Understanding and fine-tuning your management style

No matter what your management style, there is always room for fine-tuning.

No matter what your management style, there is always room for fine-tuning.

Forbes contributor and longtime corporate manager Victor Lipman recently published the book The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World. He contends that although Type A people have long been regarded as the best managers, many of those hard-driving, competitive characteristics aren’t optimal for directing employees. Type Bs, more reflective, slower to anger and in some ways less competitive, may in fact motivate and manage more effectively.

Of course, for any manager – whether Type A, Type B, collaborative, self-motivated, quick or slow to delegate, with great or so-so social intelligence – supervising people can be a challenge.

As managers, understanding ourselves is the first step to unlocking our best performance. Once we better understand ourselves, we can leverage our management strengths and mitigate our weaknesses. The following examples apply to small business owners as well as team managers in larger companies.

• George, a young, bright and eager researcher, had recently taken on his first management position. Having excelled as a lone wolf, he soon found himself in conflict with the people he was charged with directing. His staff regarded him as condescending and dismissive. Once George became aware of this, he worked to adjust and manage his attitude. Admitting to himself that he did at times consider himself smarter than other people was an important first step, which he eventually followed by 1) not allowing himself to reveal these feelings (even subtly) when they cropped up, and 2) teaching himself to look for and respect a broader range of personal strengths in others (for example, kindness, energy or dedication). In other words, while George had always valued intelligence above all other characteristics in himself and others, as a manager, he needed to look at people in a broader and more compassionate way.

• Miranda had been a manager for nearly three years when she realized she was exhausted. She asked a more seasoned manager to mentor her. The senior manager advised Miranda that she was allowing perfectionism to rule. If Miranda had any concerns that a staff member might not do an outstanding job on a project, she would either micromanage the project or take it over completely. Miranda’s mentor showed her how to back away enough to allow employees to do their jobs as completely as possible, checking in only at specific intervals.

• Jane directed her team well on projects and mission. However, she learned that her close-knit group regarded her as uncaring. She didn’t join them in social events, forgot their birthdays and failed to ask even the occasional “how is your family” question. Jane found a compromise solution. She admitted to the staff that she had been known to forget even her own mother’s birthday, and asked them to keep a calendar of events they wanted to observe as a group, and to give her a heads-up. Jane also marked her online calendar with regular reminders including a bi-weekly “Today, ask someone how they/their family, etc. is doing.” The combination of letting her team know she did indeed care about them, while also admitting to them that reaching out personally wasn’t her greatest strength, healed earlier tensions.

• Diego was conflict averse. As a manager, he hesitated to talk with employees about their performance shortcomings, and thus faced ongoing issues with several staff members. Diego began reading about proactive problem management techniques, and came to recognize the shortfalls of his approach. He then planned how he could summon the nerve to discuss problems with employees. He set aside meeting time with individual employees. To make the meeting easier for everyone, Diego would begin each conversation with a positive. “I’ve appreciated your work on the ABC project, which has helped us keep this customer happy. However, I did want to bring up one aspect of your reporting in this project.” He also asked employees to help him devise solutions to the problems he brought up. His thoughtful and collaborative approach helped Diego with what he considered to be the most difficult part of managing people.

• Rebekah was busy, so much so that managing her equally busy staff was starting to feel like a burden. She found a single tactic that helped. When a staff member approached her with a problem, she asked that person to provide at least one, and possibly two, solutions to the problem. This empowered employees, created more options in dealing with challenges, and freed Rebekah – just a little – to cope with other demands of the day.

All managers tread some common ground, so whatever your area of concern, there are probably great books and articles to reference. In addition, seasoned managers are happy to advise or mentor others. So don’t operate in isolation. There’s help out there!

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Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC, a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for vSALaunch, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B. She’s managed teams since the early eighties – yes, that was so last century. Contact Michelle at michelle@vsamarketing.com.

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