On our fridge door at home is a fridge magnet, it says “Never put off until tomorrow, what can be done today”.
Below the magnet is an old sticky note saying, “If it can be done tomorrow, leave it till then”.
This neatly sums up the problem we often face. Does the manager with limited time, act impulsively, and reactively, or should he research the issue, and do it when he has a better solution?
There is no real answer, both approaches might work.
Experienced managers might use several styles to address various diverse issues.
80 years ago, the psychologist Kurt Lewin defined four styles of management, these remain relevant today.
Autocratic managers take complete control of the situation. They believe that they are the best person to take responsibility for all decision making and are unlikely to ask the team for their input; this is a one-way management style. The autocratic management style results in a very structured company environment with little opportunity for creativity or innovative thinking.
Great for speed, or where employees need direction. Autocratic managers use their experience to get results. Too much of this style leads to employees not feeling valued and being reluctant to come forward with ideas.
The democratic management style encourages a more collaborative way of working. Guidance is provided, but group members are encouraged to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the decision-making process. This is a consultative management approach, which is generally considered one of the most effective management styles.
It encourages creativity and involvement. It builds teams but can also be divisive if team members are side-lined by other more vocal individuals. An inexperienced team might lead to poor decisions
I call this management by walking away. It is the opposite of the autocratic manager. This is a hands-off approach that provides everyone with the complete freedom to decide how to meet their objectives without seeking agreement from managers. Does the team have the skills and knowledge to make the decisions and follow them through?
Many multi-national organizations utilize the laissez-faire management style to encourage creativity and innovation.
For example, Google introduced “20 percent time” to allow their employees time to focus on whatever project they wanted, free of management oversight
Stars can shine with this style. But equally with no guiding force, and lack of focus employees might be uncertain of what is required of them.
In this style, managers make the final decision but then use their persuasion skills to convince their team that the correct outcome has been achieved.
A persuasive management style can explain the logic behind the decision and then encourages everyone to ask questions to understand the rationale.
Employees feel as though they are a trusted and valued part of the organization, even if there is limited opportunity for their innovation and creativity.
In a smaller business with say 50 employees, it is easy to see which of these styles might be used to best effect. Managers of these types of business often have undisputed knowledge; so, start with an autocratic style and use persuasive and democratic styles as teams develop.
But the important point in any task is to act rather than delay unnecessarily.
I showed this clip to a group of educated young team leaders in our partners factory in Hong Kong.
To start with they were mute, then the founder laughed and asked for it to be repeated. They all then laughed enthusiastically and wholeheartedly.
It is now a mantra in the factory – often referred to and copied.