Navigating Differences on a Team

By Carly MacLennan

Illustration of man sitting on couch typing on laptop

The most critical factors in effective leadership are standards and connection. Anyone that is in a position of leadership knows, at least to some extent, that these factors are at play and decides to either engage in them, or avoid them. A combination of standards and connection will yield one of four different types of leaders, each with different results in the overall wellbeing and engagement of their employees. If we think about those factors creating two intersecting lines, with standards on the vertical axis and connection on the horizontal axis, we’re left with a nice four quadrant grid and space to represent each management style.

I want to take a deep dive into this concept of the four types of managers that I’ve outlined. The bottom right quadrant indicates both low expectations and standards, as well as low connection and empathy. I’ve named them “Removed Managers'' being that they are removed physically from their employees - staying in their office or not at all present - and removed emotionally as they view leadership as a burden and don’t involve themselves in the workings of the organization that they’re in. It’s not surprising that this leads employees to also become disengaged from their work. They feel rejected, unheard, and massively undervalued, so it’s not long before they’re looking for new places of employment that value their voice and work.

Moving just one quadrant to the right, we find ourselves with the “Buddy Manager.” With low expectations and standards, but high connection and empathy, Buddy Managers are often well liked by their employees but are not effective in helping them nor the business progress professionally. The environment that this kind of manager creates is one of low productivity and entitlement, as exceptions to the company’s standards or values are made and ultimately the manager’s relationship with their fellow employees is more important to them than the good of the company. Though genuine connection and compassion are essential in an effective manager, the lack of boundaries is what creates problems for the Buddy Manager and their team.

Diagonal to the Buddy Manager and in the top left quadrant lies the “Controlling Manager.” This type of manager is often met with rebellion, outward defiance, and variations of deliberate rule breaking because of their combination of low connection and empathy, but high expectations and standards. This is a “my way or the highway” way of leading, and it’s as harmful to the company as it is for the individual employees who work with these kinds of managers. Daily operations include neither care nor appreciation, and this disconnect leads to enormous losses in productivity due to disgruntled employees, theft and purposeful mistakes because of employee retaliation, and the replacement costs of new hires. Gallup Polls illustrate that managers of a company account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement and further statistics indicate that only 30% of employees in the U.S. employees are engaged at work and 13% of employees are engaged worldwide.

The last manager and certainly the one we should all be striving for is the “Mentor Manager.” This combination of high expectations and standards with high connection and empathy breeds respect and loyalty from employees. Not only is the relationship between employee and manager improved, but this is where the highest level of engagement with coworkers also exists. Leaders operating as a Mentor Manager are able to communicate an employee’s worth and potential in a way that is authentic and genuine, allowing for the employee to see it as well if they don’t already. This manager is engaged, meaning they’re constantly striving to be with their people both physically and emotionally. In doing so, they make deposits of trust that establish them as not only willing to connect with their employees, but someone that their employees want to connect with. I’ll quote my book in saying that “your title might make you a superior but your people will decide if you’re a mentor.”

Connection is the link that forms almost subconsciously when people experience a consistent, high level of trust, love, empathy, kindness, and care. It’s that kind of connection that motivates employees to perform at their highest level and that will ultimately propel your business in the direction of success. Good managers, parents, teachers, or anyone with a position of influence knows that you can’t control other human beings. You can only control yourself and the environment around you to be a place where other people can control themselves. This is where being someone that people want to connect with is oh so important, because if people are prone to engage with you, they’re also more likely to engage with their environment, their responsibilities, and a purpose that is bigger than themselves.

Mentorship isn’t a title that you can get from a higher-up. The only way to truly be a mentor is to earn that title from the people around you, from making deposits of trust and caring enough for the people you manage to be honest. I like to talk about the five C’s that all great mentors have: Confidence, credibility, competence, candor, and the ability to care. A good mentor is someone who knows their own abilities and strengths. They know the field they work or specialize in and they’re good at what they do. They make honesty a priority in their relationships and strive for authenticity out of genuine care for others. Great mentors connect people to something bigger than themselves.

About Clint

Clint Pulver is an Emmy Award-winning, motivational keynote speaker, author, musician, and workforce expert. He’s also fun, dynamic, entertaining – and the no-stress speaker clients love to work with. Find out more about mentors, employee engagement, and living rather than just existing in his new book “I Love It Here: How Great Leaders Create Organizations Their People Never Wants to Leave'' that's available now on Amazon. He’s a guest on Motivosity’s Silver Linings podcast, where they chat about all of the subjects mentioned above, as well as previous studies and endeavours Clint’s pursued. Find him on all social media at ClintPulver or on his website clintpulver.com.

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