Thursday, July 10, 2008

What is Your Management Style?

I recently conducted an interview for a highly capable developer. I was the last person in the interview loop and I already knew I wanted to hire him, so I opened the time up to allow him to ask me as many questions as he wanted. Normally this translates into a few easy to answer questions. In this case I was asked a bunch that really made me think.

One of the more interesting questions was - "What is your management style?"

There are so many ways to answer this that at first I was stumped. Does my style even have a name? Should I talk about examples of what I've done to manage my team or talk more abstractly? In the end this is what I said and I think it rings true as a good, though not necessarily complete, answer:

  1. I believe in treating people like professionals. From the start I believe in giving and expecting trust. You don’t have to earn trust when you join the team. You receive it automatically and keep it unless you do something to lose it.
  2. I believe in delegating responsibility and authority. I want to give each person the chance to grown and reach for the stars, not be hobbled by low expectations or some ceiling I’ve put into place.
  3. I believe in personal accountability. If you make a mistake, own up, learn and move on.
  4. I believe in making mistakes. No one should be afraid to make a mistake. If you are going to fail, then fail fast.
  5. I believe in results. I measure people on results not activity. Activity without impact is poison to me.
  6. I believe in building a team. Each member of the team should be clear on their role, know where they fit in and feel they can depend on and lean upon others in the team to achieve group goals.
  7. I believe in adapting my management style to the needs of the employee. Some people need a very directive approach, some just need goals and the freedom to achieve them.
  8. I believe in real-time feedback. If you do something wrong you should know it immediately. If you do something right, you should hear about it right away. The further removed feedback is in time, the less effective it is.
  9. I believe in continuous improvement. On a daily and weekly basis we look at what went right, what went wrong, what needs to be tuned to improve effectiveness.
When I was done talking I realized that I was the wrong person to ask. The best way to understand my management style is to ask my team - not me!

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Aditya K said...

Good points! I have noted most, if not all, of these aspects in your management over the last 5 years.

I think it would also be worthwhile to discuss how one picks up these 'rules'. Did you read them somewhere? Did you learn from someone else? Is it based on experience, if so - have you found them to work?

Jason said...

That's a good question. I think its a combination of learning from others, experience, and also growing into your own unique style - as everyone will be different.

I was lucky in that I had a few very good managers early in my career that I could learn from. I tried to pick up the best and leave behind the bad traits :). I've also benefited from some formal training courses that helped me understand management theory have build a mental framework around how management works. Finally, I focus on learning new things every day - experimenting with different techniques to see what works best for myself and for the people that work for me.

Hope that helps!

Sam said...

Everybody has got his own management style. It is true.
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chandra said...

Best points to handle an interview, mainly in India where interviews are not subject related!
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