those things. Give yourself the grace and permission to do that.
Because Sean, at the end of the day, you’re gonna be busy again at work. Soon enough, those projects are gonna get awarded.
ABOUT ZACH WHITE
Zach White is known around the world for changing the game in career coaching for engineering leaders. He has worked with hundreds of leaders at all levels from top technology companies worldwide including Facebook (Meta), Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, to industry leaders like General Motors, Nike, Lockheed Martin, Whirlpool, and many more to escape burnout and achieve breakthrough results.
Zach is the Founder and CEO of Oasis of Courage, known as OACO, a fast-growing company with unique and proven coaching programs exclusively for engineers. He also hosts a top rated show, The Happy Engineer Podcast, where listeners discover the steps to engineering success through expert interviews and Zach’s own transformational framework, the Lifestyle Engineering Blueprint.
As a coach for engineering leaders, Zach understands the journey first hand, holding a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, and a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. With over a decade of experience and top performance in a $20B organization, he is now a sought-after coach by engineering leaders around the world.
Zach is affectionately known as the World’s Best Lifestyle Engineer, and your coach.
Connect with him online and schedule a call to build your career, balance your life, and BE HAPPY!
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Dr. Daniel’s Website
- Dr. Daniel on Instagram
- Dr. Daniel on Facebook
- Do you want help getting un-stuck and advance your engineering career? Book a FREE Career Clarity Call now!
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.
[00:00:00] Zach White: All right! Happy engineer, welcome back. Zach White here, and it’s one of my favorite kinds of episodes. Q and A number four. And you know what that means? It means my good buddy and the man behind the magic Daniel Powell back for another round. Daniel, what’s up, man?
[00:00:18] Daniel Powell: How are you doing today, Zach? I’m excited about today because, uh, I got a question for you.
Expand to Read Full Transcript
[00:00:24] Zach White: What?
[00:00:25] Daniel Powell: We’re gonna get into that in a minute though. But, uh, you know how we always like to start these episodes off with our wins.
[00:00:32] Zach White: Come on. Celebration time.
[00:00:34] Daniel Powell: Do we have any wins out there that we need to celebrate?
[00:00:37] Zach White: Always, always win. Daniel. Well, let me
[00:00:40] Daniel Powell: let, let me interrupt you first. I think we need to celebrate a win here because I’ve heard that the Happy engineer Facebook community has just surpassed 500.
[00:00:51] Zach White: That is true. That is true, man. Yeah. A lot of listeners of the podcast here have joined the group. We got a bunch of people who found us through Facebook and yeah, the Happy Engineer community over 500 and still growing fast. We’re pushing to that thousand mark. So if you’re not in the happy engineer listening, it’s time.
[00:01:10] Daniel Powell: That’s amazing,
[00:01:12] Zach White: the group.
[00:01:13] Daniel Powell: That’s amazing. When, people come together, from common walks of life, it’s just amazing the wisdom and knowledge that gets gets transferred. So you’re experiencing that within this group.
[00:01:23] Zach White: It’s really starting to get traction. Uh, you know, I’ll be honest, Daniel, Facebook’s not my favorite thing in the world, but I do love the opportunity to connect with people and get that blend of our professional goals and what we’re doing in our careers with a little bit of the fun of seeing each other’s social lives and those things.
[00:01:42] Of course, you. Always control what you share, but it is awesome. I love the group and we’ve got a lot more value coming that we’re gonna do for free in there. So if you love the podcast, join the group. It’s like podcast on steroid.
[00:01:55] Daniel Powell: Awesome. All right, Well, enough about OACO. Let’s get into, let’s get into some, uh, client listener wins. Let’s, let’s hear.
[00:02:02] Zach White: Absolutely. I couldn’t be happier for Justin, one of our clients who just landed a dream opportunity at Amazon, right in the zone of his technical genius, and something he’s been reaching for for a while, creating a whole new division around some brand new technology. Can’t talk about it here on the air, but Justin, you’re crushing it.
[00:02:22] Congratulations. Well done. pretty cool. Last time on q and a three. We celebrated Anthony getting a job at AWS and now Justin with his opportunity there at Amazon. So well done folks. My man, David. David received his second promotion since we started working together. This guy’s totally crushing it. 21 months apart between promotions and right in the middle of a hiring and promotion freeze.
[00:02:48] So for everybody out there who’s saying, Well, I can’t get a promotion right now because my company’s in a hiring freeze. guess. That’s only if you believe that that’s the case. David just proved that that’s not always true. And then I’ll give you one more. I know we could go all day with this, uh, but Kara, Kara stepped up with the courage to ask a VP of engineering who she really admired and really wanted to connect with.
[00:03:14] She had that boldness to go ask for the opportunity to connect one-on-one and receive that mentorship and support from her. That VP said yes. And for Kara that was a huge moment because she’s always been hesitant to reach out to those high level leaders because I don’t wanna bother that person. They don’t have time for me.
[00:03:34] Well, guess what? When you have the courage and you step in, you can make things happen. So kudos to Kara for living with courage, crushing comfort. That is the happy engineer lifestyle. I love it.
