Management Styles in SMEs and Nonprofit Organisations

Early notice: I will be closing this website on 30th April 2014.  After this date, I’ll be continuing my favourite hobby of researching the life and times of people who lived, worked and created in past times.Weekly free articles will continue until April.  I’ll replace my website with a free quarterly email newsletter, advising of new publications and articles that will be available free on email request.     Just email  jean@jeanroberts.com.au  or  jean146@ozemail.com.au  to receive these email newsletters after April 2014

I’ve been working with people in management positions through the past 30+ years.  These four core issues have been consistently identified as of ‘immediate interest or concern’ through all of these years:

1)       If there is a position description, how is it useful to the manager?

2)       How effective is the formal organisational structure in the delegation of authority and lines of accountability:

  • is a formal management team a good use of a manager’s time?
  • how do managers mix the role of team-member at that level with that of team-leader in their role as manager?

3)       Their self-image as a manager – whether it is adequate and appropriate to their level of responsibility and span of control, or lesser or greater than adequate and appropriate?

4)       How does each manager understand, accept and utilize her/his ‘natural’ management style in the relationships that are critical to their performance and job satisfaction?

Some notes on each of these four core issues:

The first issue is important, because it should both drive and guide performance, and be the basis for indicators by which performance will be monitored and measured.  Performance appraisal in turn leads to provision of adequate and relevant supports for improvement, eg training/learning and development, mentoring, qualification, networking with peers in other organisations or, conversely, for counselling or discipline.

  • email me jean@jeanroberts.com.au if you would like a draft Performance Management Tool that links SME/Nonprofit Strategic Priorities with  individual Manager Performance

The second issue relates to the organisational cultures that exist in any SME/Nonprofit (yes, there can be more than one in any organisation), and is an important component in the environment within which each manager is required to function.

  • email me  jean@jeanroberts.com.au if you would like a basic tool to understand and appreciate organisational cultures.

The third issue is a very personal one, and comes down to the confidence of the individual in the role they have achieved or been given.  It can be discussed in a group situation or on an individual basis.

  • email me  jean@jeanroberts.com.au if you would like a basic exploration of the components of self-image as a manager – each of which can be positive or not-so-positive, given different circumstances.

The fourth issue is a critical one, but with open discussion of style options and processes, individuals can objectively consider where their own style sits and see how they can move to other styles under particular situations or circumstances. In other words, they see that they can adopt various styles for various situations which gives them choices and flexibility while still retaining their status and authority with the people they are managing or supervising.

 Management Styles -  Crisis, Re-active and Pro-active

The definition of management used consistently in Jean’s writing is ‘achieving agreed objectives with and through people’.

Management style is the term given to the manner in which a manager or management group carries out the role of managing, ie the attitudes, values and behaviour which underlie decisions and actions associated with achieving agreed objectives with and through people.

It could be said that the management style is the ‘art’ of management.

People with management responsibilities will each have their personal style of doing things. In the same way, groups with management responsibilities will have a collective style. It is important that managers and management groups know and understand their management style, and accept that their style may not be consistent – for a range of valid  reasons.  The challenge is to be able – and willing – to adopt the style best suited to the immediate task of achieving an agreed and specific objective with and through a defined group of people.

There are three broad management styles:

1.       crisis management,

2.       re‑active management, and

3.       pro‑active management

1.         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, where the status quo reigns and problems or opportunities are ignored or bypassed until a crisis is reached, emotions are exposed and war is declared!

For example – a senior staff member has been asking for a position description since starting in the job six months ago.   Her manager has noted these requests, but taken no action. Complaints have been received indicating that ‘she has not been doing what he is employed to do’. These too have been noted but still no action taken by the manager.

The senior staff member has now accused her critics of back‑stabbing, given notice, and publicly criticised her manager.  The manager now decides he had better prepare a position description.   He also has a crisis of major proportion on his hands!

2.         What is Re‑active Management?

It is the style of management where decisions are made absolutely and only in response or reaction to a problem or opportunity – where no action is taken to prevent problems or create opportunities, and very rarely is anything planned or initiated by the manager.

Continuing the example, the manager would step in to prepare the position description a little earlier than the crisis manager – probably when the complaints had been received.

3.         What is Pro‑active Management?

It is the style of management where the possibility of problems or opportunities is examined, where the manager thinks ahead, initiates action and therefore takes the lead in preventing problems, creating possibilities and projecting the interests and needs of his staff and his areas of responsibility.

Continuing the example – this manager would have had a position description prepared before advertising the position: the position description would have been the basis for interviews and for negotiations with the preferred  applicant.

Comparison of these three management styles – starting with the pro‑active management style and working back to crisis management style -

–      a pro‑active manager is committed to a healthy body (ie the manager’s areas of responsibility, and the people through whom he is expected and required to achieve agreed objectives).  This includes taking great care with delegations, building trust and openness, and initiating a health care regime which ensures job satisfaction for the manager’s staff, positive working relationships with his peers, and significant benefits for the company or organisation as a whole.

  • the pro-active management style is committed to maintaining a healthy body.

–      A re‑active manager is committed to ‘band‑aiding’, recognises wounds (eg mistakes in records, unwise decisions, faulty communication, unclear expectations of staff) after they are inflicted (often self‑inflicted), sometimes cleans the wound, and applies the band‑aid – then another as that one drops off! This management style reacts to each problem or opportunity when it is no longer possible to ignore it. In short, this manager buys band‑aids in bulk, and has no planned health care regime.

  • the re-active management style wishes desperately that it had a healthy body.

–      A crisis manager is into surgery! An event or incident is traumatic, affecting the whole body:  anaesthetic is applied for each crisis and all else becomes stagnant while a crisis is handled.

The wound is opened up to reveal inept behaviours, lack of forethought, and reluctance in accepting responsibility.  Heavy bleeding occurs, causing loss of energy, activity and confidence - with body parts being repaired or removed (accompanied by project failures or resignations). Suturing is completed and, if the manager is lucky, a healing process is allowed.

  • The crisis manager thinks that repeated surgery creates a healthy body.

Any manager will be able to identify with one or more of these three management styles, either through their own experience or by observation.  It is possible that a manager could be using each of the three at the same time! For instance, adopting a re‑active style in decision-making, a pro‑active style in supervising staff, and a crisis management style in addressing tensions among the people through whom agreed objectives are expected to be achieved.