There is a simple piece of career advice that says, if you find a manager whose style suits you, you will flourish.
Or something along those lines anyway.
It makes sense right. We spend so much of our time at work we want to ensure we are in an environment we love doing and working with people who support us and lift us up and help us grow.
So when I interview potential hires for our team, it doesn’t surprise me when I am presented with the question “how do you like to manage your team members” … it’s a good question and once more candidates should be asking, because it is one of those questions that helps you visualise what it will be like on a day to day basis if you are successful in securing the role.
It’s also a tricky question to answer. Normally I lead with “well I’m definitely not a micro manager” (which is what I find most candidates need to hear and then I would go on to explain how we work, how I like to work with individuals and a discussion ensures.
However, it has occurred to me recently that I do not have any one management style, because the reality is I have a very adaptive style.
Fundamentally, you define how I manage you.
And I don’t mean that you get to sit down with me on day 1 and have a chat about how you would like to be managed. Whilst that sounds lovely, I would also argue it’s theoretical rubbish.
What I mean when I say *you define how I mange you* is that your actions and the way in which you work, handle situations and approach every day is fundamentally what will dictate my management style.
If you are proactive, on top of your work and good at working things out … I will likely take a very hands off approach.
On the other hand, if you don’t complete tasks on time, fail to speak up when you are stuck and don’t know what to do and not working to the systems we use in the office … there is every chance my inner micro manager will rear her ugly head. And trust me, it’s as painful for me as it is for you.
No-one wants to have to micro-manage their reports (well I haven’t met anyone yet that thrives off of that management style). By the by, when this management comes out, it is generally reflective of a manager’s need to get the job done … and whatever it takes to get you there will be done.
So let’s examine how this actually plays out at work.
You are given a new task which you sort of know how to do, but will definitely need some help.
Person 1. You book a meeting with your boss for a few days time, get them to explain everything to you. You make a commitment to get certain micro elements of the tasks done before checking in again.
Person 2. You get an idea of outcomes of what you boss wants to achieve and what needs to be done. You collect the high level info you need and then you set about trying to work it out. You don’t have all the answers, but when you check in with your boss you have started to put the pieces together and you have specific questions and have some ideas/work to show.
Firstly, let’s clarify. Neither scenario on approaching the task is right. Both scenarios simply describe different ways in which people like to work.
But you need to be aware that person 1 is leading me down a route of micro management because every element of the task is being stepped out. On the other hand, person 2 is taking a much more independent work style which makes it alot easier to be hands off as a manager.
And in what is a very basic example, it becomes clear that management styles are not only about how your boss will mange you. But it is also reflective of how you like to work, what level of support you need, how you learn and understand and work things out.
So next time you are looking at a managers style (and likely wishing things would change) ask yourself two key questions:
A) How do I really want to work and be managed
B) What can I do to change my managers behaviour
Armed with this information, you will actually be in a great place to not only change your own behaviour but also how you may choose to have a discussion with you boss.
A final disclaimer. I also want to acknowledge that there are a myriad of other factors and scenarios that play into management styles. Bosses have bosses. Deadlines are real. Pressure at work can impact people in all sorts of ways. Pressure at home is often unwittingly carried into work. Things are rarely black and white. But my point is that you have alot more control over how you are managed than you might think … and understanding that is the first key to leveraging it.