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Saturday, May 31, 2014

What is your leadership style?

If you asked 10 entrepreneurs about which management style they found the most effective, you’d likely come back with 10 distinct answers, each as unique as the entrepreneur that provided them. While no one management style is ideal or applicable to every business, it’s important to be mindful of what management style is used in yours. Identifying your management style means taking inventory of how you approach your business, especially in regards to employee interaction and crisis management. Knowing your management type can help you change it if necessary, as certain circumstances may call for such a shift.

Below we discuss five of the most common types of managers. While most entrepreneurs might relate to one type, the ideal manager should be able to move from one to another as the situation warrants. Keep reading to learn which style is right for specific situations and when you should set some of your managerial habits aside and adopt a different one.

The Dictator

Dictators make all decisions, basing them on what they feel is best for the business. Rarely will they ask for input from their employees, and they may or may not make final decisions with their employees in mind. They will usually "go it alone" when establishing new product lines, creating partnerships or considering new ventures without consulting others in the organization. Dictators largely rely on their own experiences and knowledge to set agendas they feel best answer their business’ needs.

When being a dictator works: If you are faced with an immediate crisis or other urgent business matter, you will often need to step up and make the decision that is in the best interest of the business without consulting your team first. Sometimes quick action is critical, and asking everyone to weigh in or come up with solutions could waste precious time you just don't have.

When being a dictator may not work: While this management style often leads to efficient business operations because only one person is involved in the decision making, it can also lead to costly oversights and mistakes that wouldn't have occurred had frontline employees been consulted. Managers and executives, no matter how smart or well-reasoned their decisions, are still susceptible to errors in judgment.

The Collaborator

Collaborative managers are conscious of their entire organization and acknowledge the utility of feedback from employees, investors, partners and vendors used to reach business objectives. Collaborators will regularly call meetings to brainstorm ideas. They compel employees to offer feedback on business proposals and may even go as far as designating a “devil's advocate” to pinpoint problems with a plan.

When being a collaborator works: Involving employees in the decision-making process is almost always a good idea because you benefit from insight gleaned from different perspectives. Collaboration also boosts employee morale, as employees feel valued because their ideas are requested and respected. This also provides employees with a real sense of commitment to projects they are actively involved in. It’s also a great strategy when time is abundant, giving you plenty of time to hash out ideas. Just be sure you aren't using collaboration to stall when you are pressed to make an important decision.

When being a collaborator may not work: Collaborators can often be seen as indecisive or even weak because they spend so much time talking about ideas and not enough time executing them. Employees can become frustrated if all the discussion leads to nowhere. Also, beware of instances where an employee may not have enough knowledge about project details to provide relevant or useful advice. Bad advice can be costlier than no advice at all.

The Micromanager

Micromanagers need to control everything and feel it’s necessary to constantly be in the loop, even in seemingly trivial discussions. They check in with employees too frequently and expect constant updates on the status of projects. They operate with the expectation that each employee must complete every assignment exactly as the micromanager would. Employees have little freedom to be creative or to use their own intuition and knowledge to solve problems.

When being a micromanager works: When you have just hired a new employee, or you are trying to turn around the performance of a struggling employee, watching them closely is ideal. You want to ensure that they are on the right track and help them overcome any challenges before they exacerbate. Another time to micromanage is when you must follow specific rules or guidelines for regulatory, legal or compliance issues. Remember to let employees know that your constant attention is to ensure compliance and does not reflect a lack of trust in them or their abilities.

When being a micromanager may not work: As a result of working under constant dictation, employees may feel boxed in and controlled. This can have an extremely detrimental effect on morale, which increases turnover and breeds dissatisfaction. For those employees who have proved their competence and trustworthiness, ease up and give them the space to do their jobs the way they see fit.

The Delegator

Delegators take a hands-off approach and allow their employees to run the business. They divide and make assignments based on whom they think can best handle a given task, and they spend the bulk of their time generating new business and crafting long-term strategy instead of focusing on the minutiae of business operations. Because they have built a strong team trusted with managing the business, they can focus on generating revenue. Employees may also feel affirmed by the confidence shown in their ability by trusting them with these operations, which increases their commitment to the business.

When being a delegator works: If you have enough competent staff, it's almost always a win-win situation to delegate work to employees. Just be sure to regularly consult with employees about their workload and regularly confirm their comfort level before you unload new assignments on them. Also, be sure to step in from time to time to cover the grunt work and to show employees that you are still part of the team. Finally, make certain that employees fully understand how the work you do each day contributes to the bottom line.

When being a delegator may not work: Problems occur if there aren't enough employees to cover all the work, and employees become resentful as they struggle while the boss is out entertaining clients with golf, sporting events and lunches. It can also be extremely upsetting for hardworking employees to not get any credit for delegated work they completed; as such, be sure to always acknowledge all contributors when projects are successfully finished. And even though you may have a pool of employees to delegate to, they may not yet have the skills to handle that type of work. If possible, take time to train your potential delegate on the finer points of the job to ensure it’s done right.

The Coach

Coaching managers believe in a team-oriented atmosphere, where everyone contributes to the goals of the business. Because of that, coaches are committed to training employees and providing regular and frequent feedback. They praise employees when they deserve it and constructively correct them when they slip up. Much like the collaborator, they believe everyone should provide input and be involved in decisions that affect the team. Employees typically feel a great deal of loyalty to managers who invest so much time and effort in helping them succeed.

When being a coach works: Effective coaching of all of your employees helps them grow and advance their careers. However, don't forget to acknowledge your best employees. Rewarding employees who deserve it sets an example and motivates under performers. It also drives friendly competition that can raise everyone's performance.

When being a coach may not work: Because coaches want everyone to succeed, they'll often treat their lowest performers the same way they treat their stars. Top performers could resent that their outstanding efforts aren't setting them apart from the rest of the team, and they might either begin to perform at an average level or take their talents elsewhere, which can bring down productivity. Conversely, lower-performing employees might begin to see their subpar performance as adequate, which stifles productivity even further. If this is the case, make sure to temper your encouragement with pragmatism by specifying where an employee may need to improve.

Determining your management style is the first step to understanding its impact on your business. Knowing your management approach helps you recognize your organization’s strengths as well as highlight its areas for improvement in whatever situation may arise. It’s also worth noting that no one style is set in stone, and managers should feel free to implement and test a given style as they see fit.

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