Being good at doing stuff will only take you so far in your career. Having expertise, experience and skills are certainly important. But outside of a few very specialist areas (academic circles for example), no amount of expertise, experience and skills can make up for a poor management style. No man is an island, and an ability to manage oneself, clients, customers, colleagues and of course direct reports, is critical to sustain success in any field.
Boost your chances of sustainable career success by considering the following ideas.
Understand your personal management style
The truth is that there is no such thing as a ’right’ management style, but rather a series of styles that work well for us as individuals in different circumstances. We all have natural preferences and dislikes, in how we manage ourselves and others. The key to sustained success is to develop enough self-awareness to spot our own preferences, and build a suite of different management styles to use in different circumstances. The difficult truth is that the management style that brings great success in the early stages of a career, might be catastrophic if applied in later roles.
Often a good way to identify your own natural and preferred management style is to think about how you like to be managed yourself. Do you prefer autonomy or hands on support from your boss? Is the best management team one that’s close as family, or with a level of distance? Which managers inspired you, and which drive you nuts? Reflecting on how you respond to different management styles can help you understand yourself better.
Build on your management toolkit
The aim - if you want to achieve sustainable success - is to have a toolkit of different management styles to draw on in different circumstances. None of them should be ’playing a part’, and the aim isn’t to pretend to be something you’re not. But by using your authentic self to develop a range of management skills you will find it easier to engage a broad range of people.
Try to develop some complementary skills to support your natural style. If you’re a naturally enthusiastic leader, motivating others by being at the front and working alongside your team, think about ways to engage quieter members of your group and draw experience and input from those who might be intimidated by your full-on energy.
If you’re naturally very analytical and measured, think about how you engage people who need to form a personal connection with their leader to feel valued.
If you are a more organic planner, preferring to let things develop as you go along, comfortable with ambiguity and change, find ways to support and engage colleagues who need structure and are more anxious about change.
The idea isn’t to dramatically alter what you do, but to have leadership strategies that ensure you don’t leave anyone behind on your journey.
Learn to flex your style
Having thought about how you naturally like to manage, and some techniques to use variations of style to engage and motivate a wider group of people, you need to practice switching styles to suit the situation. Management isn’t only about leading a team, and this practice can begin long before you become a line manager. Think about how you interact with others more generally, how you manage yourself and your relationships with others, whether they’re customers, clients or colleagues.
Take time to consider which style from your toolkit best suits the situation - especially when faced with different issues. If things don’t go to plan, reflect on what happened and whether a different style might have gotten a better outcome. Flexing style is a new skill you need to learn, and won’t feel immediately natural. Practice until you’re comfortable and able to move between styles without even noticing it.
Keep on learning
Think you’ve got this now? Think again!
If you want constant success then your management style can’t stay still. Have you ever worked for a boss who was just a dinosaur? He stopped learning, but you mustn’t!
Keep on testing out new ideas and styles; what you need in your toolkit as a first line manager is different from what you might want as a director. The skills needed by a consultant will vary from those shown by an entrepreneur. Keep on learning if you want to progress.
Having the right management style is the secret to sustained success. But the only ’right’ style is one that is varied, authentic and flexible. There is no magic formula for this, as each individual will start with a unique set of personal preferences which can be developed and built upon. Understand your style, learn some new tools for your toolkit and practice until you don’t even notice you’re flexing your style. That is the way to achieve sustained success.
Do you have any preferred management styles? Let us know in the comments section below.