How to Adapt Your Management Styles

How to adapt management styles based on who you are dealing with.


The F style of management.

The most effective management style one can ever use is the “F” style. F… standing for flexible. One’s management style needs to change depending on the situation, depending on the people being managed and on what we hope to achieve. All management styles produce results, but the successful manager manages to combine all of them to use as and when needed, to maximise results.

There are lots of different management styles.

Depending on which textbook you’re reading, there are many different management styles: the dictator, the teddy bear, the persuader, the coach, the consultant and many others. The effective manager learns how to combine all of them and to change the management style according to the need.

How do we change our management style?

Firstly we need to recognise the need for change, and then exercise behavioural flexibility to meet the need. The need for change depends on the situation the people being managed and what we want to achieve. Let’s explore these three, and then look at behavioural flexibility.

Read the situation.

When faced with a crisis situation we need to use a far more autocratic and dictatorial management style. The is no time during a crisis to be consultative. When the building is burning down, we need clear and direct orders to get the job done quickly and efficiently. The dictatorial style is great for this type of situation, but lousy when we want to get ideas, creativity and input from others.

In the situation where we are looking for more input and creativity, we need a far more participative management style which will bring out the best in people. So the perceptive manager will read the situation, and change management style accordingly.

Read the people.

Thank goodness people are different! It’s what makes life interesting. It also makes managing them a little more challenging. Some people require a very hard approach and some a much softer approach, some need more handholding and others need more room to flex their wings.

As a manager we need to make sure that we know the people reporting to us well, which will allow us then to use different management styles as required. Clear detailed orders to some, general overview of the result we want others and many different shades of grey in between.

 Read the desired outcome.

Often when I mention this point in my management seminars, people say that the obvious desired outcome is to get the job done. While this is correct there are often other secondary objectives that we may also want to achieve. We may want to use this opportunity to grow our people, discipline them or perhaps to motivate them.

When time and the situation allows, we can use the opportunity to help people to develop themselves by involving them more in the decision-making process and letting them take charge. This allows them to become more familiar with the decision-making process, and grows them into more responsible and effective people. The bottom line is the are many different outcomes that we may want to achieve. Analyse what you want.

Behavioural flexibility.

This leads us to behavioural flexibility. That is changing our management style as needed. And the key to flexibility is empathy. Understanding what are the goals, the dreams, the frustrations and aspirations of the other person – and how to meet them. Empathy is the ability to walk in the other person shoes, and to understand how to help others to achieve their goals.

Flexibility is not difficult, once we understand the points we discussed above. It just takes time, and conscious thought. We tend to become habituated into a particular management style, and seldom think about the situation, people, or desired outcome. By taking a few moments to think, we can very much, like a chameleon, change the way we manage people, to maximise results.

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