What Styles of management do you practice and coach your people to use? I think a model is needed to use and teach professional managers who must study these styles and know when and how to use each.

People think of management style as a single thing sometimes and I have written and spoken a lot on “The 5 Styles of Management and When You Should Use Each”. My model says there are several factors that must be considered to determine which style to use in a given situation and with a given person. This can, and must, also change as a company matures from a start-up to a company with 15, 25 and then over 50 people rapidly. After that the changes are not as dramatic and all must be used constantly. These 5 styles map well into a corporate hierarchy and career levels (and expectations) of the people being managed too. I believe all professional managers need to be able to have each in their toolbox. These Styles are:
1. Micromanagement – Gets a bad rap but sometimes necessary and appropriate
2. Management By Objective – Peter Drucker’s structure, often copied by others and diluted by many
3. Management By Exception – Requires good dashboards and metrics to “run it by the numbers”
4. Leadership – Very different from management as it is a broadcast, not one-on-one sport, bigger picture and often more vision and emotion based.
5. Management By Wandering Around (MBWA) – Needed to keep companies honest and information flowing, not siloed, and minimize politics.

What styles would you try to add to this, or would they all fit in this spectrum? Of course a model is just a tool to divide infinite complexity into a practical number of styles here. You may note, if a reader of Management Science, that 1, 2 and 3 are effectively Theory-X-, Theory-Y, and Theory-Z. I consider them all facts, not theory, having seen them all hundreds of times. As such I believe they need to coexist in any one company, industry and even department or project.

I also thought the series MASH had some great “Lessons in Leadership” too – with the various people who played the archetypes of certain individuals (Col. Potter, Frank Burns, and Major Houlihan etc.) and constant example of the champions and rebels of Alan Alda and his various seconds, who represent the classic high skilled professionals, rebels and artists we must all manage. Here is a good link on the adaptive concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_adaptive_leadership

For me Adaptive implies too many possibilities and options to be trainable and enforceable. I think we need to break any infinite spectrum (vague) down into “levels” for people to be able to use it practically – and even to teach it well. I have graphs of the transition from directive (micromanagement) to the Collaborative style (MBE driven by professional management) in my trainings but even good managers need some more framework and structure in my experience.

My model has 5 levels (types) but certainly would allow for adapting to individuals and situations within each level. I think I’ll check Netflix for 12 O’Clock High reruns. I do thing the military (even in fiction) does a better job of showing good leadership than other government – which is mostly amazingly incompetent at getting anything done well or efficiently today.

I think you are referring to “Managing Up”? The framework of 5 styles described has this built in as MBO and MBE have a built-in framework for “status reporting” on a regular basis. The “cadence” of meetings recommend takes about 5.6% of a manager’s time, including all monthly staff, annual and quarterly Strategic Planning meetings to update and compare monthly objectives to longer-term strategic ones.

The advantage of this is superior communications, not just to a superior, but to all managers and peers as well. This can be “by the numbers” reporting for mature processes, or by some sort of text write up or oral report. Management By Exception means you are reporting the exceptions and unexpected results, and cannot report the things that are going exactly as planned – expect maybe saying “Completed” in a monthly report.

MBO and MBE require some documentation monthly and force good communications among peers at monthly meetings, so as to force out the new learning, tap the management brain trust on challenges, and build real teamwork and trust between managers. This avoid many problems that would come up but are cut off. It help managers know when they need to coordinate effort off-line, hold special project meetings or provide resources to another department.

The tools provided in MBO and MBE even help keep over demanding bosses in check because there is full agreement (collaborative) monthly on what the deliverables for the month are (“MBOs”). This is never a dictatorial or autocratic process – as defined by Peter Drucker. That is a critical philosophy that bosses often forget and hence lose the value of the process. The MBOs must be “owned” and written by the inferior person performing the task, not by the superior dictating. This is powerful psychology. If a boss keeps coming back and loading on more work when 100% of resources are already scheduled (not an uncommon situation, but a bad manager) then the person can say which of these other MBOs will be slide on the calendar to accomplish this. They can use the process as a shield. This avoids all kinds of bad habits, micromanagement and even abuse of good employees.

The slide below shows this visually and applys to both processes and people. Processes can mature over months while an individual learning these many skills can take many years of actual practice, even likely decades. Every individual must be managed based on their abilities and motivations but as they progress in their careers most should climb this scale too so they can be managed with less effort from their superiors. Then they can earn a higher salary, and continually learn and grow.

Bob Norton is CEO of AirTight Management and helps small companies scale to become bigger companies with sustainable competitive advantage.

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