If you’re a manager, you should be very aware of your management style and how it can affect others. Being conscious of the extremes of your behavioral type will allow you to work more effectively with your direct reports, and transform from just a boss into a true leader.
But before you do that, you’ll need to identify your management style. I espouse using the DiSC behavioral assessment, but other popular tests will work as well.
DiSC is an acronym for the four primary behavioral drivers: dominance, influence, conscientiousness, and steadiness. Dominant people are decisive risk-takers who speak boldly and confidently. Those driven by influence are apt to intertwine emotion with work, and they’re interested in forming social bonds. People with a bent towards conscientiousness prioritize accuracy and precision, and tend to be more guarded and tactful in their expression. Steady personalities are cooperative and composed, and approach their work consistently and methodically. Take a DiSC assessment to find out which four of these categories you fall into.
If you’re not able to take a DiSC test, no problem. You can also try to self-identify based on two questions:
1) Are you more open (emotive) or guarded (controlled)?
2) Are you more direct (faster-paced) or indirect (slower-paced)?
Based on how you answered these two questions, you can find your primary style:
D – Direct and guarded
i – Direct and open
S – Indirect and open
C – Indirect and guarded
Once you’ve found your letter, you can get begin making your management style more palatable to others who might not share your behavioral type. Here are some ways a manager performing as an effective situational leader can round off some of the sharper edges of his or her personal style:
If You're a Dominant Director (D) ...
Ratchet down a notch or two! Keep in mind that others have feelings and that your hard-charging, know-it-all style can make your subordinates feel inadequate and resentful.
Accept that mistakes will occur, and try to temper justice with mercy. You might even joke about errors you make, rather than trying to always project a super-human image.
Dominant Directors can encourage growth in others in at least two ways: by praising employees when they do something well, and by giving direct reports a measure of authority and then staying out of their way so they can use it. Whatever you lose in control, you're likely to gain in commitment and improved staff competency.
Try not to be quite so bossy. Ask others' opinions, and maybe plan some collaborative actions.
If You're an Influencing Socializer (i) ...
Your people depend on you not just for ideas, which you’re very adept at generating, but also for coordination, which you are probably less comfortable with. So anything you can do to become more organized -- making lists, keeping your calendar current, prioritizing goals -- will pay big dividends for both you and your team.
Nothing's so dispiriting as to see the boss drop the ball on important matters. So, remember: If you fail to follow-up, procrastinate on tough decisions, or make pledges you don't keep, your employees will lose faith. Even though you don't do those things purposely, your direct reports will feel as if you’re letting them down. Your charm and warmth can't compensate for unreliability.
Also, come to grips with the fact that conflicts are going to occur. Try to deal with them up front instead of sweeping them under the rug. In addition, organize your time better and strive to keep your socializing in balance with your tasks.
If You're a Conscientious Thinker (C) ...
Your high standards are a double-edged sword. Your employees are inspired by your quest for excellence, but they might feel frustrated because they can never quite seem to please you.
One of the best things you can do is lessen and soften your criticism, spoken or unspoken. Bear in mind that you’re inclined to come off as stern in certain situations.
Ease up on your need to control, and attempt to project a more social persona. Walk around and spend more time with the troops, chatting up people at the water cooler or in the lunchroom.
Realize the fact that you can have high standards without requiring perfection in each instance. That'll take a load off your shoulders -- and off your employees’, as well.
If You’re a Steady Relater (S)...
You're probably a well-liked boss. Your goal should be to become a more effective well-liked boss.
Learn to stretch a little, taking on more, or different, duties and trying to accomplish them more quickly. You may want to be more assertive as well as more open about your thoughts and feelings. Experiment with taking small risks.
Being sensitive to your employees' feelings is one of your greatest strengths. But you must seek a middle ground between that and being knocked off balance by the first negative comment or action that comes your way. Try to develop a thicker skin for the good of the team.
Whatever your style, being adaptable can help you to build bridges to your employees and make them feel valued. By learning to best respond to their interests, concerns, strengths, and weaknesses, you can get the most from your people as well as leave them more satisfied.
Adapted from "PeopleSmart in Business," by Tony Alessandra, Ph.D., and Michael J. O'Connor, Ph.D.
Originally published Oct 14, 2014 6:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021