[00:03:46] Daniel Powell: I love that one man, cuz that’s not just a promotion that’s like rocket fuel for her whole journey, right? That’s gonna be amazing. All right, I wanna get into a, a question that I have for you or maybe a, a statement, curiosity. We’ll see how this goes. So in Q and A three, we talked about your morning routine,
[00:04:07] Zach White: Mm.
[00:04:08] Daniel Powell: and one of the things you mentioned about your morning routine is I think you have some affirmations that you definitely say, and you also have some that you recorded for yourself that you listened to.
[00:04:20] Is that.
[00:04:21] Zach White: That’s correct. Yeah.
[00:04:21] Good memory,
[00:04:23] Daniel Powell: So at the time I was like, Zach, you know, I love doing yoga, you know, YouTube, yoga videos, but when it gets to the affirmation point, I’m just like, I don’t need that. I’m just gonna go work. Why would I do that? But little update here is I stole one of your affirmation, Zach, and that affirmation was, I am safe and I trust the process of life.
[00:04:49] Ooh. So full disclosure, I haven’t said that out loud. I’ve just been repeating that in my mind.
[00:04:56] Okay. And I got the tingles when I said that out loud, right? So that had a, a physiological effect on me. But that just speaks to what it’s been doing in my brain. It’s like every time I’ve said that affirmation to myself, maybe five or 10 times, just as I’ve been out for a walk in the. I just feel so safe, focused and aligned, and I’ve been very impressed at how much my, my thoughts can affect my conscious mind
[00:05:28] Zach White: Absolutely
[00:05:29] Daniel Powell: and going from worry and concern just to like safety and just ready to crush it. So this, this whole thing I’ve got a two part question for you here. The first is give me some more of your affirmations cause
[00:05:45] Zach White: right. All right. He wants some more. Okay. We could do that.
[00:05:49] Daniel Powell: and uh, after that I want to hear about how, what goes into crafting a good affirmation, but first hit me with some more year affirmations.
[00:05:58] Zach White: Yeah. So first of all, I love that you stole that and are using it and everybody. Can steal shamelessly from a good affirmation. It doesn’t have to be totally custom for you. If it resonates and it, it’s something that supports you, take it and use it. But why don’t I actually share with you just a continuation how that affirmation you just shared finishes for me, because there’s a little more to it and then you can execute this in your own world, Daniel, and and build on it.
[00:06:28] But for one, I trust the process of life, exactly what you said. I love that piece. I am safe. Here’s what I do. At the end of that one, all I need is always taken care of.
[00:06:43] Daniel Powell: Hmm.
[00:06:43] and those three go together for me every time. So I actually, really cool that you primed me with those first two, cuz now I’m, I’m just right there in my morning.
[00:06:51] Zach White: I’m thinking about these, you know, I trust the process of life. I am safe. All I need is always taken care. And for me, that just amplifies that idea of safety and what that represents in my life. And when I take a big, bold, courageous risk in my business, I know that success or failure, all I need is always taken care of when I need to go have a tough conversation with someone who I love, or maybe a colleague or someone on my team here at o. I know no matter what happens, all I need is always taken care of, that clears the air of a lot of fear and allows me to step into situations with more boldness, more courage. You can tack that right on to what you’re already doing. I trust the process of life. I am safe and all I need is always taken care.
[00:07:47] Daniel Powell: So do you have some others that you’d like to.
[00:07:49] Zach White: A lot of my other affirmations begin very simply with the words I am, and you can fill in the blank. So there are a lot that I come back to, and I also use that as a simple template. Getting into your second part of the question, because if I was gonna say, Daniel, what are the most important words in the English? It’s whatever words you place after I am, because that shapes your identity and your image and identity is so critical to who we become and therefore what we do and the results we get in life. So one example right now is that I am leaning into the identity statement that I am an eight figure. I am an eight figure entrepreneur.
[00:08:41] I am an eight figure ceo, which Oaco is growing fast, but we’re not at eight figures yet. We’re not even close to that, and for me, declaring that in the present tense, I am an eight figure ceo, starts to shape my thinking when it comes time to make a decision in the business. Now I’m asking myself both consciously and more importantly, subconscious.
[00:09:07] What would an eight figure CEO do in this situation? What would Zach, the eight figure CEO do in this situation? Because if that’s what I wanna become, then that’s how I need to begin thinking right now. And so that’s one that I’ve been using a lot. I use them in my personal life. I’ll say, you know, I am a loving and compassionate husband.
[00:09:29] I am a caring and considerate son. You know, I think about the roles that I play in life, a lot of times I add lib around those, you know, I am. you know, a generous leader. I am a courageous leader, and I just riff like, where do I need to focus energy with those I am statements and I’ll spend a lot of time with that and use those as affirmations as well.
[00:09:50] Sometimes Daniel, when I’m doing that ad living and I’m just letting it flow, then one of them will really resonate that morning. It’s like, Ooh, that one that I just said, that’s the one for the day, and I’ll write it down. Maybe I’ll write it down 10. And then put it on a sticky, bring it with me. for those who are on, the YouTube channel, you can see I got my sticky right here.
[00:10:09] I keep it right on my monitor every day, whatever, you know, statement I’m leaning into. So there you go. I am an eight figure entrepreneur right here in front of me.
[00:10:18] Daniel Powell: That’s amazing. I am. Okay. I, I just love that because in my entrepreneurial journey, like that’s what I’m finding too, is that like if you bank the confidence. from success, then you can move to that next step so much easier.
