The odds are that you’ve heard the joke about the ‘seagull manager’, defined as the boss who swoops in, c**ps over everything and then swoops out again, leaving everyone else to clear up. Not a helpful or supportive approach, to be sure; and any business owner who works with that style will likely see a high staff turnover even in the current job market. But leaving aside the humor, the role of manager can often feel a little thankless. After all, the basic job is to get the best results using the resources available and that remit encourages a rational and disinterested mindset that can come across as ‘unfeeling’. But taken too far, unfeeling becomes uncaring and when dealing with human beings, that’s counterproductive. First, let’s look at a number of counterproductive management types and styles.
Whether they admit it or not, this manager loves a challenge. They get a buzz out of fire-fighting and emergency situations because it gives them the opportunity to display their amazing problem-solving skills (and tell everyone what to do). Two problems: 1) this manager is unlikely to enjoy planning and risk assessment (essential to any business) because these activities mean less problem situations down the line; and 2) by solving everything themselves they undermine the team.
Consequences and punishment.
The style here is all about pointing out what will happen if the job is not done. This can be done in an assertive manner, but more often than not it evolves over time into threats and fear tactics. There’s little visioning (providing an attractive goal or destination that people are motivated to work toward) just negative motivation as people seek to avoid the unpleasant consequences of failure.
Some people don’t like structure and schedules. This type of manager may be highly skilled in their spontaneity, a real ‘people person’ who can dive into any situation and generate enthusiasm as they improvise a way forward – they often thrive on unexpected situations. However, inevitably the results are uneven, the direction provided is rarely the best because they are working on intuition and gut feeling and careful planning and consideration are absent from the picture.
Me, me, me… The narcissist manager is focused on their own productivity, their own achievements, their own contributions. It’s easy to fall into this style, especially in businesses that have only recently expanded to take on employees and where the business owner is used to doing everything themselves. On the plus side, the narcissist is impressively driven and confident, however, working for them is at best competitive and at worst, soul-destroying.
Always searching for a better way, this type of manager is open to new information, new methods, embraces innovation, etc. On the surface this sounds good, but when taken too far results in change for change’s sake, a focus on ideas rather than people, and a lack of consistency. This leaves the team without a firm foundation, never quite certain whether today they will be expected to do the job differently from yesterday.
Here the focus is all about the people: building relationships, nurturing connections, encouraging collaborations – the pleaser wants harmony, wants everybody to be happy. Although a highly laudable goal, this is sadly unrealistic and even those who benefit from it, rarely respect it when it’s not accompanied by a suitably objective business focus. Taken too far, the ‘happiness driver’ leads to a reluctance to give feedback, under-performance, and an avoidance of confrontation. Hopefully, what should be clear from these types is that they all result from the best of motivations: to get the job done. Elements of each are valuable when running your business and managing your team – it’s simply a case of moderation in all things. You may recognize some of your own approach in some of these but don’t worry, awareness is the first step. Give yourself some credit for your good intention (to run a successful business) and then ask yourself honestly, which aspects of your management style do you need to tone down and which do you need to build up? What you’re aspiring to is the best elements of all (solution-focused, persistent, agile, confident, open, nurturing) and the worst of none.