Understanding your management style(s)

Working with great managers makes all the difference. But what makes great managers great? It’s the ability to adopt a management style that matches the specific needs of the organisation or the team. So instead of having a one-size-fits-all approach, great managers are able to use different styles to face the challenges of the moment.

Are you aware of your style(s) and what the pros and cons are? Let’s go through the most common management styles and see when they’re most effective and when it’s better to choose a different approach.

Coaching style:

As a coaching manager, you put a lot of energy into building up your team members’ skills & knowledge. Your objective is their long-term development.

  • You encourage people to develop their strengths and improve their performance
  • You raise engagement by focusing on strengths and providing growth opportunities
  • By dedicating time to team members, you earn loyalty 
  • Ongoing regular coaching is time consuming
  • People rely too much on you for feedback
  • If you’re a poor coach, your people won’t reach the next level
It's effective when:
  • Your team needs to develop certain skills
  • People are looking for growth opportunities to increase their success
  • You want to retain talent for at least three years
It's ineffective when:
  • Your organisation is in a crisis
  • You lack expertise related to your coachee’s job profile
  • The performance gap of your team member is too big (coaching does not help to meet your expectations)

Participative style:

You want to build commitment & consensus by involving your team in an important decision-making process. You ask for feedback, suggestions, and recommendations.

  • Less supervision from your side
  • You increase peoples’ ownership and they stretch themselves
  • By taking more perspectives into account, the quality of decision-making improves
  • Decision-making is slow as you look for consensus
  • Your team members might lack expertise to provide high quality input
  • You risk confidential information being leaked out 
It's effective when:
  • You need the team’s buy in for a goal, plan, or decision
  • You need fresh ideas or a fresh environment that requires brainstorming
  • Your work environment is steady & trustful
It's ineffective when:
  • You have a business crisis and time matters
  • There is a lack of competency
  • Team members do not have all the information they need to have

Transactional style:

You motivate people to become productive using rewards and punishments. You set achievable goals. Employees know what the company expects from them and know that they will be rewarded for following objectives and completing tasks (salary increase, bonus, or promotion). If they don’t do this, you may even use demotion.

  • You have a clear structure with defined roles and expectations
  • Motivates employees to reach their goals
  • You keep the ship afloat - operations are working and maintained
  • You are mainly task-oriented and use disciplinary power
  • You need to plan and control a lot
  • People feel that they are only paid to do their job
It's effective when:
  • Speed of execution is most important
  • You have mainly routine work with measurable end results
  • Employees are looking for monetary incentives
It's ineffective when:
  • You’re looking to change the future
  • Employees look for their own motivation and require a more independent approach
  • You want to go beyond a business relationship

Transformational style:

You inspire people to perform excellent work with the strength of your personality and by setting an example. You have a growth mindset, and you promote creativity and new ideas.

  • You develop a future vision that motivates you to change things for the better
  • You inspire people to embrace creativity and originality
  • You focus on team building, motivation, and collaboration, & you lead by example
  • You struggle with detail orientation (you need support with this)
  • You can be blind to reality, as you depend too much on passion and emotion
  • You (sometimes) lack managerial skills at a practical level
It's effective when:
  • A new vision is needed
  • You need to drive change & innovation
  • You need to get everyone on board to deal with a challenge
It's ineffective when: 
  • You pursue ideas with little or no merit
  • Reality is blurred into the background
  • It’s not used for the common good

Agile style:

As an agile leader, you break away from hierarchical and functional boundaries. You build projects around motivated individuals and you give them the environment and support they need, trusting them to get the job done.

  • You look for continuous improvement – nothing is set in stone
  • You have a customer-centred focus
  • You encourage proactivity and interaction from stakeholders
  • Team members must be highly skilled
  • Organisation is not yet ready for flat approach
  • Routines and processes that were running smoothly may come to a halt
It's effective when:
  • Handling complex projects with low predictability
  • You have dynamic surroundings or projects where change is expected
  • Looking for a productivity increase & customer-centricity 
It's ineffective when:
  • Culture and mentality doesn’t fit with an agile approach
  • Maturity level of employees is not high enough for self-organised teams
  • Working across time and distance boundaries

Directive style:

You set clear objectives and rules and ensure that your expectations and directions are understood and followed. The directive management style is one of the oldest styles.

  • Some jobs need to be done quickly - no if’s, but’s, or excuses are accepted
  • Recommended style for junior people who still have to master the basics and appreciate a clear “how-to explanation” of what’s expected of them before they become more independent and self-steering
  • Clear instructions help underperformers to manage their tasks (or eventually leave)
  • You block creativity, innovation, and new ideas
  • This style may backfire if imposed on highly skilled and experienced people with a strong drive for independence
  • Risk of making people feel small and undervaluing them 
It's effective when:
  • Team members actually prefer this style because it gives them a clear idea of what’s expected from them – not everybody wants to become a CEO
  • You’re in an emergency or time of crisis
  • Dealing with a problem teammate and everything else has failed
It's ineffective when:
  • Creative problem solving is required
  • Complex tasks require ownership
  • You need people’s engagement and motivation
While there is no right or wrong way to manage people, it's important to be able to identify which styles work best for which kind of scenario and to be able to combine them to match your specific needs.
So what are your management styles? What mix do you use and what experiences have you already had?