[00:10:35] So I feel like this is banking the confidence that you can make it to the next step and exceed that next step. Yeah,
[00:10:44] Zach White: and if you think about what may pop in for you when you say, I am, fill in the blank. You know, if you say something like, Well, I am a total rookie
[00:10:55] Daniel Powell: Hmm.
[00:10:55] Zach White: and I don’t know what I’m doing. let’s be real, Daniel, That might seem true to you today. That might feel like the actual truth, but the fact is, That’s not what you need in your life to get to the next level.
[00:11:09] And if you focus on that, then that’s what you’re gonna get more of. And I’ve talked on this podcast a lot of times about the importance of focus, where your focus goes, that’s where your energy flows. So do you want the energy of your life to reinforce the belief that I’m a total rookie and I’m no good at this, or I don’t know what I.
[00:11:30] Of course not. Like you don’t want more of that. You want, I am confident and I am consistently growing and learning, and I’m getting better every day. Okay. That’s also true. And it’s way more empowering to who you need to become for the future. So being intentional with these, it’s about more than just, feel goods in the moment.
[00:11:51] It’s about making sure your focus is automatically flow. To the places that are gonna have the highest leverage moving you towards your goals.
[00:12:01] Daniel Powell: All right, so crafting an affirmation. I love this. I am tip. because When I try to craft an affirmation for myself, I feel like I get this brain fog and I can’t like really think straight, And I feel like my brain wants to devolve and go into the space of, Maybe positioning myself against something I don’t want to be, you know, I am not a failure or something like that. Right. I don’t feel like that’s as helpful as it could be though. Right.
[00:12:35] Zach White: Totally. So I’ll give two other quick tips on crafting an affirmation, for the engineering leader listening right now. I’d really encourage you to experiment with this and start using affirmations in your life. But first tip beyond the I am syntax is always frame your affirmations in the present positive.
[00:12:57] So it’s not, I hope one day to be, It’s not I will become in the future. It’s I am this and it’s not. I am not going to do this bad thing, or I am no longer this thing that I don’t want. That would be a negative focus. It’s I am this positive thing. So it’s not to say I am not afraid. Don’t say that. Say I am courage.
[00:13:26] It’s not, I am no longer weak and scared and confused and whatever. It’s, I am strong and confident and ready. So craft your affirmation statement in the present positive, and then steal shamelessly. Daniel, you said it right at the beginning, like, Oh, Zach, I heard you say that and it works for me. Guess what?
[00:13:48] 90% of my recurring affirmation statements I heard from somebody. Who I really respect, and when they said it, it just connected with my soul. And I was like, Yes, I want that too. I’m taking it right. at the end of the day, there’s nothing new under the sun. A lot of us are seeking the same types of goals.
[00:14:08] So if you don’t know what to say for an affirmation, go find some leaders who you respect. Look at what they’re saying. I guarantee you, you can find thousands and thousands of powerful affirmations online. Just start there, and as you begin using them, then you’re gonna have that mastery and creativity, and you’ll start creating your own authentic, unique affirmations.
[00:14:31] Daniel Powell: Man, I, I am laughing at myself right now cause you say that and I’m like, I could have figured that out. But I feel like that’s like the beauty of having the coaches and whatnot to speak into your life, right? helps you shorten that uh, cycle gives you an outside perspective.
[00:14:49] All right,
[00:14:49] Zach White: I have a coach too, Daniel. We all need a good coach, man.
[00:14:53] Daniel Powell: so let’s get into some listener questions here. Our first question comes from Hai, a principal, engineer, and aerospace. And her question is this, My boss is micromanaging me and it makes it hard for me to do my. Plus it’s frustrating and it kills my motivation. How do you handle a micromanaging leader? Whew,
[00:15:26] Zach White: Micromanagement. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Well, this is a really powerful question and it comes. At all levels. You know, we’ve got individual contributors who are two or three years into their career asking this question, and I have director level clients who have VPs above them who are micromanaging them, asking this question.
[00:15:49] So you don’t get to a point where you can be immune from this one. It often rears its head and haddi, I appreciate the question. Let me address a couple of pieces. First, a princip. That comes into play and I would encourage, you know, Daniel, as you think about this, sometimes you hear a question like this and you only think about micromanagement.
[00:16:12] But I want you to zoom out as I’m talking about this because this principle applies to a lot more than just micromanagement, and it’s called the self-fulfilling belief cycle. how do you believe today that your boss is a micromanager? And my guess is along with those beliefs, Thoughts, some frustrating thoughts like, This is really annoying.
[00:16:32] Do you not trust me? Do you not, uh, understand the capabilities that I bring to the table? Do you not realize that you’re suffocating me, that I’m not able to do my best work? Like this is disengaging. I don’t like this. There’s a lot of pieces that come with that belief. Well, in our lives, our beliefs trigger actions.
[00:16:54] What we believe will change what we. So let’s take this example and play it out. If somebody’s micromanaging me and I believe that you’re a micromanager and that you’re annoying and that you’re bothering me and that you’re frustrating and that you’re a source of problems and pain in my life, what type of actions are going to flow from those thoughts, those beliefs?
