People management is singularly one of the toughest gigs around. It is equal parts challenging and rewarding, positive and negative – sometimes all in the same day. Over the last 20 years, I have worked under, alongside and utilised a multitude of management styles, some great, some not so great and some downright horrendous, what I have learned however is what a good management style is.
A good management style is one that is flexible, meaning the manager can adapt to the individuals within their team and adopt more than one management style to suit the person they are managing. This skill, and it is a skill, allows a manager to tailor their approach and in the process develop a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship, giving each individual a comfortable, productive and inclusive work environment.
Below is a list of the 6 management styles I have experienced in the workplace, can you recognise any of them?
When a team member does something wrong the fixer comes into their own, because the fixer does just that, fixes things – for everyone. This sounds great right, what a fantastic trait, but it’s not. The problem with the fixer is they never let their team deal with the ramifications of bad decisions or stuff-ups, and as a result they never learn and grow. The fixer will also display traits similar to that of the martyr (see below). If you are a fixer practice stepping back, help your team member address the problem and workshop its solutions. Fixing everything is not doing anyone any good.
Oh where would the office be without the martyr? They come in when they are sick, stay back when it’s not necessary, take on extra work when they are already struggling and are the first to *sigh* before they move into telling everyone what they had to do to complete a project, fix an error or pick up the slack from someone else. Martyr’s take everything on board under the guise of ‘it’s no problem’ then proceed to tell everyone what they had to do. Martyrs exist across all levels of the business, but as manager’s they can be destructive as they will often rob a subordinate of the opportunity to fix issues, complete projects or claim glory because they will have already stepped in and done it – while sick. If you are a martyr take a look around and see what impact your are having on the team. Ask yourself, do you really need to be taking everything on in order for projects to get completed. If the answer is yes, then you need to address the issues within your team that is making that the case and fix it. If you don’t, you will burn out and be of no use to anyone.
The Know-it-all (also called the bore)
Everyone loves a know-it-all, don’t they? The know-it-all manager, regardless of how old they are absolutely knows everything about their company, job and industry, and the person over there’s company, job and industry – annoyingly they are not afraid to let you know. There’s nothing they haven’t experienced, worked on or succeeded in and as a result, they will try to dictate how you do your job, because ‘trust me, I know’. They devour industry journals to keep up to date with the latest trends and they can rattle of a case study on anything in under 60 seconds, usually it’s all top line, but that doesn’t matter because at least they’ve established that ‘they know’. Amazingly, the know-it-all manager also appears to have worked on every single project that has ever happened within their industry, even if you work out afterwards, they would’ve been six years old at the time. The problem with know-it-all managers is that most of the time the information they are walking around with in their head is invaluable, this is particularly so if they have gained said knowledge through hands on experience. It’s just that they don’t know when to stop. Know-it-all managers run the risk of leaving their team feeling stifled as they fail to understand the balance of guidance through experience and letting the team learn for themselves.
If this sounds like you, be measured in your doses of know-it-all-ness. It’s great to be able to offer your team knowledge but you also need to be mindful of how and when you offer it up. Instead of pummelling them with information, invite them into your knowledge bank by using phrases such as, ‘I once worked on a project like that and there were some great key learning’s from it, if you’d like to hear about it let me know’ or ‘I read an article about exactly that just last week, I’ll leave it on your desk’. Allow your team member to be engaged with what you are about to say by giving them the choice of when and how they receive it.
I have worked under two helicopters during my career. This type of manager is the office version of the helicopter parent, buzzing around their team making sure everything is ok. Whilst they may come across as ‘hands on’ the helicopter manager is one of the worst managers you can find, as not only are they oblivious to how destructive their behaviour can be on a team, they genuinely think their behaviour is great. If called on it, Helicopter managers will blame the team for making them behave that way because in their eyes ‘they can’t make a decision for themselves’ or ‘they don’t keep me in the loop’. You will often hear them tell their own manager, ‘my team rely on me so much, they wouldn’t make a decision without me’. Helicopter managers are control freaks who need to ‘be across’ everything their team does, the minute they do it. Their idea of hell is leaving the room and someone makes a decision. This behaviour usually stems from a problem with trust – both within themselves and those around them. If this sounds like your management style, you need to embark on a journey of self-reflection. Ask yourself why you feel the need to control everything and everyone. Then deal with it.
The Arm’s Length
The polar opposite of the helicopter manager, the arm’s length manager can be so distant it makes you question whether they actually manage you or not. This manager will let their team fend for themselves, checking in with them every so often to ensure they are still alive. They seem focussed on their own deliverables and essentially trust their team so much they just let them get on with it. To some this could be the best manager in the world, but for others it can be as distressing as having a helicopter over your shoulder, worryingly the managing at arm’s length tactic could be a warning sign that the person in the role is just not comfortable managing people, thereby using it as an avoidance tactic. To be an effective arms-length manager, you need to have an astute ability to read the mood of the team and know when to step back into the frame to guide and manage, after all that’s what a manager’s job is.
The Power Tripper
We’ve all witnessed the power tripper in action, every office has one. They have the title manager on their business card and they believe this gives them permission to behave like a pompous twit. The power tripper barks orders, berates staff publicly, constantly reminds subordinates that they are beneath them and will undermine team members by withholding information or excluding them because they are juniors. They don’t manage, they dictate and unfortunately the power tripper can at times cross the line into becoming a complete bully. They may believe this is how to manage, particularly if that is how they were managed early in their career. These managers often get away with their behaviour because their staff turnover will be huge, meaning no one is addressing it with them or the organisation. The power tripper often meets one of two fates – they will be exposed and dealt with or they will grow up and realise their management style needs some work. This is what happened with the one I worked with.