Just Like Hats, There’s Really No One Size Fits All Approach to Management
Many of us likely grew up with the adage of following the “Golden Rule” — to treat others as we want to be treated. That sounds great on one hand, but let’s stop and think about that for a second. How many of us have had managers who took a “one size fits all” approach to management? Or tried to simply force their way of seeing the world, giving feedback, or affording praise upon you? Reflecting back, how uncomfortable was that, and did their message really land the right way with you? Despite the best intentions, the answer is often a resounding “no”.
Alternatively, perhaps it’s easier to think about this in context of gender or race. Have you ever treated people different to yourself in a way which might have came from a place of good intent but ended up rubbing them the wrong way? For all of you Netflix junkies out there, check out the film “I Am Not An Easy Man” — it’s a comical yet eye-opening view into the world of unconscious bias and gender roles turned on its head. Sadly these moments happen all too frequently in real life, because when we don’t recognise our own racial or gender privilege and bias, we can often end up treating people in completely unacceptable ways, despite good intentions.
The same holds true in managing people — everyone is different, and treating them as if they aren’t is a surefire way to set yourself up for pain. Equitable treatment doesn’t mean taking the same approach with everyone. We’d argue that it’s time to rethink this Golden Rule approach. Personally, I know I’ve done my best when people give me the time to think that I require, the information I need to judge a given choice, and the parameters within which I need to operate. This doesn’t mean I can’t operate under different conditions — I’ve learned that my ability to adapt is more valuable than most skills. But it does mean that there’s a better way to reach me and get your message across successfully, with the right intent. In short, managers who’ve treated me the way I wanted or needed to be treated got much more out of me than any others. I performed at a higher level, was more loyal, and more forgiving when things were tough going or went wrong.
Consider this: one of your primary roles as a manager is to bring a high level of shared understanding to your team. This includes what’s important, what success looks like, what’s acceptable behaviour, and what isn’t. Creating shared understanding requires a few prerequisites:
- Using shared language — Do the words being used mean the same thing to both sides? Sometimes we have to truly define what we mean, especially words like “better”, “good enough”, or the myriad of acronyms which permeate many corporate lexicons.
- Establishing a shared perspective — Does your message resonate with their view of the world from where they sit within the company? Does it reach them where they are or does it force them to try to see the world from a different place than they normally do?
- Demonstrating shared respect — Do you actively listen and engage in meaningful dialogue, or is there a one-way street when it comes to your communication? Most of us aim to hire the best and the brightest, but then do we actually allow them to have a voice and truly listen to what they have to offer? When’s the last time you cared enough to understand or believe the words coming from someone you didn’t respect yourself?
Being able to empathise with your team members, truly listen from their point of view, and deliver your message in a way others clearly understand and which resonates with their world view are critical skills for both managers and employees to possess. If we’re not doing this as leaders, we’re quite often just pounding our own drum and not truly leading, because no one is listening or understanding what we’re saying!
Our view then would be that it’s time to cease simply imposing our own world view and expectations on others and instead, let’s adopt a new rule — the Platinum Rule — and treat others how they want to be treated. So how do we go about it? It’s actually pretty simple:
- Just ask them! Have conversations with each of your team members about how they prefer to be managed, to get feedback, praise, or bad news. And of course, use active listening to actually hear what they have to say. Just as you might teach your employees how to excel at aspects of their job, allow them to teach you how to get the most out of them.
- Be observant. Pay attention to when others are relaxed, stressed, or doing their best work. Probe into what drives those resulting behaviours for them and tailor your own approach (and if possible, even their work responsibilities) to fit to their style. For those who can’t teach you how best to manage them, these observations are often your best indicators.
- See the world through their lens. Ever have a colleague with whom you just can’t seem to get along? Your respective ways of thinking and operating in the world might be at the heart of those issues. Many of us have had the experience of “it’s not what they say, but how they say it”. In our work, we use a tool called Emergenetics to help gain insight into an individual’s thinking and behavioural attributes. In a team context this is truly powerful, as it allows individuals to tailor their style or frame their message through someone else’s thinking preferences and how they see the world. Consequently, their messages really resonate and the meaning hits home.
So, what can you expect in making this change in mindset and behaviour? Teams and organisations that embrace the Platinum Rule typically have people who are more engaged and understand the true priorities and mission associated with their job. Similarly, the social cohesion which can lead to suboptimal solutions and outcomes goes out the door as diverse perspectives and thought are leveraged to create stronger, more effective solutions. The research is pretty clear after all that teams with strong diversity in thinking perform better. Sounds pretty great, huh?
As you think about your own team, how would rate your own level of shared understanding? Is there a diversity in thinking, or does your team have the telltale blind spots of an unbalanced group? Does disagreement look like respectful debate towards the right outcome or disrespectful arguments that undermine and erode trust and the sharing of differing points of view? If you can’t answer those questions positively, what’s that costing you each day in your business? If this sounds like something your organisation could use some help with, talk to us today about how one-to-one coaching or bringing Emergenetics into your workplace could be the difference that propels you to the next level.
Caselden Consulting is a Dublin-based consultancy focused on helping others achieve their fullest potential while recognising the humanity in all of us. Contact us to find out how we can help you. Want to be alerted when we post future articles? Sign up to get them delivered straight to your inbox.