[00:17:18] Well, I can tell you some examples from clients I’ve worked with. we start avoiding our boss because I don’t want them, my shorts all the time. Don’t wanna check my emails when my boss sends them, cuz I’m dreading that next set of micromanaging questions they want answers to. I might even screen their call on my phone because I don’t have time for their shenanigans.
[00:17:38] I need to do my work, so I’m dodging their phone calls. these kinds of things can happen sometimes subconsciously you don’t even realize that you’re avoiding that. because they’re a source of pain in your life and in your career. You might even respond with an action of gossiping or talking about it with other people.
[00:17:56] Like, Gosh, can you believe so and so is such a micromanager? This is so annoying. here’s the thing, your actions become the fuel. For other people’s beliefs. So here’s the cycle I mentioned the self-fulfilling belief cycle. Here’s the whole thing. I’ll zoom out. Your beliefs become your actions. Your actions reinforce or create other people’s beliefs.
[00:18:21] And other people’s beliefs become their actions and their actions reinforce your beliefs. So let’s keep going. If Hadi’s out there dodging his. Avoiding his boss, gossiping to other peers about his boss doing these things like screening calls, what do you think his boss is going to believe? how’s screening my calls?
[00:18:42] Howie’s not responding to my emails quickly. Hadi’s acting really frustrated and agitated. I’m not sure what’s going on here. What if something is wrong? What if Hadi’s hiding something from me? What if Hadi needs help? And he’s not telling me. Well, guess what his boss is gonna do? He’s gonna try twice as hard to get in touch with him.
[00:19:00] He’s gonna schedule twice as many meetings and he is gonna ask twice as many questions because he’s got all this uncertainty and he’s picking up all this weird energy from Hatti. What’s going on? And so those actions now do what? Reinforce Howie’s original fear that he’s got this terrible micromanaging boss.
[00:19:18] You can play this out in so many ways. One of like really simple example, Let’s say you believe that you have no value to contribute on the team. You’re new to the team, and you’re not able to contribute value. That’s what you believe. Now you go to a big meeting. What do you do in that meeting? Well, you stay in the corner.
[00:19:37] You don’t speak. You keep your thoughts to yourself because you believe you have nothing to add of value. Well, guess what? Everybody else in that meeting sees your actions. Daniel didn’t contribute. Daniel was just quiet in the corner. What do they believe about Daniel? If that’s what they see?
[00:19:53] Daniel doesn’t have much to say. Daniel doesn’t have much to contribute, so what do they do? They stop inviting you to meetings because you don’t ever contribute. You don’t have much to say. They don’t come ask you for your opinion because you never. What does that tell you? My team never asks for my opinion.
[00:20:08] I don’t get invited to the important meetings. I must have nothing to contribute, and it reinforces your original belief. This plays out in our lives all the time. The self-fulfilling prophecy, or the self-fulfilling belief cycle. So my first and most important insight for you, Adi, with that in mind, is we wanna begin changing our beliefs and being open to the possibility.
[00:20:31] Maybe your boss. Has a compelling, important reason for their behavior. Maybe they don’t actually know how this is affecting you. Maybe they do have a lot of intelligence and a lot of leadership skills in acumen that we’re just not seeing because we’re frustrated by the micromanaging behavior. And what if it were possible to have a really, really constructive and, working relationship with that leader because they do have good intentions.
[00:20:57] They do wanna see you succeed. They’re not out to get you. They’re, they didn’t wake up this morning and their first thought being, How can I make hot’s life miserable today? How can I micromanage hottie today? That probably didn’t happen. And if we can shift that, it’s gonna allow you to show up differently in your own actions, change the way your boss sees and thinks about you, which will then change his actions and we can break the.
[00:21:26] Let me pause there for a second. Daniel, does that make sense? Did I make that clear? Or how could I help? Maybe from your perspective to articulate that. What do you think?
[00:21:33] Daniel Powell: Well, let me rewind here. My, uh, And still a little traumatized of all the different, uh, situations of being micromanaged. So let me recover from that . Um, Okay. So I think what I heard you say is approach it with some curiosity and some grace.
[00:21:53] Zach White: I love that absolutely. Curiosity and
[00:21:57] Daniel Powell: is hard.
[00:21:58] Zach White: which is a totally different mindset and a different belief than my boss is a micromanager and this is a problem and I need to change this now. That’s a very different energy, a different set of beliefs and thoughts to start this from now. I’m sure if I were hotty I’d be frustrated, like, gimme some tactics, tell me what to do.
[00:22:18] Cool principle. I can see how that’s true, but now what, So let me just give a couple of ideas. One of the things that most people do when they’re being micromanaged is resist it. They wanna somehow break that pattern quickly and tell their boss to stop doing it. Well, here’s one thing you can experiment with, with micromanagement.
[00:22:40] Zach White: What if you gave your leader so much information and so many updates? That he actually had nothing else to ask you, rather than resist and pull away, which tends to reinforce your boss’s need for asking more and more questions. What if you went to your leader and said, Hey boss, I know you had a bunch of questions today.
[00:23:05] I know you wanted to be involved in this, so, So here’s what I was thinking. How about I send you two reports a day of how the project is going, I’m gonna include you on my summary call at the end of the day. And if there’s anything else that you need from me, I want you to tell me what that is. I’m gonna make sure you get it right away.
