(Note – ‘Management’ in this section does not infer the role and function of the CEO)
The definition of management is achieving agreed objectives with and through people.
‘Management style’ is the term given to the manner in which Boards, sub-committees, Management Teams, Project Teams – or individuals – achieve agreed objectives with and through people. And there is a variety of attitudes, values and behaviours that underlie decisions and actions associated with collaborative achievement.
The challenge for every Board is to manage their governance role and function. People with responsibilities will have their personal style of doing things. In the same way, groups (including Boards) with the responsibility of managing their particular role and function will have a collective style. It is important for a Board to know and understand its management style, and to decide whether the current style is the one best suited to the task of achieving agreed objectives with and through people.
There are three broad management styles which apply to both individuals and groups. Starting with the least desirable, they are:
- crisis management
- re-active management
- pro-active management
What is Crisis Management?
It is the style of management where nothing new or different is considered unless and until a situation of crisis proportions is reached. It is the style which prefers and ensures that the status quo reigns .. problems or opportunities are ignored or bypassed until a crisis is reached, emotions are exposed and war is declared!
for example… a CEO has been asking for a position description since he started with the organisation six months ago. The Board has noted his requests but taken no action. Complaints have been received indicating that ‘he has not been doing what he is employed to do’. These too have been noted but no action taken. The CEO has now accused his critics of back-stabbing, given notice, and publicly criticised the Board. The Board now decides it had better prepare a position description. After all, it does have a crisis of major proportion on its hands!
What is Re-active Management?
It is the style of management where decisions are made absolutely and only in response to problems or opportunities… but nothing new or different is considered to prevent problems or create opportunities and very rarely is anything planned or initiated by the Board itself.
continuing the example… this Board would step in to prepare the position description for the CEO a little earlier than the Board whose style is crisis management… probably when a number of complaints had been received.
What is Pro-active Management?
It is the style of management where the possibility of problems or opportunities is examined beforehand… where the Board thinks ahead, initiates action and activity in anticipation and therefore takes the lead in preventing problems, creating possibilities and projecting the interests and needs of the organisation:
continuing the example… this Board would have had a position description prepared before advertising the position of CEO: the position description would have been the basis for interviews and for negotiations between the selected applicant and the Board.
Comparison of these three management styles:
A Board practicing pro-active management is committed to a healthy body (ie a healthy organisation)… taking great care of the incorporated organisation, building trust and openness, and initiating a ‘health care’ regime which ensures job satisfaction for all Board and staff members and significant benefits for members, service-users and the community or public:
a pro-active Board is committed to maintaining a healthy organisation.
A Board practicing re-active management is committed to ‘band-aiding’. It recognises wounds (eg mistakes in its records, unwise decisions, faulty communication, unclear expectations of staff) after they occur, sometimes cleans the wound and applies the band-aid .. then another as that band-aid drops off! This Board reacts to each problem or opportunity when it is no longer possible to ignore it. In short, this Board buys band-aids in bulk, and has no planned health care regime:
a re-active Board wishes desperately that it had a healthy organisation.
A Board practicing crisis management is into surgery! Every event is traumatic, affecting the whole body (organisation). Anaesthetic is applied for each crisis and the entire organisation becomes traumatised while each crisis is handled:
the wound is opened up to reveal inept behaviour and procedures, and lack of planning. Heavy bleeding occurs, causing loss of energy, activity and confidence – with body parts being repaired or removed (accompanied by project failures or staff resignations). Suturing is completed and if the organisation is lucky a healing process is allowed.
a Board practicing crisis management thinks that repeated surgery creates a healthy organisation.
Every Board will be able to identify with one or more of these three management styles. It is possible for a Board to be using each of the three at the same time!
For instance, a Board could be re-active in attracting funds, pro-active in supporting services to members or service-users and resorting to crisis management in its community information and support.
Or, again, a Board could resort to crisis management in running its monthly meetings, re-active in dealing with staff and pro-active in its community and public relations:
- the most desirable situation is for a Board to be consistently pro-active, with the emphasis being on the two words… consistent, and pro-active.
- the least desirable situation for a Board is to be using each of the three management styles according to the issue or situation.
In the same way that parents need to be consistent in correcting and rewarding their children and teachers need to be consistent in correcting and praising their students, Board members need to be consistent in their dealings with each other, the CEO, staff, members, service-users, external resource people and their local community or industry.
Inconsistency breeds suspicion and lack of trust, and undermines confidence in the Board as a whole and in the organisation. A pro-active Board is able to be consistent. Board members share a common vision for the organisation’s future and are realistic in their decisions on how best to achieve that vision. Such a Board generates trust and confidence, and draws people into forward planning and initiatives toward achieving a collective future vision.
Introducing change into each of these three management styles
It is important to consider how each of the three management styles handles change.
Of the three management styles, pro-active management is most open to change… mainly because this style is future-oriented with its forward planning procedures, as well as being determined to learn as much as possible from its past and present. Ideas for change are usually welcomed, carefully explored and can be introduced through either the formal or informal structures or both.
The strategy here is to present suggestions or recommendations for change that are professionally presented, costed and justified in terms of the organisation’s purpose and objects.
On the other hand, re-active management is suspicious of change .. mainly because taking initiatives regarding possible problems and opportunities is unnatural and doesn’t come easily.
This style responds to ‘what is’ and not ‘what could be’ or even ‘what should be’. As importantly, this style allows and depends on external factors and parties to determine and interpret the present for them. Re-active Boards are exceedingly suspicious of even a hint of change from within.
The strategy here is to link suggestions or recommendations for change to external influences or existing internal problems.
A Board working in the crisis management style can only be changed through a crisis! Whether suggestions or recommendations for change are introduced from within or emanate from external sources does not seem to matter. The natural expectation is crisis. With crisis management, change will be accompanied by or will follow emotional trauma and is usually a major change, as small changes which could prevent trauma are just not considered by such a Board.
Nothing less than a total confrontation will accompany any suggestion or recommendation for change… and so the style of crisis management is reinforced as the Board associates change with a challenge to their authority and status.
Please leave your comments to discuss the management styles of an organisation.