In the PR world, no two managers are the same. Some lead with an iron fist, others go the gentler route, and most fall somewhere in between. After 35 years leading PR teams, I can tell you with certainty the only right style of management is the style that works for you.
I never fully analyzed my managerial or leadership style until I was invited to speak at the Women Entrepreneurs Rock conference in Asbury Park, NJ, in 2015. After taking a multiple choice test, I learned that I’m an “emotional leader” who, over time, has become more of a leadership mentor than a day-to-day manager.
The only right style of management is the style that works for you.
While I was in the day-to-day of managing teams, though, I can say with certainty my style changed regularly. It typically correlated with who my direct reports were and how much of my input they needed in their day-to-day. These days, the most rewarding part of leadership for me is coaching – and celebrating – our agency’s managers as they perfect their own personal styles.
Whether you’re a long-time manager looking to improve your leadership or a newly promoted team leader looking for direction, here’s a step-by-step guide to uncover your perfect managerial style.
Assess your boss’ effective management tactics
Remember when I said everyone manages differently? Well, the more you assess your senior team’s management styles, the more you’ll realize the vast variations. Take a look at the supervisors in your firm or company and evaluate how they manage their teams. Some may be stricter, but they yield great (and on-time) results. Others may be laid back, but the team has utmost respect for them because of this trust, and therefore turns in great work on or ahead of deadlines.
This assessment isn’t meant for judgment; it’s to help you see the different styles you could adopt, and the pros and cons of each. Instead of mentally taking notes, jot these observations down. Listing the pros and cons will make the analysis much clearer.
What’s great about being surrounded by different management styles is that you can appreciate how they get things done and the way in which they do it. I’ve learned that you have to manage the whole person and not just their work – and managing by example puts you in a leadership role.
Review your past leadership experiences
Sure, you may not have led teams at your firm or company yet, but that doesn’t mean you’ve never been a leader. Were you captain of your basketball team? Did you lead a group project? These are all leadership experiences, and they’re an incredibly valuable tool to see what personally works for you.
Let’s say you were captain of your high school basketball team. How did you motivate people? How did you get them to listen to you? What worked and didn’t work when ultimately leading that team? Once you’ve analyzed the “wins” and “losses,” you’ll have a good idea of your own successful leadership tactics.
Be true to your personality
You know what your bosses do. You know what you’ve done in the past. Now it’s time to mesh the two and see what type of leadership works best for you and your personality.
Pull out the leadership tactics that feel most comfortable to you from your boss and former life. Your boss’ “iron fist” ruling may be effective, but if you’re not comfortable laying down the law aggressively, don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead, look at other bosses or leaders outside the industry to see how they manage issues, then come up with a system that works for you.
The same goes for project oversight. If your boss is the “anti micro manger” – but you just can’t let go of the reigns – find a happy medium, whether it’s weekly team touch bases or requesting to be CC’d on every email. Above all, you need to feel comfortable in order to be a confident manager.
Write a “mission statement” for the type of leader you want to be
Now comes the fun part: You know the type of manager you want to be, let’s get it down on paper! Prepare a mini mission statement about your managerial goals so you can stay true to yourself through thick and thin. For example, if you want to be a strict – yet approachable – manager who stays in the loop on all client correspondence, your statement could read:
I will set clear deadlines and expectations; when those expectations aren’t met the team will be asked to redo work – even if it means staying late. While strict in expectations, I will also bond with my team in and outside of work to create a strong camaraderie that helps our team work in tandem. I will not micro manage, but to ensure my clients’ needs are met, I will request to be on all emails and will jump in as needed. When there’s a problem, I will pull my team member aside quickly to discuss it. At the end of the day, I will be a manager who drives her team to deliver the best work they can – and have fun while doing so.
Once you’ve perfected this statement, print or write it out and keep it at your desk as a constant reminder. This is a promise to yourself; the more you read it, the more natural it becomes.
Ask for help from your team and your boss
You didn’t get to this management point alone, so you can’t expect to excel at it by yourself. Share your mission statement with your boss or mentor so they can keep an eye out and help you stick to your strategy. While you may not want to share your statement with your team, take them aside and give them the ‘Cliff Notes’ version so they understand how you plan to manage. Empower them to speak up if you’re swaying from this strategy. While you want to feel like the top boss, your team is your best asset and ally.
Whether it’s weekly or monthly, take 15 to 30 minutes to evaluate how your strategy is working. Do you need to get stricter on deadlines? Are you taking time to recognize your team for a job well done? Are you finding time to bond with your team beyond day-to-day work?
Perfecting your management style is a marathon, not a sprint. Consistent evaluation will help you fine-tune your strategy and will ultimately set you up for long-term management success.