[00:23:22] Now Hot’s probably thinking, what, Are you kidding me? Like I’m trying to stop being micromanaged. You’re telling me to do more? Yeah. Because if we can get our leader to that point where they see. How’s got this under control? I don’t need to keep going in here and ask these questions because he clearly is crushing it. That’s a really powerful way to switch the energy around this is to actually go the opposite direction. Double down. You don’t wanna do it, but if you will do it for a little while. All the energy that micromanaging will dissipate. And then we can find a regular pace, a new normal, around something different. And here’s the other benefit, when you start doing that, now you build some relationship bank account credit, if you wanna call it that. so I can go back to my boss and say, Hey, I just want you to know this isn’t working for me all the time to be updating you at this cadence.
[00:24:17] Can we work together? On how we can make this work differently in the future. But because you went above and beyond to support your leader with what they wanted, right now, you can go ask for that in good faith and they’re going to wanna reciprocate, you can use a great feedback approach like sbi, uh, going off in the weeds here, but situation, behavior impact.
[00:24:40] You know, if you’re giving feedback, engineering leaders use that simple tool situation. What happened? Facts, not emotion. Right. Specific situations, not stories. What was the behavior? Right? Hey, boss, here was the situation. I was in this meeting when this thing happened and here was what you did. The behavior, you threw me under the bus.
[00:25:01] okay, don’t say that, but you know, here’s the behavior and then here’s how that impacted me. Right? It felt like you didn’t trust me or it felt like you took the reins away from me on my project and, uh, you know, really made me feel aged. And I would like to just talk to you about how we can make that better next time.
[00:25:18] Daniel Powell: That sounds great, man. You, you saw me like for the people who are just listening to this, you saw me like squint, like, oh no. Cause I just heard so much potential for, uh, A passive aggressive retaliation. Right? that’s not what at all, what you laid out there. That was just honor.
[00:25:38] like, honor somebody’s fears about, stuff not getting done, the project, not being on track and figure out what they need to feel safe. So maybe they can even realize that their own requests are a. Too much and ask for what they actually need rather than, uh, trying to calm their own fears
[00:26:00] Zach White: I think you said that beautifully. It’s not about passive aggressive, if that’s what you’re feeling, you need to check that ego and that feeling at the door. You’re not gonna be effective with that. respecting them and recognizing that part of our job as engineering leaders is to make every leader around us better.
[00:26:18] That includes your boss. And so if your boss is a micromanage, We wanna be really intentional and, thoughtful about how can I, through my behaviors and actions actually help my boss improve and become a better leader as well. that’s not out of the question, but resisting and disrespecting them is not going to create that outcome.
[00:26:43] Daniel Powell: Now at the risk of spending too much time on this question, I want to take it one level deeper. Zach
[00:26:49] Zach White: All right.
[00:26:50] I had a micromanaging boss about 10 years ago. Okay. And I feel like I still feel the trauma of that experience. So what, uh, what should our engineers do out there if they’re in the same boat? You know, cuz if you got all that, like trauma and baggage underneath the surface, I feel like you gotta unpack that before you can actually deal with the boss in front of you in a reasonable manner and still honor yourself, you know?
[00:27:25] Zach White: Yeah. When you talk about the impact of a past experience that had an acute negative emotion tied to it, A time of deep depression, a time of deep anger, a time of extraordinary frustration. Those things absolutely leave a mark on your subconscious mind. Daniel, that part of you that wants to stay safe. Remembers that micromanagement is not safe. Micromanagement is painful. It’s frustrating. It causes all kinds of negative emotion, and so your subconscious is gonna rear up and cause that response because it knows uhoh. We’ve been here before. We don’t like it here. Run away. Okay, That’s that lizard brain, limbic part of you responding
[00:28:19] To these past points of acute pain in your life. So when you talk about unpacking past trauma, lowercase T or uppercase T, whatever it may be, The honest answer I would have for you is that’s the place to work with a professional who can help you understand how it is impacting your life. and I don’t want in any way to disrespect anyone or say like all traumas are equal, but Daniel, you’re totally right.
[00:28:42] Being in a toxic work environment or having a boss who micromanages you to the point that it drives you crazy or you quit that job or make a, a bold decision, that was really scary. Or something bad happens, like it blows up in the office and it was really embarrassing or whatever. That really does have an effect, and it will make it so much more difficult for someone like HAI to go into this situation with a clear mind and with that positive intention, rather than coming in with this aggression or passive aggressive energy like you described.
[00:29:14] So, Long winded way to say, there is no silver bullet tool for that sort of thing. That’s the domain of grabbing a great coach or a great counselor or therapist, whatever it is that you need to go say, Hey, you know what? There’s some stuff I’ve been through that’s showing up in my present and it’s preventing me from being able to be at my best and I need help with how to navigate that and how to shift my mindset now, but also, From the wound in my past, and that is not a blanket answer.
[00:29:47] It’s very personal. It’s very situational, and every individual, I really do encourage them to go address that head on.
[00:29:54] All right, Zach, so. The happy engineer. Were all about questions, so what question might you encourage HAI to lead with in this situation? Bring it.
[00:30:09] Zach White: Ha. I would ask yourself, How can I influence this relationship in a way where we both get what we need? How can I influence this relationship where we both get what we need? The reason I would go to that question is because we need to know what it is that our boss is actually asking for. You made a comment earlier, Daniel, really wise, but maybe there’s some fear.
