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- Management styles are the patterns of behavior people use when they hold management positions. These patterns of behavior include how they communicate, make decisions, supervise, and motivate. There's a range of management styles and all are a blend of three key behaviors. Task direction, decision making, and relationship building. Task direction is when the manager tells the employee what to do, as well as when, where, and how. This may involve teaching and training as well as directives and instructions. Decision making is the extent to which the manager involves employees in the decision making process.
This exists on a continuum. At one end, employees have no involvement at all, and at the other end the manager delegates decision making completely to the employees. Relationship building is how the manager forms a relationship with each employee as well as creates the work environment or culture for the team as a whole. It includes coaching, motivating and engaging employees, open communication, and respect. Let me walk through the most common management styles. I've included a handout in the exercise files so you can read more about each profile.
I've coined the first style "The Director." This manager wants to be in charge so controls all aspect of decision making. They provide a lot of task direction and are often seen as micro-managers. Directors don't engage much in relationship building although they can be cordial. A hallmark phrase is, "Do what I say." This autocratic style is appropriate when employees have very low levels of skill or initiative, or when the organization is in a crisis and needs immediate change. However, The Director ultimately does harm to the organization, because employees are not motivated and don't get opportunities to develop.
The second style is "The Consultant." This manager still maintains control of decision making, but knows that relationship building is important so consults with employees to gain their input. Employees can feel more engaged with this style, if the consulting is genuine. Consultants still provide task direction, but allow low levels of autonomy. The phrase for this style is, "I value your input." This style works well with employees who are growing in their skills or confidence, but not yet to the level where they can handle complex tasks on their own.
Third, you have "The Consensus Builder," who manages democratically. This manager genuinely seeks input and feedback from all sides. They focus on what's best for the group as a whole, so often make decisions based on majority preference or consensus. The phrase here is, "What do you think?" The downside of this style is that they may take too much time seeking input, or ignoring the best decision, in favor of the choice that has the most support. Fourth, you have "The Coach." This manager focuses on creating a highly productive and motivated staff.
They provide both training as well as encouragement to grow. They often create a fun and positive work environment with lots of team building and social activities. The hallmark phrase is, "How can I support you?" This style is great for mid to high performers. But coaches can stumble if they have poor performers or difficult employees who don't respond to their encouragement. The fifth style is "The Visionary." This manager has an exciting vision and they're good at inspiring or persuading others to get onboard. Often they're great at strategic thinking but not so good with tactical skills.
This manager is exemplified by the phrase, "Follow me!" To thrive under this style, employees need to be independent because they have to figure out the day-to-day work for themselves. "The Delegator" is the sixth style. This manager uses a very hands off or Laissez-faire approach to management. They turn over almost complete control to their team, stepping in only when necessary. This style only works well with high performing employees. The phrase here is, "You've got this." Delegators have to remember that while they may be able to hand over task performance and decision making, they must continue to build relationships.
The last style is called "The Narcissist," and it's actually the most harmful style, with very few redeeming qualities. The narcissist maintains control by providing a lot of task direction and no decision making. They engage in relationship building but only to garner favors or support, abruptly dropping people when it no longer suits their needs. This person is very self-centered, but they can still be likable, often even charming. But they rule with an iron fist, using punishments from firing to petty retaliations to keep people in line.
People under them are in fear so they cannot speak up or seek help. Often once this person leaves or is let go, a whole series of shocking information comes to the surface. To know if you have this most toxic kind of boss, look for high turn over, or a boss that takes all the credit for their team's successes, and blames their team for any failures. As you review these styles, think about which styles you've experienced as an employee. What impact did the styles have on your productivity, motivation, and loyalty to the organization? Also, consider which style is most like you.
We all tend to have a favorite or natural style that we use the most.
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