There are 130-plus employees in Leggett & Platt’s IT department and well over half of them manage either people or projects. As an entry-level IT employee, I get to work with all the management-style combinations you could imagine on a daily basis. It used to make my head spin, so I categorized managers (with the help of trainingmag.com terminology) into 3 main management styles. Then I analyzed the characteristics and came up with ways I could dazzle ‘em all.
The Directing Management Style
Managers who use this style tell employees what to do, how to do it, and when it needs to be done. They like to poke holes in your arguments, they like to be in full control, and—if we’re all being honest— they can be a little intimidating. They know what they want and they expect no less than their vision (which is often brilliant).
Pro: You don’t have to guess which project takes priority.
Con: You may have little creative leeway on their projects.
How to dazzle ’em
- Shake it off. People who are high-up in a company forget what it was like starting out. it’s been years since they’ve had to build that cognitive schema (see my last blog for more on this) you’re currently working on. Compensate by seeing things from their point of view. Top Dogs are preoccupied with everything they need to get done; they may forget the minor things—like how to politely word a phrase. Remind yourself that their critiques are not personal; it’s just the way they do business. Really. They’ll appreciate not having to explain themselves around you.
- Stand your ground. It’s okay to disagree with them, but do your research, back up your argument, and never be disrespectful or get upset. This type of manager appreciates a challenge. When they poke holes in your argument, try changing your body language and make your point.
The Delegating Management Style
Delegating managers assign tasks to employees and expect them to work independently or in groups to resolve the task with little to no instruction. They’re laid back and fully rely on their team.
Pro: If you enjoy taking the reins, this management style can be empowering. You’ll definitely get noticed by other people in your department.
Con: You may get little to no feedback from this manager.
How to dazzle ’em
- Be vocal. If you need additional feedback or help, speak up. Don’t wait for them to check in on you. Take initiative and schedule weekly meetings to summarize the work you do. This reassures you that you’re on the right track and let’s your manager know you’re interested in feedback.
- Take the lead while including them. Once you’ve done research on your project, propose at least two solutions for them to choose from. They’ll know they can rely on you and you will get the answer you need (or you will at least narrow down your possible solutions list).
The Discussing Management Style
Managers that promote learning through interaction use the Discussing Style: a Socrates-type method that encourages critical thinking and lively discussion through questions. This style helps build comradery between team members — this is a personal favorite.
Pro: You’ll get the help you need from this manager but you’ll also be allowed to come to your own conclusions. Win, win.
Con: If you’re an introvert, a question-and-answer session may be uncomfortable at first.
How to dazzle ’em
- Showcase your curiosity. Ask THEM questions. It will let them know that you’re engaged and that you’re ready to learn.
- Be prepared. Read the meeting agenda before your meeting and do the required research. Contribute to the discussion and you’ll impress this management type.
- Speak their lingo. Learn everything you can about your field and trade. Communicating effectively with your managers includes learning the vocabulary they use every day and using it yourself.
Some Tips for Dazzling All Types (because it’s not all black-and-white)
- Adopt their subtle habits. First rule in adopting the habits of others: don’t be creepy. A little mimicry goes a LONG way. Here’s the theory: people will automatically like people who have similar characteristics and who communicate similarly. So, if your manager prefers drop-in meetings over email or instant messaging, drop-in to give them an update on a project. Also, pick up on tone in conversation, their body language, etc. and follow their lead. This will subconsciously let your manager know that you both are on the same page. The more you practice, the more you will start to naturally sync up with your manager, making it easier to communicate with them.
- Have that can-do attitude. Richard Branson says, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.” I’m in complete agreement. Being resourceful and positive is something everyone can admire.
- Just ask. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. If you really want to know what qualities your direct manager looks for in an “A-player”, ask. That’s what I did. Read what she and a few other managers at L&P have said about what impresses them, below.
Management at Leggett & Platt
As a part of my research for this blog post, I’ve asked some of our managers here at Leggett & Platt to give me a quote on what dazzles them about new hires and A-team employees. This is the wisdom they shared with me!
“I like a [Leggett] partner who ‘takes ownership’ of his/her job, who says to himself or herself, ‘If I owned the company, how would I like my job to be done?’ and then goes out and does it that way. I think partners who approach their job in this way are leaders in the company, regardless of their job title or specific responsibilities.” – Gene Kartchner, Assoc General Cnsl/Chief IP CI
“The best people are those who continue to improve their skills, abilities, and knowledge of the business. While this seems especially true in a technology department, it is just as pertinent in every business area.” – Lee Loop, IT Senior Manager
“There are so many things I admire about my ‘A-team.’ I am very fortunate to have an open minded group that is never satisfied with the status quo. They have a quest for knowledge and an inspiring work ethic. They challenge me daily in a positive way which makes me and our entire organization stronger.” – Dylan Hale, Director Purchasing Programs
“The qualities that I look for in employees are: excellent work ethic, focus on continuous improvement, emotional maturity, willingness to learn, and good instincts.” – Jason Gorham, Staff VP-Employee & Labor Relations
“I value optimism and a willingness to learn the most, because no matter what, you’re going to have to adapt and learn something new at Leggett. Even if you’ve been in a particular line of work for years and especially if you’re going into something new. Be fearless and take chances. This company never stops changing and growing, so I expect my A-team to do the same.
On a side note, I admire those employees that take what they’ve learned and help educate others on tips that will make them successful. That’s definitely A-Team material in my book!” – Mandy O’Neill, IT Manager (and my direct manager)
About the Author
I’m a kinesthetic creative. This of course is just my fancy way of saying I get my brightest ideas while moving, like when I’m hiking on trails or pacing my office. It’s probably why I prefer a pen or marker to the keyboard when I begin sketching out technical concepts for end-users at work. As a Systems Analyst/Technical Writer for Leggett & Platt’s IT department, my ability to re-draw (or write) an idea from a different perspective allows me to get inside the technical mind and successfully translate a message for the masses. It takes a type of creativity that people don’t get to experience every day. The projects I’m involved in are always changing and that’s what keeps me engaged.