By Margery Weinstein
Everyone has a story about a manager who gets great results but achieves a low employee retention rate. Her authoritarian style is fantastic for inspiring work output (if only out of the fear it inspires in employees), but not so fantastic at maintaining employee quality of life. Likewise, most also have a story of a manager who is a lot of fun to work with, and whose employees have stuck by his side for more than a decade, but whose department’s financial performance isn’t so hot. Believe it or not, there is room in your company for many different management styles. You just have to figure out the best way to develop these leaders so your company makes the most of the best they have to offer.
At Cartus Corporation, a company specializing in global mobility and workforce development support, the key to making the most of leadership strengths is to train managers to be self-aware. “We don’t use a formal approach to assessing management styles at Cartus, although we do incorporate style into many of our management development programs. Our focus is on self-awareness, understanding who we are, knowing our preferred style and approach, and adapting—and maximizing—that approach for greatest success,” say Senior Vice Presidents of Global Human Resources Amy Meichner and Training Manager Amy Stone. “We view style as an element of diversity, and we value all differences, including cultural, generational, backgrounds, experience, and style.” The company uses the DiSC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness) leadership style assessment to teach employees about the approach they tend to take.
By becoming aware of their own preferred style, leaders can modify that style for use with various constituents and situations, Meichner and Stone explain. “A flexible leadership style improves engagement and motivation and helps others by leading in the most suitable way,” they point out. “Additionally, leaders who are self-aware create an open environment that encourages feedback and adaptive behavior. If a leader is interested in learning how employees choose to be led, entire teams and organizations will recognize this approach. Open feedback, adaptive behavior, and ongoing improvement will become standard practice.”
The approach Cartus takes is backed up by company research. A 2010 Cartus survey found that 28 percent of global job assignments fail because of employees’ inability to adapt to the host location. “It seems to follow that, like all leadership competencies, modeling self-awareness by seeking feedback and adapting is the most effective way to influence one’s own and others’ development,” say Meichner and Stone.
While Cartus believes in cultivating manager self-awareness, it does not believe there are good and bad management styles. “When overused, or solely used, any style can be toxic. Most leaders have a variety of styles and learn to use them in combination,” Meichner and Stone say. “There are behaviors that are quite toxic, such as unprofessional communication, anger, ridicule, or other behaviors that reduce self-esteem or create fear. Sometimes, these behaviors become habits that result in an overall toxic approach.”
That said, Meichner and Stone do believe there are certain leadership ideals to strive for. “We believe the ideal management style is a blended one that suits both the organization and the individual, and creates the best outcome in all situations,” they say. “All leaders should be aligned to a common vision, mission, values, and strategy, but how they get there can be unique to each individual. Having different approaches or styles allows us to connect with many different audiences, all of whom also have different styles. A self-aware and adaptive leader is the one we view as most effective. Great leaders give each individual what they need.”
For CareSource, a Medicaid managed care provider in Dayton, OH, grooming leaders to be the best possible managers means following a detailed process for assessing their management tendencies, says Director of CareSource University Jackie Smith.
“CareSource assesses management/leadership styles utilizing a number of processes. First, our mission statement and corporate values are integrated across all of our people processes, so assessment begins with the recruiting process,” she says. “Our HR team assesses every candidate for fit within our unique culture—‘serving the underserved.’ Upon hire, we continue this approach by supporting all new managers with a Leadership Transition Coach who works with those new to the organization to transition their leadership experience into successful management outcomes.”
CareSource’s leadership training integrates the competencies and behaviors from its performance management system into its curriculum. Semi-annually, managers are assessed on how they are demonstrating those competencies. The company uses multiple assessment tools. All managers complete a personalized feedback session on their Myers-Briggs type (MBTI) assessment. “This content also is applied in our MBTI and Leadership program, which focuses on how to use Myers-Briggs type to enhance leadership skills,” Smith explains. The company also uses Gallup’s Strength Finder to identify the manager’s strengths and build plans for using those strengths most effectively with their team.
A new addition to CareSource’s assessment processes is the New Leader Assimilation. “Sessions are held with both manager and team using the Appreciative Inquiry methodology to determine what’s working and what could be done differently to enhance the manager’s and team’s effectiveness, Smith explains. “Finally, we use the Leadership Challenge 360-degree instrument, Leadership Practices Inventory, as a development tool to allow leaders to assess their effectiveness and build an individualized learning plan.”
Smith notes that the company’s leadership assessment process’ ultimate goal is to adequately plan for its next generation of leaders. “All of these processes feed into our succession planning and mentoring programs where we assess managers/leaders against our competencies and behaviors, as well as a culture matrix,” she says. “Based upon the outcome of the assessment, high-potential leaders are placed in a variety of development options, including mentoring, where skills are further developed with an internal mentor.”
The ideal picture of a CareSource leader is articulated in the company’s official management competencies: service orientation, organizational awareness, teamwork, communication, and organizational leadership.
Implement a Situational Leadership Model
At BÖWE BELL + HOWELL (BBH), a provider of high-performance document management solutions and services, an Organizational Talent Management (OTM) Model works best for developing effective managers, say Lana Chandra, executive director, BBH University and Organizational Development, and Jennifer Gallant, Training and Development manager for the company’s Business School.
BBH uses a variety of methods and models to assess the styles of its leaders. “The Situational Leadership model has been used for all customer-facing leadership,” notes Chandra. “The Richardson Group and the Consultative Selling model have been used for Sales Management.”
However, when it comes to overall performance, BBH uses an internally created tool, the Organizational Talent Management (OTM) Model. “The company’s signature OTM model was created using a variety of different models, and ranks employees in three different areas: competence, strengths/qualities, and mind-set,” says Chandra. “By assessing the qualities of a good leader, specifically the mind-set components, the model is particularly helpful in evaluating current leaders and identifying future ones.”
Feedback from peers is an important part of the manager development process. Part of its Situational Leadership curriculum is a 360-degree assessment. From these results, the company believes leaders gain insight into their leadership style usage and their power-base influence. “When leaders use the most effective leadership style, they are more likely to get the intended results from their teams,” says Gallant. “If they are mismatching their style to the situation, the 360-degree assessment gives them the awareness they need to adjust their leadership style.”
BBH’s leaders primarily were using the S1-S2 leadership styles, which involved a lot of telling and selling to their teams. “When leaders spend all their time directing every move of their team and convincing them that each task is necessary, results are not achieved,” says Gallant. “After several hands-on practical style labs and a second 360-degree assessment, we saw enormous change. Leaders were able to move to an S3-S4 style of participating and delegating with their teams, which was more efficient and effective and based on their employees’ ability.”
Another aspect of BBH’s leadership assessment, the power base assessment, reveals to leaders from where they draw their power. “Leaders who have personal power can influence anyone, whereas leaders with positional power can only influence their direct reports,” Gallant says. “Leaders who know their power base, and how to balance it, accomplish tasks not only through their team, but through cross-functional teams, as well.”
Whatever the leadership assessment results, trainers at BBH are open-minded about management styles. “One of the biggest mistakes companies make is assuming there is one perfect management style and that every leader must use it. Organizations should encourage and coach their leaders to be adaptable,” says Chandra. “Adaptable leaders can decipher different situations and vary their management style to take appropriate action. Regardless of the situation, leaders must communicate based on the staff’s needs and realize they don’t have all the answers. Their true role is to create success through effective influence on those they lead, formally and informally.”
2011 Training Top 125 companies CHG Healthcare Services, Inc., and Buckman offer their top tips for making the most of your leaders’ management styles: