As all leaders know, there is always room for improvement. If you are a business leader, it is probably because you are a driven and dedicated individual who is constantly looking for ways to improve your leadership game. There is no one right way to lead a team, but as we’ll see below, there are some things to keep in mind in order to help your team members be the best they can be.
I’ve worked in the field of HR and performance management for more than 20 years. During that time, I have encountered a wide range of managerial and leadership styles. Each manager is unique and finds their own way to lead and motivate their team, but it has become clear to me that managers tend to fall into five general categories. Which one best describes you and your managerial style?
1. The Stuck-in-the-Mud Manager
The stuck-in-the-mud manager is also known as the “this is the way we do things around here” manager. They find a system or way of performing that works for them and they rigidly stick to it, come what may. This manager also tends to be precious about workplace processes. They are rarely willing to experiment or adapt based on new trends or ways of thinking. If they had a mantra, it would be: “This is the way things are done because this is the way they have always been done.”
It is because of the stuck-in-the-mud manager that certain companies can be slow when it comes to transitioning or adapting their performance management systems. As an example, a recent study found 65 percent of companies still use annual performance appraisals, despite the fact that they are proven to be ineffective. Fear most commonly sits at the heart of resistance to change. A manager may be worried that if they were to change a given system or process, it could all go wrong, productivity could plummet — and they could get the blame. This is a natural anxiety, but if you aren’t brave enough to attempt change, you can’t hope to compete in modern business.
If you are worried you might be a stuck-in-the-mud manager, there are ways to get out of your rut. You can research recent HR trends and performance management tools that have been shown to inspire and motivate employees. By experimenting and trying new things, you’ll soon find ways to take your team to the next level.
2. The Invisible Manager
This type of manager has an incredible superpower: They can become invisible for long stretches of time, appearing once or twice a year at most. If you only hold annual performance reviews or you can’t remember the last time you had a personal catch-up with each of your employees, chances are you are an invisible manager. This is worrying for a number of reasons, not least because the relationship between a manager and employee is so critical in terms of employee engagement, motivation, and morale.
Employees want — and deserve — to see their managers regularly. They need the contact in order to exchange feedback, develop a trusting relationship, and learn about career progression. Unfortunately, an old-fashioned approach to performance management makes it all too easy for employees to feel alienated from their managers. With just one appraisal each year, there is little chance for employees and managers to develop deep relationships. This makes employee appraisals even more nerve-racking than usual — not to mention unfair. How can you objectively judge your employee’s performance if you never see them in action?
To become a more visible and reliable manager, consider implementing regular performance discussions with employees. A monthly check-in is recommended as a bare minimum.
3. The Meddling Micromanager
Working for a micromanager can be exhausting. Everything needs to be done in a very particular way, which stifles creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Why would anyone bother coming up with innovative solutions to difficult problems when they know their manager will just shut them down? On top of this, micromanagement can result in decreased job satisfaction and low levels of motivation.
I can understand why you would want to control your employees to a certain extent or have them follow a very particular approach. Once you find a tried-and-tested solution, it can be hard to deviate. However, it should be noted that not all employees work in the same way. It is important for managers to acknowledge that employees aren’t robots — they are human beings. As such, you will get the most out of your employees if you allow them to leverage their own strengths, work according their own productivity rhythms, and operate with at least a little autonomy.
4. The Negative Manager
No employee wants to spend time with a negative manager — nor do they want to receive feedback from one. They know they will leave that performance discussion feeling downtrodden and uninspired.
The fact that negative feedback — even when it is believed to be constructive criticism — can demotivate employees is not a new discovery. The renowned management theorist Douglas McGregor wrote about it in a 1957 Harvard Business Review article. Since then, Gallup has confirmed that constant negative feedback can be draining for an employee. In one Gallup poll, 33 percent of the employees who agreed with the statement “My supervisor focuses on my weaknesses or negative characteristics” were not engaged; a further 22 percent were actively disengaged.
If you tend toward the negative rather than the positive, you may be a negative manager. Rather than looking backward and chastising employees for performing below expectations, try to motivate employees by discussing the areas where they have performed well. You can also cover areas for improvement in a positive, uplifting way that shows you are supportive keen to encourage employees in their career progressions.
5. The Modern Manager
Otherwise known as the “supermanager,” the modern manager is forward-thinking and willing to take chances on new technologies, processes, and strategies. They make time for their employees on a regular basis, and they are willing to give their workers autonomy so they can grow and flourish. They provide opportunities for career development while meeting with employees to set clear SMART objectives and expectations. Employees love to work with this kind of manager. As such, the teams led by modern managers tend to have lower levels of voluntary turnover and higher levels of morale.
As a word of caution, it should be noted that the modern manager can sometimes take things too far. It is one thing to give employees flexibility and autonomy, but it is quite another to turn a blind eye completely to your employees’ day-to-day activities. Managers still have an important role to play in team performance, and they should keep up to date with the progress and performance of all their employees. Underperformance needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed quickly in order to prevent it from continuing.
Stuart Hearn is CEO of Clear Review.