Recession brings new management styles, what’s yours?

Recession brings new management styles, what’s yours?

The recession or downturn is showing up a few new and interesting management styles. As I travel to various companies for my business coaching and training work, I observe middle and senior managers as well as business owners with varying degrees of each of the following management styles. Maybe they always existed, but now they are really showing up due to the decision making effectiveness or it’s opposite they each carry.

The Ostrich Manager

You see them in and around the office, when there is any sign of difficulty or conflict, they become very quiet and whilst they may still be visible, sound could well be missing. The fear of having to make unpopular decisions or just plain decisions sends this manager into spirals of fear and it results in sticking their head in the sand. They become non-communicative, unreachable and unwilling to discuss the difficulties. I wonder whether they are silently hoping and praying that the problem will disappear over time.

The Happy Clappy Manager

This manager hasn’t yet entered the reality of recession and lives in blissful ignorance of even some of the most blatant facts in their spreadsheets. They speak of opportunity consistently and will tell all and sundry that business is booming and great. They will also be millionaires in the next lotto draw, for sure! This person doesn’t want to talk about downsizing, cost cutting or accounts for that matter and when asked they are focussing on the positives and getting the message out there. Challenges are not for handling, but for opportunities and if really pushed they sure can’t stand negative people and will avoid challengers at all costs because ‘they have issues’. Sure the economy is turning around, right about now, isn’t it?

The Hide and Seek Manager

It’s a case of ‘now you see me, now you don’t’, more often than not this manager is missing in action and if he is around he is in a meeting or on the phone. Do not go there with your issues, because he never solves them, they just join the enormous queue of things to do when there is time. If he can get away with skipping meetings, he will do his utmost and he pretty much delegates or rather abdicates anything to all around him. The theory being if he needs be involved there will be a boss on to him, if not he will just carry on being invisible and dodging jobs.

The End-is-near Manager

The cup is half empty and they can see the bottom falling out, if it isn’t already leaking. If you want to become up close and personal with doomsday then this manager is your best advisor. He has predicted that the economy will never be the same again and that the worst is yet to come. Any problem is justification that he is absolutely spot on with his predictions and they are all signs that really we should all retire into an early grave, because let’s face it there is no point in continuing on. In their moment of clarity they will work to rule or go by the book, but only because there is no better alternative.

The Parachute Club Manager

Like the parachute this manager appears out of nowhere stirs a panic, dumps large amounts of work and breezes out of the office again, off to their next big picture project. When questioned on who is in charge, they can be rather animated in their response that they had delegated the work and if it wasn’t done the parachute opens again and blame rolls off to someone else’s shoulders. If you do happen to be in their path on landing, be afraid to be run over or swamped, both are likely. They rarely take responsibility, but tend to have big picture opinions on everything.

The Silent Plodder Manager

This is probably the most productive of the various characters and gets on with the job at hand. They don’t cause too much of a stir, they do deal with issues as they come up, they are often delegated to by peers up to the point where they are disgruntled but they won’t say anything. In any case you should be grateful to have work these days even if this characters probably does more than their job they do feel underpaid and undervalued, but will only move on or pipe up when it has gone way too far. If ignored for too long they also do a silent work to rule type protest, where nobody in the organisation really understands why things don’t function as they used to anymore.

These are only observations from my travels in companies and are by no means a complete or scientific evidence based account of management styles.

All joking aside, which one of these are you today?

What are you doing to build credibility?

What are you doing to build credibility?

After being in this line of business for 9 years, I often come across people just starting out and their enthusiasm is contagious, their vigour to make a break with their past equally strong. I have to admit I also made the same mistake and I am moving away from old beliefs on it. If you are about to set off on a major career change, whether it is a completely new industry, a new skill, etc… you may well relate to this or have even done the same, namely ignoring or hiding your previous knowledge and skills.

To support myself through college I worked in call centres and having a few languages up to fluency level is very handy, but in order to find a career in management consultancy I originally had to hide those talents to be even considered for business jobs. So that strategy worked for me in building a career in change management.

When I originally started my business and had my first website designed, I nearly had my full cv posted as part of my profile. Initially it was one of the reasons why people bought from me, then over time I felt the results with clients spoke louder and testimonials started replacing the full pofile, because I felt in the end of the day that is what matters.

However when I teach graduates of coaching courses i am always fascinated at how desperate they don’t want to be known for their previous career and completely rule out any connection with it. For most of them thought hey also forget that it is in those previous skills that they have a niche market, which can be potentially very lucrative and if you have read the book ‘The long tail’ all you want is a niche an inch wide and a mile deep or the tail end of the bell curve. Most people in the professional service industry tend to want to be all things to all potential customers, that way you definitely become a wandering generality with probably an equally wandering income.

