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Is Your Management Style Killing Productivity?

by Jonathan Raymond

May 2nd, 2013


It takes a while for obsolete ideas to die off. There’s one that I’m surprised to see is still very much in circulation. It’s a management philosophy that’s responsible for most of the dysfunction that exists in the business world. It goes like this:

Is Your Management Style Killing Productivity?

1. “I’m a           ” (“control freak” or “tyrant” or “type A person”)
2. “I know that about myself but I can’t change it, it’s who I am.”
3. “So I surround myself with people who aren’t like me.”

It’s usually spun better than that, of course. Instead of tyrant, it’s “I’m just strong willed.” Or instead of “people who aren’t like me,” they’ll say things like, “my managers ‘balance’ me or ‘keep me in line’.”

How do you think those other managers feel about that? If you’ve been there yourself you know that having to work around “the boss” and compensate for holes in their leadership is a huge drain on your day and the company culture in general.

But the real problem is in the second part – because it asserts a lie as a conclusion – that real change is impossible.

Like all good justifications for not changing, this one has some truth in it. It’s true that you need to know your weaknesses so you can make sure they don’t drag the business down. You do need to surround yourself with people who have complementary strengths. The question is: are you really doing these things to better the business? Or are you being the wrong kind of lazy – trying to take yourself off the hook for having to look in the mirror?

You can of course avoid this uncomfortable work, most people do. There are plenty of incredibly (financially) successful people who never do real honest work on themselves as a leader.

You could say the ultimate goal is to become your own manager. It might be the single most productive thing you can do.

But employees and customers are looking for that kind of leadership more than ever – they want to know that you’re looking at impacts beyond a narrow focus on the bottom line. People don’t split work and life the way they used to. The world is in the process of rejecting that well-worn phrase to the contrary because we realize that business – especially small business – has always been personal. And we want it to be more personal, not less.

When you take this idea down to the day-to-day of running a business, you’re joining a new conversation about management – about self-management – and it goes like this:

1. “I’m not great at           ” (“managing people” or “working with budgets” or “delegating projects”)
2. “Even though I may never be great at that thing, I’m going to keep working on it if for no other reason than I want to inspire my employees by modeling transparency.”
3. “I don’t want anyone who works here to have to carry me. I want self-responsible employees – because those are the real innovators – and I know they don’t want to work for someone who doesn’t take seriously the responsibility that comes with leadership

When you take this approach and really work at it, you start to see that before you weren’t actually managing anyone – they were managing you. Or managing around you, more likely. You start to see how everyone else was working overtime not to balance your weakness, but to compensate for it, which leaves them less available for their real job.

You could say the ultimate goal is to become your own manager. It might be the single most productive thing you can do.

Jonathan Raymond

  1. Stacey Pruim says:


    • Jessica Constantine says:

      Brilliant article , very timely too thanks so much for so perfectly condensing this crucial topic you really covered it well

  2. Bill Sterzenbach says:

    I agree completely. One of the toughest environments for this is with parterships. In a partnership one partner is constantly challenging the other and while it creates friction, it creates tremendous growth. Sometimes I wonder how solo leaders do it.

    • Rachel Clark says:

      There is nothing better when a perspective creates this type of response. It shows how deep and big a topic this is, whether you view it as right or wrong. With how much negativity you hear about business partnerships, I appreciate your positive perspective on them and what they can create.

  3. Geoff Carroll says:

    On a planet other than earth these observations may be workable. But on earth, at least two (and other) truths must be faced. 1) human nature of 90% of people working in ‘do more with less hurry up your job may not be here tomorrow’ organizations, unless their’ performance is measurable AND actually measured (like their functionally-focused ‘real’ work is), and rewarded or consequenced in conjunction, they’re just too overtaxed as it is. 2) many people promoted from non-manager to manager due to their technical skills only don’t have enough managerial / leadership DNA (aka True Strength- see books Strengths Finder 2.0 land Strengths Based Leadership) to take on this kind of skill acquisition effort, given the pragmatic truths in point 1.
    What you write SOUNDS wonderful Jonathan, Pluto sounds like a great place to try this out, but for all but the rarer 5 or 10% of people who are so motivated and enlightened as to take this on, not gonna happen.

  4. Kal says:

    Wow Geof…. Your transparent attempt at profundity came off as a negative self indulgent diatribe.

    • Mike Little says:

      I’ll have to go with Kal on your comments, Geoff. IF you are correct in your 5-10% estimate, then I, as a business owner, choose to hire those few available folks to be on my team. In fact, I believe that they already all work for me.

      What you’re saying is exactly what I hear from some of my customers. They walk into my shop and complain about not being able to find good employees. I’ve quit giving a reply although it would go something like “Why don’t you take a look at the methods you use to hire people?”

      I no longer reply because the standard answer is, “I’ve looked at that and it doesn’t work.” More of “I can’t change and besides, no one else will.”

      I beg, no demand to differ here. I can change. I have done so. I can adapt my business to the current economics. I do so willingly. My employees adapt right along with me. And they participate happily in every important decision. I choose to believe that they are smarter than average and guess what? They actually are. Funny thing.

  5. Bere' says:

    As Yoda would say there is no “Try” just “Do”
    Demand excellence from yourself “first” then when you ask it from others, Most will be happy to follow for that is the type of environment they want to be in. It just feels natural to them.
    Few people object to a clean, orderly, organized
    work place that is run in a way that secures the future of the business and their future and security.

  6. Andrew McAleese says:

    The toughest person you have to lead and manage is yourself

  7. Steve Gannett says:

    Strength Finders tell us to work on our strengths and don’t worry about our weaknesses. This sounds wonderful, but in the real world, we’d better shore up our vunerabilities.

    Jonathan’s approach to creating cultural change through personal improvement is right on point.

    If we are going to hang out a shingle, we’d better be in the business of doing all we can to create a positive, repeatable, and pleasurable business experience for our customers. Even if it means doing the hard work of working on our business(es) and ourselves. Strength or no strength.

    Thanks, Jonathan!