Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
I find it so interesting to see the varied management styles that bring the best out of people. Some people flourish when they have a lot of structure and direction. Others do best when they are given a broad mission and left to design a full plan of action on their own. Some people like a combination of the two. It’s vital to know your best work style. Why? You want to be able to know and recognize the environments and management style that naturally bring the best out in you. And you want to be able to ask questions about the management style for a prospective job to see if it will be a good match. Let’s look at three work styles. See where you fit:
- Defined role, objectives, tasks and tactics. Some people feel most comfortable and are most productive when everything is spelled out. They want to know exactly what their position is, what is to get done, the list of tasks that are involved, the tools provided, any assessment measurements and time schedules. They are happiest when they are fully informed about how they should complete their work, who they should be working with, and what the completed tasks look like. They want to please their manager and feel most at ease when their work is spelled out. They like to have very clear job performance expectations and want to have a manager available to answer questions. Does this sound like you?An example of this kind of worker is a woman I knew at a health club facility. She was confused and overwhelmed with her first manager who only provided broad brush directions. But when that manager left and a more structured one arrived, she was delighted to be given a full page of instructions on the details of her job. She loved knowing exactly what was expected and how to do each step. Same job, different manager, better fit!
- Clear goals but little direction. This is the other extreme. These people like and crave autonomy. They do not want a boss telling them how to get a job done. They actually enjoy creating a path to success by using their resources creatively and figuring out how to best proceed. They don’t mind it when circumstances change and new developments occur that can change things. They actually enjoy a little chaos and feel good about pivoting and changing direction. An example of this kind of worker is someone who comes in to build an entirely new program for the organization.I can think of an individual who was hired by a non profit to create new donor events. This was a brand new endeavor and she needed to come up with creative ideas, build out a plan and present it to the board. She flourished by having an environment where she could be creative and build a program from scratch with little management interference and direction. Many entrepreneurs are like this. They really like to have their autonomy. Even if they have a board to report to and be accountable to, they really work best independently and like to trust their instincts, experience and knowledge to create a win.
- A combination. Most people fall in this in-between category. They like to have some direction, especially at the start of the job, they like to have more freedom as they gain skill and confidence. They want to work closely with their boss at first, but then have more independence. People gain confidence as they get positive feedback that they are doing the job well. They prefer to check-in with their managers on just a periodic basis. An example would be a customer service rep. The manager trains them on the product and how to work with customers. At first they are asked to follow a specific script, but as they get more experienced, they are allowed to go off script and communicate more spontaneously.
It’s important to know your natural work style so that you can align it with the right environment. I often get career coaching clients who are unemployed because there was a real misalignment between their style and that of their boss. It’s sad to me when they didn’t realize that it was a bad fit and they kept trying to make a misaligned relationship work.
This kind of bad fit between the boss and employee often happens when a new manager comes in and inherits a team they did not hire and would not have hired.
The sooner you realize it’s just a bad style fit, the sooner you can begin a process to make change. You can try to make accommodations, and that might work in the short term, but if it’s a really bad style conflict, you’re probably better off moving on.
Onward in your career self-awareness and success!