[00:30:38] Maybe your boss is uncertain. Maybe your boss is struggling with something. Maybe they’re under immense pressure from their leader. we wanna get really clear about what they need, and also make sure that you can articulate clearly what you need from this relat. And to be successful, to add value to the company and your projects, but taking that radical responsibility and saying, How can I influence this to where we both get what we need?
[00:31:03] Daniel Powell: Bravo. that’s a powerful question. so guess what, Zach?
[00:31:09] Zach White: Talk
[00:31:10] Daniel Powell: We have our first. Listener submitted. It was a video question, but we’re gonna strip the, vi the audio from the video and use it for the podcast. Maybe we should have led with this one. This is, this is monumental. I
[00:31:27] Zach White: is awesome. I’m pumped. I’m pumped. Q and A four. We talked about it in Q and a, one, two, and three that if anybody submits an audio or video question, they were gonna get priority for the show. So our apologies to everybody who emailed in questions you didn’t get picked cuz you didn’t. Go live or send us the audio.
[00:31:46] Daniel, I’m pumped for this. Let’s
[00:31:49] Daniel Powell: so here we go. This is Sean, a systems engineer in automotive, and this is his question
[00:31:58] ” Hey Zach, this is Sean. my question was how do you provide value for your position where there’s not much work to be done? I’m currently in a position where I’m working remote and my job is, I wanna say, pretty slick back because there’s work to be done, but not yet there cuz the contract’s not awarded yet.
[00:32:23] So for me to provide value for the company, I don’t really have anything to put that. Motivation behind. And I’ve asked my boss a couple times on what to do, and he says, We’ll, just focus on this And, well, we’re not awarded that yet. So it just kind of keeps me going, Well, what can I do? It’s, I’m a stay at home dad that gets paid to just watch my kids right now.
[00:32:40] yeah. So , that’s where my question was.
[00:32:47] All right, Zach, so you’re, you’re not a father yet, you haven’t had that opportunity right.
[00:32:54] Zach White: True. That is true.
[00:32:56] Daniel Powell: So I just wanna say as a father,
[00:32:58] I don’t know if you caught that, the the baby monitor in the background,
[00:33:01] Zach White: Yeah, I did hear it the first time too. I couldn’t decide if it was baby monitor or a cat , one or the other. Make a noise to the background. But I love that and I can’t help but wonder, Daniel, how many people listening are gonna think, Wow, I wish I had that question.
[00:33:21] Daniel Powell: Yeah.
[00:33:22] Zach White: home dad getting paid to watch the kids.
[00:33:24] Daniel Powell: No. Well, hey, honor to you shine because that is not an easy job working from home with the baby monitor in the background. That is a, that is a difficult enough life in itself. But onto the question,
[00:33:40] Zach White: You know, and this is the fun part, Dana, about doing this live with you and kind of reacting in the moment. it. Tempting to say like, That’s not even a problem. Like, what are you talking about? That’s like, just enjoy it. But I love this question and it reflects the heart of the kinds of leaders that are a part of the Happy Engineer community.
[00:33:59] You know, I could just pump the brakes and I could hide in the shadows and do less work, and nobody would notice, but that’s not who I am. It’s not who I wanna be. So I also just wanna acknowledge Sean for being the kind of leader who’s asking himself, how do I maximize? A time of my career where there’s not as much work on my plate to the benefit of the company and to my own development and career path.
[00:34:22] So, huge kudos to that, the very first answer that comes to mind for me will sound really almost rudely obvious, but the very first thing I would encourage you to do is go. Let’s go ask that question to all of the stakeholders in your company who can help you answer it. So I know you mentioned Sean already, that your boss, you and he have had this conversation and your boss said, Hey, work on these things.
[00:34:48] But those projects haven’t been awarded yet, so you don’t have the full green light to work on them. Well, who else can we ask? Does your boss have a peer, a a, a neighboring department that you could go talk to and say, Hey, I’ve got a slow time. Where do you all need help? Is there a mentor or a VP level leader that you might have access to that you could set up a half hour call check in and ask them, Hey, what, what’s your pet project?
[00:35:15] Or what aspect of your vision for the company are you seeking to move forward? Is there anything I can do to help move that forward? maybe you have a direct report, somebody on your team that you could step in and provide some relief. For them and, and just really show them that you’re part of the team, that you really care.
[00:35:33] And that just because you have a light load doesn’t mean you’re gonna let everyone else on the team who might be underwater, suffer alone, so to speak. So let’s go ask, just get more curious and ask more people. How can I help? And I’ll tell you the question. What do you need the most help with? That’s a great question to ask anybody in your life when.
[00:35:58] Reconnecting with an old friend. Hey, just curious, what do you need the most help with? You’re talking to your family, you’re talking to your boss, you’re talking to a mentor, a mentee. What do you need the most help with? Is a great question to ask. So Sean, here’s an opportunity to go practice that one.
[00:36:16] Now, if I’m in Sean’s shoes and I’ve got capacity, I’ll just tell you where Zach White would go. First thing I would do if I’m absolutely certain that there’s nothing I need to deliver for my projects and my role in the company is I’m gonna get focused on personal development. Where do I need to grow?
