Throughout my career, I’ve managed a lot of people and probably mismanaged a few. I’ve learned from most of my mistakes.
I’ve also been managed and mismanaged by many bosses along the way. Any success that I’ve had, I can attribute to the fact that I’ve been managed more than I’ve been mismanaged. I am sure that I’ve learned at least as much from being mismanaged as I have from being well-managed.
I have learned that most of the time, when mismanagement occurs, it is due to one of two fundamental reasons.
1) Knowing when not to manage. Back in the early days starting with the industrial revolution, there were two types of employees: managers and workers. Managers made decisions and barked out orders to the workers. The workers may have had a skill. But either way, they did what they were told. It was a subservient role.
As we evolved into today’s knowledge economy, roles of worker and manager have changed significantly. In most cases, workers today are not just common laborers. Most are intelligent, educated decision makers. The role of managers is viewed as more strategic. A good manager knows that she isn’t necessarily smarter than her employee. She knows different information and is responsible for different things.
Because of that, today’s managers have two primary roles:
- Give the team strategic direction. As issues arise, give them the information they need to move forward from the high-level perspective.
- Eliminate obstacles that they cannot remove themselves. This could include helping get a decision from a high-level executive or obtaining information when the team member doesn’t have time to do it herself.
Knowing the individual and adjusting your management style accordingly.
My wife, an 8th grade math teacher, often talks about how teachers should adjust their teaching approach to accommodate how the student learns. Everyone learns a little differently. She tries to adjust her teaching style to correspond with each student’s learning style. In contrast, my son’s 8th grade math teacher taught one way – his way. My son had trouble learning from him. He was fortunate to have his mother’s help with the material.
Managing people is a close parallel. Just like students learn differently, how people interpret direction and interact with people can be unique by individual.
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) has identified that people learn and interact in one of three different ways. Some are visually oriented. They respond best based on what they see. Providing visual people with a diagram of a process flow is the best way to help them understand a complicated process. When you want their feedback, speak in visual terms like ‘How does this look to you?’
The second type of people are auditory. Auditory people relate to things based on what they hear. You could provide them a process flow diagram, but they wouldn’t really get it until someone sat down and talked them through it. To make sure they understand, a question like “How does that sound to you?” would be most effective.
Third, there are kinesthetic people. Kinesthetic people process information based on how they feel. When explaining concepts to them, the most effective way is to base it on how they feel. When describing a process, ask them questions like “How does this feel for you?”
For more information, check out The Importance of Leadership in Project Management
Everybody uses a combination of all three of these approaches, but almost everyone has a dominant one. Good project managers listen to and observe how their team members learn and process information. Then they adjust their management approach to best fit that person’s learning orientation.
The “follow my orders” management approach is far out of date. And the days of employees being ordered around for every task are a thing of the past as well. Nowadays, we DO pay employees to think. Today’s project managers need to determine how to manage employees if they want to be successful in the modern age.
If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.
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Copyright 2014 Lew Sauder, Inc.