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Tailoring Your Leadership Style to Your Employees

It’s so simple and makes a great impact!

The most effective leaders understand what style of management works for their direct reports. Too often, however, I see more of a selfish style of leadership. Meaning – I’ll lead as I want to and you (my employee) better adjust. Wrong and ineffective and it does not make you a good leader.  I’m not proposing you need a different style for each employee you manage, but you can likely group your employees to determine a particular management style that works for that group.

Your employees are likely quite unique from each other. You’ll have employees just out of school who may require more guidance to those individuals who are more senior and don’t need much of your attention.  For example, your “groups” may include:

  • Employees with less than 2 years of professional workplace experience or new to the organization (junior)
  • Employees who have been with the organization 2 – 4 years or who have just joined the organization coming from a similar industry with prior experience (mid)
  • Employees who have been with the organization 5+ years, or have come into a senior level role based on previous experiences or who have significant industry experience (senior)

Certainly while I may assume that the junior employees require more guidance and more of my attention, such as assigning them tasks, helping them plan how they will complete the tasks, and checking in with regularly on progress and the senior employees may require only a weekly meeting with me to check in, I’m still going to consider the individual employees within the group. A more senior level person moved to a role where he is now supervising others will require more of my attention initially than when he was an individual contributor in the organization. Similarly, two junior level employees may adapt at different a pace where one “gets it” quicker than the other and therefore once she “gets it,” she no longer needs me to review with her how she’ll approach her tasks for the week.

Additionally, if an employee who does well on his own and only needs to check in once a week during a one-on-one suddenly starts falling behind in his workload or is given multiple projects to complete in short timeframes, I’m going to want to step in and provide a bit more guidance either through helping him prioritize those projects or removing barriers that are preventing him from performing at his best.

Any good leader gets to know her direct reports and what they require to be effective in their roles. That may be removing barriers within the organization to get them the data they need, providing them skills necessary in their roles, helping them to prioritize heavy workload responsibilities, or just getting out of their way and letting them do their job. Your management style may have to change to accommodate changes with your employees. An employee who is used to working on simple projects and is now tasked with managing more complex initiates may require more guidance than he used to. The better you get to know your employees and build strong working relationships with them, the better you are able to support their needs, providing them the leadership they require to be effective in their roles.

Bottom line – adjusting your management style to the needs of your employees is not an onerous task and certainly has many benefits. Think about the best manager you ever had. I guarantee you that (s)he let you do the job – providing support when you needed it and getting out of your way when you didn’t need help. We all want acknowledgement for the work that we do and we want to know that our manager knows what we are doing and cares about our contribution. You don’t have to micromanage someone to be that leader that is well liked and respected by your staff.  You simply need to know what your employees need and when they need it. And be sure to let them know you appreciate their hard work and recognize their contributions to the team, department and organization as a whole.