[00:36:36] What are my gaps? This could be doubling down. Sessions with my mentors. It could be doing some networking inside the company or maybe networking external to the company to have those conversations. I normally don’t have time to have. I’m definitely signing up for that course that I haven’t had time to take.
[00:36:56] I’m hiring that coach who I haven’t been able to invest into myself before. This is the time you have capacity. Let’s maximize it for your own development at the end of the. Daniel, you know how passionate I am about this. The best return on investment is when you invest in yourself. There is an unlimited roi.
[00:37:17] You have the most asymmetric return of any investment your ever makes. So Sean, now’s the time, man. Go invest in yourself in that personal development, and for any engineering leader listening right now. Anytime you find yourself with capacity, let’s get curious. What is that thing you need to break through to the next level?
[00:37:35] Go. In the capabilities and the skills that you need in advance of actually that becoming a barrier or a bottleneck in your career. honestly, Daniel, the other thing that I would do if it’s me, is give myself the grace and the permission to simply do less for a season. while I totally love Sean’s heart, that I don’t wanna waste time or energy here, and I wanna add value here.
[00:38:05] There’s another truth that everybody has experienced, that life isn’t a straight line. it ebbs and flows, it’s waves, and after every crest there’s a trough, and after every trough there’s another crest. after an ebb, there’s a flow. And after a flow, there’s an ebb If you’re in one of those times that is slow, give yourself permission to simply enjoy that.
[00:38:29] Invest in those kids, take care of your wife, take care of yourself, your health, your mental health. Double down on those meditations, the exercise, all those things. Give yourself the grace and permission to. Because Sean, at the end of the day, you’re gonna be busy again at work. Soon enough, those projects are gonna get awarded.
[00:38:50] They’re probably gonna be behind schedule because they haven’t already been awarded, and you’re gonna get asked to put in some overtime. So just enjoy it now because there’s gonna be a time later where that’ll come back around. I don’t mean sit on your hands for 20 hours a week, let’s be balanced, but it doesn’t mean you need to be working 50 hours just because that’s how it’s been in the.
[00:39:12] Daniel Powell: so we. Ask the question of those around you, your superiors, your peers, maybe even subordinates. What do you need the most help with? And that, that’s a powerful question, Zach. I just wanna say, asking people that question in my life lately has just changed the way I approach relationships, and that’s, that’s an important question, man.
[00:39:36] Okay. What do you need the most help with? Number. If you can’t find something to do, invest in yourself. Personal growth coaching, what are those things, those books that you might have, uh, been meaning to read that course that you want to
[00:39:50] Zach White: Totally.
[00:39:52] Daniel Powell: Number three. If all this, this is a terrible place to put this.
[00:39:56] If all else fails, enjoy it.
[00:39:59] Zach White: Yeah, Yeah, you’re right. We should probably reverse, reverse the order of these, like
[00:40:05] go ahead and give yourself permission to enjoy it,
[00:40:07] Daniel Powell: We’ll come up with a percentage, 20%, enjoy it. You know, 80% invest in yourself. Something like that.
[00:40:15] Zach White: Yeah, I mean, I’ll say a hundred percent. Enjoy it. Whatever you decide, learn to love and enjoy life. Sean, you know, this is just part of the journey, but, whatever you. Be all in. Give a hundred percent of your effort to that thing. If you’re gonna focus on personal development, be a hundred percent in on that and enjoy it.
[00:40:32] If you’re gonna do some additional yoga and self care and hit the spa, enjoy that
[00:40:39] Daniel Powell: Excellent, Zach. we all love podcasts, right? And we all know it’s true. The, the deeper we get with this, uh, this, this form, the more we love it. And I’m a believer that the more specific and more intimate we get with the conversations. The more value they provide for everyone, the more specific we speak about our experiences.
[00:41:02] So in that spirit, Zach, I want to ask you, what’s been inspiring you lately? You know, as the, uh, engineering coach that you are, the entrepreneur that you are. What’s a question maybe that you’ve been asking yourself or maybe something you’ve read that. Knocked your socks off and got you lit up.
[00:41:25] What do you got for me?
[00:41:27] Zach White: Mm. So I’ll echo that spirit of intimacy and vulnerability and say, First, Daniel, that I really do appreciate that you primed me for this one, because had you asked me this with no preparation totally in the moment, I probably would’ve froze up a bit. Because even for Zach White, as public as I am, and with the number of clients I serve, and all the content we create, There’s a lot of things that I still wanna keep to myself and I don’t share, or I probably would’ve been uncertain.
[00:41:59] What do I wanna give? You know, this amazing happy engineer audience today from my own personal journey. And so full candor, I had a chance to reflect on that this morning cuz you had told me we were gonna ask this question and this is the immediate answer that came. I went back recently to a book that I believe belongs on the bookshelf of everybody who’s passionate about personal growth and development, which means if you are listening to this right now, you are in that category.
[00:42:30] And if you don’t own Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, then I encourage you to get a copy this book for me. Daniel represents one of those top 10 of all time that informs. The real truth behind why coaching creates such transformational change in humans in their performance and in their potential, and how that manifests in their day to day life, where it really counts.
