Saturday, February 16, 2008

Management Style

Recently I was asked to: "Describe your management style (hands-on, frequent supervision, minimal supervision, etc.), and why?" Below is my response. Would you want to work for me?
I should begin by making it clear that I distinguish leadership from management: though the attributes of a good leader are not necessarily exclusive of those of a good manager, the focus and responsibilities are different. Often enough, one is faced with a choice between performing a “leader’s” symbolic act, and doing a manager’s work. Given that choice, I would rather do the manager’s work. I have found that that’s symbolic enough in itself. In short, I think “leadership” without management is a fraudulent skill.

As for my management style: it depends to a large extent upon the situation or circumstances in which I find myself managing. Some circumstances call for hands-on, frequent supervision while others warrant minimal oversight. An example of the former might be when a retail store’s leadership is absent or in transition, while an example of the latter might be a well run service program with its own effective leadership. Certain personnel matters require intense scrutiny as the chief executive entrusted with running a non-profit, though most personnel matters are often best handled by those closest to the situation at hand. A well run development office does not need the chief executive overseeing detailed operations; but, it is hard to imagine a well run development office without his or her active engagement.

I do not intend to be evasive with the above so I do want to say that, generally speaking, my management style is grounded in dialogue, respect, and honor. Every role performed well deserves respect; and every role has its own nobility. It is simply not the case that I am knowledgeable, skilled, or talented enough not to do the hard work of real management: management is work. Management is listening well, digging for problems, and coaching for and encouraging solutions: all of which presuppose having the humility to recognize others’ real strengths and talents. I instinctually fight adulation, and constantly encourage opinions. Consequently, I believe any employee who always agrees with me is redundant. Listeners win; talkers lose.

When it comes to building a team, I select for talent: not simply experience or intelligence. I want first to get the right people on the bus; only secondarily do I look to place those people in the right seat (not that that is not important). When setting employee expectations, I try to define the right outcomes: not the right steps. When motivating someone: I focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses. When developing someone, I help that person find the right fit: not simply the next rung in the organization.

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