Why Saying “That’s Not My Style!” Is Holding You Back

Wed, 2 Aug 2023 Updated By: Brett Lyons

Not My Style!

How many times have you heard ‘Not my Style’ used in business and social situations?

However, if you are a ‘Leader’, your style will impact the workplace environment, your team and your colleagues.

I have asked many business leaders at all levels how they perceive their ‘Leadership Style’. Common responses range from ‘firm but fair’, ‘do as I do’ and of course ‘coach’.

Clearly, all these approaches have a part to play one of these are wrong, but there is a much bigger issue. The reality is that most leaders use only one or two styles, usually developed from upbringing, education and business experience, but that is not enough if the Leader wants optimum performance from the team.

The image of you leading a team of 10 people and asking yourself:

How many of my team are going to react positively to the same leadership approach?

The answer is probably 2 or 3, leaving the rest of the team at best neutral. This is because the same leadership doesn’t bring out the best in everyone. This is often demonstrated when a new leader is appointed and a team member who is seen as ‘average’ suddenly team becomes an outstanding performer. The reason a new leader brings a new approach!

Many things make an outstanding Leader, but there are two things every leader can do:

First: understand ‘Leadership Styles’ and identify the styles that are your strengths and those you need to develop. Discover how and when to use these seven styles:

  1. Directive
  2. Visionary
  3. Coach
  4. People
  5. Mutual
  6. Role Model
  7. Mentor

Second: develop the ability to use different styles to deal with different situations and develop to get the best performance from each member of the team.

On a recent project, I was working with an experienced second-line manager. A respected performer whose strength was developing new first-line managers, I will call her Jane.

Initially, we agreed that Jane’s style was predominantly directive, coach and visionary, Jane knew what she expected, and she knew where she wanted to take the team.

Jane became somewhat defensive when we discussed how she could improve her leadership skills and create better team performance if she consciously developed her leadership styles. It was a natural reaction; her team was performing so why should she change?

However, Jane was not asking the question

What could be?

So, we divided her team into 3 groups:

  1. Enthusiastic Beginners

People new to management with steep learning curves. They liked Jane and revelled in the clear direction, coaching and vision she provided.

Not surprising then that Jane had a great reputation with people new to first line management role, her leadership style was a perfect match for their needs.

  1. High Performers

People who were established and leading performing teams. This group reacted well to Jane’s visionary approach as they liked goals and communicated this to their own teams.

However,, Jane’s ‘directive’ style caused frustration and dissatisfaction, which posed the serious threat of losing good people. High Performers didn’t like being told what to do and wen to do it.. They were happy to listen, but they want to be consulted and to contribute, to her vision, something a mutual or mentor approach would deliver.

  1. Mid-Level Performers

Established managers who were established and could be described as ‘Complacent’.

Jane found this group difficult.  Their performance was average, they resisted change and had an answer for everything. If performance was to improve, this group had to contribute

In reality, this group had disconnected. They viewed Jane’s vision as unreachable, and the group avoided ‘Direction’ rather than acting on it. They understood ‘what Jane wanted but didn’t know ‘how’ to deliver.

This group were crying out for people, coach and visionary styles of leadership, but the reality was that Jane’s directive approach was acting as a catalyst for a response based on excuses and rationalising why ideas would not work.

A mismatch, causing dissatisfaction and driving poor performance

The challenge for Jane was to do three things:

  • First: keep doing what works

It was very important that Jane continued to build on her natural leadership style, which was so successful with the ‘Enthusiastic Beginners’.

  • Second: consult with the High Performers

Through a combination of mutual and mentor, Jane encouraged this group to contribute ideas to achieve her vision. This included group and one-to-one sessions which helped the group decide their personal goals and explore ways to reach them.

Follow-up revealed an overall improvement in the work environment and staff satisfaction scores. It is vital that companies don’t lose their high performers.

  • Third: Develop the Mid-Level

Although the visionary style was still appropriate, Jane needed to use the coach and people styles to lead this group.. An approach that reconnected this group and helped the group deliver business growth.

Equally as important, follow-up demonstrated that workplace environment, staff motivation and performance had all improved.

I’m sure that Jane would agree that in implementing these different leadership styles, not only were her teams now on track but her leadership performance was enhanced by her newfound ability to adapt to different challenges.

So, the next time you find yourself saying ‘not my style’ think again!

Brett Lyons

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