If you’re a football fan, you’ll be familiar with the managerial cliché that everyone requires a different method of motivation: some players need an arm around the shoulder and others need a boot up the backside.
Off the pitch and in the workplace, something similar is true, as the balance you take between carrot and stick can hugely affect your team. Recent research published by Sodexo Exchange looking at managerial performance in the UK found that only one in five employees reported being set goals by their manager.
This failure to help employees along the path of professional development is one of the biggest concerns for British workers. This doesn’t just have negative consequences for employees but for the managers themselves, who are seen as bad role models and incapable of treating their staff fairly. This is not the sort of environment that is conducive to good work or business success.
So, what can you to do avoid these pitfalls? Adjusting the way that you manage and interact with your staff can help to reduce any conflict or unhappiness and create a better working environment for everyone.
Management: The theory and the method
Managerial theory has been a field of study since the 1900s. There are several strands, including management objectives, functions, style; even the necessity of managers in a given organisation, and all of them are up for debate.
As such, the analysis of the role of managers (in business as much as football) and the ways in which they achieve their goals has long been a subject of discussion.
Broadly speaking, there are three overarching management styles, which deviate further into different approaches depending on the method you choose.
A traditional, top-down form of management which requires little to no input from staff, autocratic styles are ‘command and control’, though it doesn’t need to be dictatorial or ruling with an iron fist. You can be authoritative, persuasive or paternalistic – these are all recognised subcategories of the autocratic style, with varied benefits and caveats.
An environment with clear direction, clearly defined roles and the right level of supervision has historically been the way to succeed, so there may well be something to be said for this style.
The middle ground between authoritative and entirely hands-off management, the democratic style is characterised by its participative and collaborative approach.
Dialogue between management and employees is the central tenet, and communication goes both ways, rather than strictly top-down as is the case in an autocratic environment.
The open and communicative nature of a democratic arrangement can foster strong levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction – great if you have job roles that require more than just monetary motivation.
The hands-off approach, laissez-faire, is French and means “let do”. Laissez-faire leadership involves little guidance from managers and places responsibility for problem-solving and task completion with the group. Communication is bottom-up rather than top down.
This can either be empowering or destabilising. Highly-skilled employees who are well equipped and motivated by the challenge and the freedom they have may thrive under these circumstances. For unskilled or newer workers, it can be a framework which offers little or no support or supervision.
Which style is best?
The Chartered Management Institute has published advice on the matter of managerial style; “the general consensus has moved away from ‘command and control’ styles of management and leadership towards more consultative and participative approaches. However, there is no single ideal, as the best approach may vary according to circumstances and individual characteristics.”
Essentially, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to management. You will at various times be in charge of different people, who are the culmination of different life experiences and routes. Managing different people requires different skills and different times!
Adaptability is important and knowing how to react to situations as they arise can help to set you apart from other managers. There will be times when you will need to direct employees, or times when you can loosen the reins and let them find the best way to complete a task.
Management ultimately comes down to the way you interact and the qualities you display. Your people skills and your nous when it comes to effective motivation will be key; think about the sort of environment that you want to create and how you can encourage your staff to perform to their best.