There are many definitions of an effective manager. I think of it as Ying and Yang. Let’s take a quick look into the differences.
When hiring a manager, it is pertinent to overlay the company’s goals. Is this a company whose strategic plan is to grow exponentially or one that is planning moderate gains in size, but is looking to maximize shareholder value? The reason to identify the strategy is that these likely require two different personality types, one possibly being more aggressive than the other. The individual must fit the company strategy.
The Ying: This manager feels the need to touch every nuance of their department’s activity. They will need to be CC’d or worse BCC’d on every email even remotely related to their area of responsibility, and will become uncomfortable if they are not.
This manager has a tight hold on every aspect of their department and trusts no one below them on the organizational chart to make an independent decision without approval. This manager is usually busy at all times putting out fires or producing endless streams of spreadsheets. Their personality motivates them to control everything around them that they possibly can. It is in their DNA: control and dictate.
They will be very direct. They see themselves as the ultimate problem solver – this is how they derive their self-worth.
They spend much of their time finding culprits when things get off track. They do not effectively coach their direct reports, and they ask for no feedback on their performance. They chastise in public and seldom offer praise except to those who have figured out their style and yield to it.
They may share a role description with a direct report, but it is usually very vague. It is not usually talked about again after the hiring process. Information is held close by this manager; they and they alone are the keeper of the bigger picture.
The Yang: This person manages by committee, wants a cross-section of opinions before they pull the trigger on a new policy or procedure – they want their peoples’ input. They know that asking another person’s opinion empowers that individual.
This manager delegates responsibility to their staff and thinks their people should enjoy autonomy in their roles. They see their role as a coach, always looking for ways to assist their direct reports. They exercise daily walkabout coaching trips and they encourage better performance through collaborative conversation, always talking to everyone respectfully.
This manager would never chastise an individual in public and would rarely do it at any time. They practice praise in public. When this manager sees a recurring issue, they rally the troops and limit any additional distractions.
That might include a collaborative SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) or some other action designed by the department and owned by everyone involved in the process. This person knows they do not need to be involved in every decision or CC’d on every piece of correspondence related to their departments.
This manager knows that sharing the big picture at any given time is essential and impacts the quality of their peoples’ decision-making. Yang encourages the individual’s decision-making. They hire to a solid job description and coach their direct reports to review the document periodically. They also use it during quarterly performance reviews.
I understand these two paradigms of a manager, because I have been both at one time in my past. I was Ying, feeling my self-worth as a businessperson was based on my control of everything around me.
I reveled in being the go-to guy for everyone, my employees would line up at my door, and I would meter out direction like a traffic cop at a busted intersection. It was exhilarating and exhausting, and it was wrong.
I learned from a couple of competent business coaches the error of my ways. It would have been impossible even to write that last sentence in my past. I looked down on consultants. How dare you tell me how to run my business? No way.
The shift in thinking came from reading business books, case studies, and business psychology. What could I learn from others who had been successful?
Coincidentally, these revelations I accepted came simultaneously with our company’s drastic reduction in driver turnover, which was a two-year journey. Putting a driver turnover plan together with people and asking them to fill in the blanks was instrumental to our success.
It was exhilarating to watch the team come together and we reduced turnover from 120% to 20% in just two years – what a ride. We also more than doubled our operating ratio and won the Truckload Carriers Association national fleet safety award three times.
Engaged employees are more productive, they feel empowered because they are, and they have a level of autonomy to do their jobs. If you were a driver, do you think Ying or Yang would reveal itself during interactions with everyone in the business. Which would you like to drive for?