Managers are the butt of so much dissatisfaction in the workplace today. Often, they are piggies-in-the-middle between frontline employees, the wider organisation, and senior leaders. As the pressure to meet targets and deliver results pushes down, harassed managers face the tricky balancing act of trying to satisfy everyone. Depending on the culture, some succeed more while for others it’s only ever winners and losers. I know from coaching people globally that many under pressure managers default to a push style of managing. They become one trick ponies. So, what happens if that management style isn’t working?
Where does your management style come from?
You might have the job title of Manager but no two managers are the same. Managing is not black and white. Your management style gets shaped by three things:
- What your employer/the business demands of you
- Perceptions of others of how you should manage
- What you bring personally, e.g. personality, preferences, values, and experience of managing and being managed
Effective managers know to flex their style according to the situation. They look at what needs doing taking account of time, cost, and quality. Also, they consider who will do it based on their competence and confidence or commitment to the task. Often, managing is a series of trade-offs and judgement calls balancing business priorities with care for people.
What is a Push style?
In practice, many managers default to pushing their people when under pressure to meet business demands. A Push style is directive – proposing, telling, closed, using power. If you’re on the receiving end, it can come across as dynamic or aggressive and authoritarian. Too fast for some who can’t keep up. In response, people might feel uncomfortable, fearful, angry or stubborn. You need a tough skin when using this management style. It works best where relationships are superficial, short-term, and decisiveness is key. The priority is rapid action rather than commitment. It’s ‘my way’ or ‘this way’.
What is a Pull style?
The alternative to pushing people is to pull them towards you. A Pull style is supportive – building, testing understanding, seeking information, open. You ask great questions and listen with empathy. If you’re on the receiving end, it can come across as democratic or consultative, concerned, sharing power. In response, people can feel involved, trusted, and committed. As a manager, you need to be flexible and willing to share. It works best where you want to build trust in a long-term relationship. The priority is gaining commitment to a decision. It’s building ‘our way’.
Get it right, do it well
Both styles have their pros and cons. Overplay them and they become weaknesses. However, people want a different relationship with their employer than in the past. More open and less closed. More adult and less parental. Less indifferent and more caring or interested. Therefore, using a pull management style is one way of contributing to happier and more productive people. And that’s good for business too!
What is your default management style? How much do you flex your style according to the situation? Do you need to push less and pull more?