Summary: In the workplace one of the most essential assets are your staff. Each staff member has been selected carefully for the skills they bring to the take. However if you are not managing your staff effectively, they are wasted assets.
Each staff member takes time to train and settle into a new environment, high staff turnover can cost your business thousands.
Staff who are not focused and committed can also cost your business in the long run.
In this, the first in a series of 8 articles, we discuss the different management styles available to you, to use as and when most appropriate and likely to ensure the best from your staff.
To follow in this series are Setting Goals, Knowing your Staff, Breaking Down and Allocating Tasks, Performance Management, Assessment and Feedback, Work Environment and Rewards, Training and Conflict Resolution.
What’s your style?
George Litwin and Robert Stringer of Harvard Business School studied the behaviour of managers and defined six leadership styles.
Those styles are discussed in detail in the book Primal Leadership by Goleman.
The perfect, if there is such a thing, manager (or owner) should be able to use all six styles and switch between them as needed.
Each staff member, and each workplace environment, responds differently to the styles and you should know that when the best is not gotten out of your staff, it is a missed opportunity.
1. Coercive Style
The coercive style is used by the “do it the way I tell you” type manager.
Employees are expected to comply immediately and it ensures very strict control of employees.
Compliance is ensured by using threats and disciplinary action. The style works best temporarily when there is a crisis, or in an environment where deviations cause risk to the business.
The risks to this style would include limited employee development (there are no learning opportunities for staff) or if your staff are highly skilled, frustration and resentment is inevitable.
If you employ high value employees, be aware that with this style you will likely have to replace them regularly and incur retraining and recruitment costs.
2. Authoritative Style
An authoritative style is primarily used to provide long-term direction and vision for employees.
These are firm but fair leaders who focus on providing clear direction to staff, without barking out orders to staff.
Persuasive motivation is instilled and feedback is sought from staff.
The authoritative style will not be effective in situations where employees are not skilled enough to perform independently.
You, as their leader, have to be a credible expert that your staff truly believe in.
Direction needs to be clearly provided and work standards maintained and understood.
Individual staff should feel empowered, however the vision and drive is provided by the leader.
Should the direction of the business need to be changed, or goals adjusted to re-align with the business vision, this lies purely on the leader’s shoulders.
3. Affiliative Style
The affiliative style has the primary objective of creating harmony among staff and between manager and staff.
This leader puts the staff first, and the task second, avoiding conflict and emphasizing personal relationship quality among its staff. “A happy employee is a good employee”.
Unfortunately this style is only effective when used with the perfect combination of other styles.
There is need for regular counselling and assistance with conflict resolution.
Should there be performance issues with specific staff, this style is inadequate and one should switch to an authoritative approach to staff management.
4. Democratic Style
The democratic style’s main objective is building commitment and consensus among employees, encouraging employee input in management decision making.
The democratic style is effective when experienced staff work together in a stable and routine type environment.
Team effort is rewarded, however the group as a whole cannot always be coordinated.
In a crisis, quick decision making is impossible and in addition where staff need close supervision due to a lack of job competency, this style is impossible to utilise.
Democratic leadership can work for higher level staff that value intelligence and ideas.
However, at some point, the authoritative style must still be used. You can’t please everyone all of the time.
5. Pacesetting Style
The pacesetting style has the primary objective of accomplishing tasks to a high standard of excellence.
This type of leader is one that performs most tasks personally and expects others to follow in his stead.
Staff are motivated by high standard setting and need to be highly motivated and competent in their fields.
This approach is best used when workloads are shared between staff and where coordination, development and coaching are practicable and implemented properly.
This style works especially well in a manufacturing type environment or where staff can be pit against each other.
The downside, of course, is that focus on quality control is essential.
There will also be some in-fighting and the risk exists that there will be manipulation of colleagues and environment to boost an individual’s own performance.
This is not a style which encourages teamwork.
6. Coaching Style
The coaching style, followed by a developmental type manager, has the primary objective of long-term professional development of employees who are motivated by opportunities for their personal and professional development and improvement.
This style is most effective when skills are needed to be developed and employees are self-motivated, and seeking improvement and development.
The idea is that you can just talk with people and encourage them to make changes.
The coaching style leader has to be an expert in their field with experience in motivating and assisting staff with growth.
It is however essential for this leader to be mindful of performance issues with employees where coaching alone is insufficient to bring their performance up to standard.
This is when the employee should be dealt with in a more decisive matter.
Regardless of the type of manager you instinctively are, to be an effective manager and leader you have to read each interaction with each staff member on a case by case basis and react in a way which inspires, motivates and ensures your staff deliver their best, and your business continues to move forward.