“The art of leadership is the art of convincing people, to accomplish asks assigned to them of their own free will”
Managing people is primarily based on good organization and strict control. Strict standards, tough rules, and consequences form the intended structure that subordinates expect. Then they know what is expected of them, and perform their jobs without unnecessary distractions. They feel safe and are therefore more productive.
On the other hand, management is the people, the mutual relationships and cooperation. Here the most important aspects are mutual understanding, good communication, and a good atmosphere. When we feel that we are accepted and valued at our place of work, we become more e client. A team with good communication can very quickly come up with creative solutions and conflicts are resolved both for the benefit of the company and the needs of the employees.
Thus far, the topic of managing employees has been dominated by two different management styles: autocratic and democratic. The debate has been ongoing since the beginning of the twentieth century between these two extreme camps: Taylorists and behavioral schools, both promoting completely opposed views on how to manage human resources. In relation to these approaches, McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y were developed.
According to Theory X, workers are lazy by nature and will take any opportunity to avoid performing their duties, and the only way to motivate them is through strict control and harsh consequences. Theory Y shows workers in a far more optimistic manner: they are committed, ambitious, and like to work, assuming they have the right conditions. This requires a more elastic approach from a manager, where understanding your people and good communication are key.
In practice, however, we come to see that this is not everything. Just as there is no one key which opens all doors, one style of management does not suit all employees. In such a way, the situational management approach was conceived. It shows there are four varied management styles, where each one is appropriate, based on the maturity level of the employees.
Four varied management styles
Instructional style (Imperative) – works great when dealing with employees who are just starting their job or have very low qualifications. Here what checks out are: clear rules, strict procedures and systematic instructions which allow the employee to get into the scheme of things and, through minor successes, systematically increase their commitment and e ciency on the job.
⊲ Example: A small service company. So far, the company owner has handled administrative tasks, yet at a certain moment he decides to hire someone to handle this for him. The supervisor expects that the new individual will immediately take over much of the responsibilities associated with their position, and therefore gives this individual additional tasks. Yet a newly hired employee, regardless of how diligent, will need time to learn the specifics of their job, prevailing customs, operating procedures, etc. To immerse the employee into the system, they need clear instructions, easy to understand tasks and regular feedback – are they understanding and performing as expected. As time goes by, and the individual masters the basic scope of their job, they will start having a more creative approach to their job and show a greater initiative. Accordingly, the management style should also be changed. Though if the employee remains at this competence level, it is important to retain a management style based on strict control and instruction
Selling style (trainer) – when an employee shows slightly greater commitment and potential competence. Management should continue to take on the form of delegated tasks and assignments and should concentrate on the results while simultaneously increasing the commitment to building relationships with the employees. A manager using the “trainer style” not only assigns tasks and checks the end results, but also encourages their employees to take part in problem-solving, and taking their opinions into consideration, retains control over the efficiency of the work being done. He can also put qualification increasing elements for the employees into effect, such as seminars or training courses if they are needed.
⊲ Example: An advertisement agency hires several employees who have very little work experience. The supervisor takes on the responsibility for the performance of their joint efforts on the job, but to some degree is open to the suggestions of their subordinates, such as: organising regular checks where the supervisor explains the goals and responsibilities to the employees, while the employees have a chance to make their opinions known. The manager then listens to their employees and helps resolve issues arising while performing current assignments or introduces improvements into the workflow. The key element of being a manager is being open to your employees’ suggestions and at the same time concentrating on getting positive results. Having too strict an approach around more competent employees can result in the manager’s decisions being overturned or blocked, because the experience of the employees was not taken into consideration. On the other side of the coin, giving the employees too much freedom can result in having undesirable results, since even employees who are greatly committed and creative, simply didn’t have the necessary qualifications. (Example: An employed graphic artist – a great artist who creates a beautiful advertisement, yet the advertisement does not sell its intended product, which was the whole point of creating it. All because he didn’t possess the relevant qualifications connected to influencing public opinion or marketing).
Of course, each manager has their own favourite style, which is a result of their character and experience. However in situational management, flexibility – the ability to move about the various styles of management and utilize that one which is most effective for the current situation – is the most important.
Encouraging style (participant model) – good when dealing with experienced employees, who may lack motivation or a systematic methodology. The manager does not concentrate on delegating tasks, but on building relationships with their employees. They are already experienced enough to perform their tasks very well on their own. The role of the manager therefore centres around building up relationships and motivating the employees. They can employ methods such as: checks, team problem solving, managerial coaching,
or motivating. The supervisor helps their subordinates create and accomplish career goals, and supports their development. The objective is to encourage decision making and prepare the worker to work self-reliantly.
⊲ Example: The sales department at a medium-sized production company. The Sales Manager hires a few highly skilled salespersons. He organizes regular performance checks, during which the employees bring up and discuss the challenges of their job and share ideas. He dedicates a lot of time for speaking with his employees one on one, who often take the opportunity to complain about di cult customers. This leads to forming inside jokes and a jargon based on the most difficult situations. The manager participates directly in the process and encourages such activities so that the employees have a chance to react and release some of their built-up stress. He takes the time to talk with them about their goals outside of work and how the company can help them make those a reality, creating an encouraging environment.
Delegating style – employees with high qualifications and commitment: experts in their field. The role of the manager here is fully utilizing the expertise of their employees. The work is assigned with the highest amount of control given to the employees and all that is checked is the end results. The manager does not involve themselves in the process by either instructing or by influencing their employees. The basis here is the ability to assign work and transfer responsibility in full to the employee.
⊲ Example: A warehouse worker in a production company. An experienced employee knows the warehouse like the back of their hand. He takes on full responsibility for his work and doesn’t need someone interfering with how he does his job. The warehouse technician creates and improves procedures himself for the e cient unloading, warehousing and sending of the products. He takes an interest in the methodology of “lean management” and brings up improvements, which he employs and documents upon acceptance by his employer. This individual has a very personal and responsible approach to their job, as he feels that he is an integral part of the company and is helping create something larger.
The separation into four distinct styles is a very comfortable way for arranging knowledge about management. But trying to follow this approach to a “T” can prove very di cult to achieve. To implement it, we would have to be sure that people always make rational and predictable decisions, and that all employees in each stage will be affected by the same methods. Unfortunately, that is not how it is. Science, or more specifically the psychology of individual differences tells us that people have various personalities, various styles of communication, needs and values. What works for one novice employee, does not have to work for another with the same exact amount of work experience.
If we do not understand this, we risk conscious or unconscious opposition from our subordinates, lower e ciency, conflicts, and finally a high employee turnover. This is why it is important that any manager, regardless of management style, develops various soft skills such as: communication, motivation, and elements of managerial coaching.
As is evident, each style differs from all the others, not only due to the employees but also the skills needed by the manager to apply those styles. It is the lack of necessary skills which usually causes the application of the wrong management style to the situation. If let’s say a supervisor has a group of experienced and committed employees as subordinates, but never bothered to increase their own qualifications by way of communication skills or motivating, he will have a tendency for using the incorrect methods. He may fall prey to the mistake of continuous instructing and controlling, even when the employees do not need this, just because he always did this and doesn’t know any other way.
Of course, each manager has their own favourite style, which is a result of their character and experience. However in situational management, flexibility – the ability to move about the various styles of management and utilize that one which is most effective for the current situation – is the most important. ■