We are all good at managing in some situations, regardless of whether we have “Manager” in our title or not. Management Training is about helping us become flexible managers, because the real art of management is about being able to manage in the full range of different situations, with all of their idiosyncrasies.
Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard explored this concept in great depth and developed their now well known Situational Leadership model.
Whist their work focuses on leadership it provides a useful way of exploring the versatility required of both successful leaders and managers. Hersey and Blanchard described two types of behaviour, task and relationship, and four styles relating to different situations in which a leader/manager finds themselves. The following are short interpretations of the four styles which they labelled S1-S4:
S1: Telling – task focused behaviour, based on one-way communication in which the leader instructs the individual in the why, what, how, when, and where relating to the task that needs to be completed and the process that needs to followed.
S2: Selling – this style is still from a directive base with an emphasis of task behaviour, but this time two-way dialogue is introduced, with the supportive communication that encourages the individual to buy in to the idea of completing the task and using the process; typically persuading them of the value or benefit of doing so.
S3: Participating – in this style the balance of behaviour starts to slide in favour of maintaining the relationship and less focused on task. Two-way dialogue now leads to a shared decision making process regarding how the individual will complete the task or tasks in question; the responsibility for the decision usually still resting with the leader/manager.
S4: Delegating – now a high level of relationship behaviour sees the process and responsibility pass to the individual or group. The leader is still involved in the decision but focuses on monitoring progress against the task or process objectives.
There is no wrong or right style, just a style best suited to each of the associated four situations. The skill of management is to be flexible enough to work comfortably with all four styles; the art is of course to use the most appropriate style at the right time.
Stop for a few moments and consider in which style you tend to spend more of your time. We all tend to have preference; a style which we find most comfortable and natural. The likelihood is that it is the other three styles that you will need to explore further when you attend management training in the future.