In the last number of months I have been busy tailoring my market offering more specifically and splitting the business into 3 distinct niches with different demands and matching price and service levels. Regular followers of my blog would also have noticed I put up some more information about my credentials and career as an entrepreneur as well as before then. It is my way of going back to basics, especially when the basics are what sold in the first place.

Obviously my blogposts will build on my credibility, the articles that are published in business magazines and the snippets of wisdom that make onto tv and radio equally give further recognition.When you know me a bit better, you will also realise that for most of my achievements to date, I would see them as in the past, they were enjoyable and I am proud of them, yet my focus is on the future and where to next. I also recognise this pattern with a lot of my high achieving clients, who often hit massive goals and immediately focus on ‘next’. If this sounds very familiar then my advice is to start building a public list of achievements, so other people can buy you for what you are worth based on previous knowledge, experience, skills and credibility, as well as what you can deliver for them.

In the social media age, managing your reputation and uniqueness is going to be increasingly vital. If you are in the service business right now or looking to be upwardly mobile in your company or industry, then it is time to start building an online profile that you manage pro-actively. You largely control what goes out on your website, blog, linkedin profile and to some extent Facebook also. If you want to be a somebody going forward and Google can’t find you (apart from having a name that you share with lots of other people), then you are missing the mark and credibility factor. If you do share your first and last name with a lot of other people, you then need to become creative either with middle letters or short descriptors that truly state who you are such as for example ‘An -the coach- Coppens.

What else can you do right now, to build your credibility?

I asked myself that question and I am pursuing a goal of doing advanced research into entrepreneurial performance, so that I can become the go-to expert in this field which to me is an extension and deepening of the knowledge I have in my business only I will have more researched findings to back it up. Same focus, same business, just more researched and potentially way more effective.

Theory of evolution: the perception of success and comparing ourselves against benchmark reference points

Theory of evolution: the perception of success and comparing ourselves against benchmark reference points

Last week I was delivering training to sales agents in an IT company and we had a bit of fun trying to come up with innovative ways of describing virtualisation and things like cloud computing to people that have absolutely no technical grounding, understanding or background. We came up with some real fun pizza oven examples in addition to the existing laundry analogy from a few weeks prior; but at the same time it hit me that when we mention success we actually hit the same conceptual misunderstanding as virtualisation and cloud computing.

Think about it… what does success mean to you? Ask another 5 people that you know and they may all have a different definition and opinion of what it means for them. In actual fact I even think virtualisation has a more defined description than success for that matter. As I have been coaching clients this week with the start of a new year being a topical time for new goals and re-visiting of old goals, I also came accross a good few success stories.

One client doubled his income in what is called a recession and his is based on turnover alone and not just thanks to cost-savings and staff re-adjustments. Another client managed to remain calm and in control throughout a period of extreme conflict in her personal and business life. A person returning to work after an extended health related break due to bullying in the workplace managed to hold their first team meeting in a productive manner. A start-up client took redundancy and has hit the ground running in a completely new line of work.

This is just a flavour of what my clients call success. Today I had another interesting discussion about it with a client. She asked me is it just these days that we are so much more aware of what we don’t have that we have this consistent need to achieve and change etc.? When I spent a few minutes thinking about it, I have to say we or better the human race probably always had reference points and pecking orders even in tribal days. Debating it even further we actually concluded that even in animal tribes this exists and that there is an innate drive to achieve or ‘become the leader of the pack’. Our acceptance or rejection levels of leadership have in my view definitely changed, but I do believe we all came with an inborn need to achieve, why else would we bother to learn anything more than pure survival skills?

Going back to success as a concept for a business owner this once again has to be observed within the confines of a market place, an industry, the internal resources available, personal skills of the owner, etc.. So for a solopreneur in the service business global domination may not be the most realistic goal without team development, however they can probably achieve local leadership in the local market place. As one of my clients put it: ‘do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?’

With all the pressure and overuse of the terms ‘goals’ and ‘new year resolutions’, I am asking all of my clients this year to pick one overal reason for existing in their business segment. What is your one big mission and purpose for doing what you do? Why are you here? Gone are the days where I encouraged people to look at all areas of their life and set equally big targets in each of them, most of them ended up disappointed. So I decided a few years ago to go back to basics with clients and help them set goals for as many areas as they felt were important and then to narrow it down to 1 or 2 key focus targets, which is easy to manage and deliver on. When thy achieve one, then I ask them to celebrate and move on to the next most important one or a new one as priorities often change over time and circumstances.

After the 1 big target has been chosen the actions to go with it become even easier to distill and staying on track is simpler to manage for the individual. It is also amazing when you set your sails to one destination how other random distractions become irrelevant.

My big target for this year is to be known to deliver results with clients in the professional service industry. What is your 1 big aim for 2010?