[00:43:01] And so as a coach, of course, that’s a big deal to me. I’m really, really passionate about what’s in here. So let me just share with you a really brief quote directly from the. I’ll explain why this is impacting me personally so much right now. Maxwell Maltz says, The self image is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self image, and you change the personality and the behavior. But more than this, The self image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do. Expand the self image, and you expand the area of the possible area of the possible, in quotes. I’ll read it back really quick.
[00:43:57] I just love this so much. The self-image is the key to human personality and human behavior. When you change the self-image, you change the personality and the behavior, but more than this, the self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do. When you expand the self-image, you expand the area of what is possible for you.
[00:44:19] This concept of self. Is near and dear to my heart right now, Daniel, because Oaco is at a stage where we have a vision for 10 and 100 x growth to impact more and more engineering leaders because we’ve seen the transformational impact it’s having on our clients right now. And I’m so passionate about this and I want nothing more than to see this vision expand for us, to expand our team, our reach. Number of leaders who we can change their lives. Well, as we pursue that vision, I’m bumping up against the limits of my own self image, and I will tie this back in. I didn’t even think about this when you asked me the uh, affirmations question earlier. How cool that these connect? That’s why I’m doing that eight figure entrepreneur affirmation every morning because I realized that I was holding on to an identity a self. That believed that I was still an engineering leader who was super successful in my W2 career days, but who was still just a novice when it came to scaling up my own company as a ceo, I was still a baby beginner at that, and that was hiding in the background. And when I started asking those big questions about what is it going to take to get to the true next level, to impact a hundred times as many leaders with our message and. There was a big blank, Oh no, I’m not ready. I don’t know how to do that. And, and the self image was literally holding me back from what I can and cannot do exactly what Maxwell Maltz was talking about. And I realized, wow, if I don’t shift the image and identity that I have about myself, that absolutely I would not have been given this vision and this passion to go do this work if I didn’t have what it takes to get. I want to get connected to that and make that my default image. If I let this fear-based constrained image that I built through my engineering days, or maybe even as a kid who knows when and where I got there, it doesn’t matter. The fact is that has been limiting what I can do as a ceo, and so we’re making that. And it’s awesome. I say we, I, I am making that change and it’s, it’s really powerful. So that’s what I’m leaning into right now and it’s, it’s a challenge. I don’t wanna make people think it’s like, Oh, you read the book and it just automatically all happens. But I will say when you unlock the power of this one idea that when my image and identity shifts, it literally changes what is possible. That is huge.
[00:47:11] Daniel Powell: Wow,
[00:47:15] Thanks for sharing that.
[00:47:17] I’m inspired, I’m pumped up.
[00:47:20] Zach White: You know. Okay. At risk of this episode being way too long, let me just build on this a little anecdote that if anybody’s not sure, maybe you’ve never read the book or that sounds kind of odd, I want you to think about h. Daniel and I are recording this. It’s the very beginning of November.
[00:47:37] It’s November 3rd. We just had Halloween 2022. if you think about Halloween, what happens? It’s not just little kids putting on costumes, collecting candy. It’s also a perfect example of Maxwell Maltz principle in the real world in real time. So think about this full grown, fully developed professional.
[00:48:02] college degreed adults, , who are out there working and grinding in fields like engineering every single day, one day a year, put on a costume. And when they do, they become a different person for one night. And it’s not just alcohol, okay? So anybody’s gonna say, Oh, it’s cuz they’re drinking. You can go to a wedding where people are drinking and you’ll see strange behavior, but it’s not the same as when they put on that costume of Wonder Woman or Darth Vader or whatever, and they walk around the party all night acting like someone else.
[00:48:47] Zach White: They’ll put on a weird accent. They’ll approach somebody with confidence who they normally would never approach and talk to. They’ll dance the night away when they wouldn’t ever dance at a wedding. When people can see their face, they will behave totally differently for that night because for one night and one night only, they have changed their image from Zach, the ceo or Daniel, the amazing audio genius to I.
[00:49:15] The Joker from the Batman movies and I can walk around and freak people out and talk in this crazy voice and act in these bizarre ways, and it’s totally acceptable. It’s totally fine. Something new becomes possible in an instant for that person because they put on a different costume.
[00:49:35] But here’s the reality. Every day you and I are waking up and putting on our costume. We’re waking up and putting on the identity that we’ve chosen for ourselves or that has been shaped around us. Maybe without our intentions. Some of it might have been put there by our parents, by our neighbors, by our church, by our friends, by our company.
[00:49:59] Zach White: But we’re all doing this. So if we’re gonna end this episode with a powerful question, let me leave you with this one. Who are you pretending to be? Who are you pretending to be? Because at the end of the day, you can choose to be someone else. And are you happy with that? And are there places where, you know what, that’s not actually the you that you wanna see back in the mirror. Who are you waking up and pretending to be?
[00:50:30] See where that question takes you and then gimme a call. Let’s talk about it.
[00:50:35] Daniel Powell: Amazing.
[00:50:36] Zach White: Yeah, man.
[00:50:38] Daniel Powell: All right, Zach, that brings this episode of Q and a, the Q and a number four to a close. It’s been a good one, man,
[00:50:47] Zach White: Yeah, it has. Yeah, it has. I, I, I was not expecting us to get as deep as we did Daniel. I appreciate you. You’re taking me into the heart of the matter, man. This was awesome.