I like Skip’s post called, Different management strokes for different folks? In it he talks about how different employees many need different things from us as leaders. Here’s Skip’s bottom line:
"I think as a manager you need to stay true to yourself, and manage in the way that you feel most comfortable. You can’t become somebody you aren’t, and you can’t change dramatically your style for each person. If you try to do that, you will lose your integrity because you will be inconsistent and people can’t trust you because they don’t know the "true" you. But, if you can make those little adjustments to your style in order to be a much more effective manager, then you should do so."
I agree and would say that we should always be true to ourselves. I have seen people take the "this is who I am" mantra too far, though, and use it as an excuse not to be flexible (I know this is not what Skip was suggesting). Let’s not confuse ethics, values, personality, and practices.
Take communication, for example. Communication is one area where everyone has unique preferences. Some people like frequent communication and check-ins. Others would see this as meddling. Some people enjoy spontaneous brainstorming while others prefer to have time to think about the topic before going "live."
Leaders need to adjust their messages to help their people be more successful. While effective communication take two parties, I put most of the responsibility on the leader to determine how to communicate his or her messages so they are heard as intended. I know a spontaneous extroverted leader who had a lot of reflective introverts working for him. He loved to brainstorm cold and found it exciting. Many of the people working for him did not like to brainstorm cold. To help his team do their best thinking, he needed to give these introverts some time to think about topics before he bounded into their workspace. When he first started with the company he instinctively just barged right into people’s space and asked them to brainstorm. This caused stress and produced poor results. When he adjusted his communication practices, everyone was happier and more creative. And the conversations were still exciting! He is still a spontaneous extrovert, but one that recognizes what people need to be most effective.
Be consistent is your values.
But be highly flexible with practices.
I would go so far as to say be highly flexible with regard to some beliefs, too. If you are not achieving the results you desire, you may need to adjust your mindset. There are many ways to be both consistent and provide people with what they need.
Johnsonville CEO Ralph Stayer shared this diagram many years ago and I still love its simple elegance:
Leadership A produces Results A
If you want Results B, you must provide Leadership B
Leadership A cannot produce Results B
This thinking applies to companies, projects, and people.