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There Are 4 Types of Managers—But Only One is Both Effective and Encouraging

Too often, managers try to win at all costs, when they should be focused on Winning Well.

The hypercompetitive post-recession global economy puts frontline and middle-level managers in a difficult position—expected to win, to “move the needle,” to get the highest ratings, rankings, and results.

Many managers become hell-bent on winning no matter what it takes, and they treat people like objects—in short, they lose their soul. This exacts a high price from managers as they work longer hours to try to keep up. Those unwilling to make this trade-off either leave for a less-competitive environment or try to stave off the performance demands by “being nice” to their team.

After years of trying to win while sandwiched between the employees who do the heavy lifting and leaders above them piling on more, they give up and try to get along. Inevitably, after prolonged stress and declining performance, they surrender to apathy, disengage, or get fired.

Don’t think this is happening where you work? Research says otherwise. According to Gallup, nearly two-thirds of American workers and managers are disengaged. We don’t believe that’s a coincidence. No one wins in environments like that.

Results or Relationships?

Focusing on results exclusively may improve outcomes for a time while also burning out employees, increasing apathy, and killing morale. We’ve seen too many managers end up isolated, frustrated, and working harder just to keep results from getting worse because they’re caught in this vicious circle.

With just a little more focus on relationships, though, you can inspire people to commit more deeply to their goals.

You might also know managers who focus exclusively on relationships, creating caring and supportive environments but with little to no accountability for results. The A-players inevitably flee because the best talent wants to work on a winning team, and if you don’t care enough to build one, they’ll find one somewhere else.

Once again, you don’t have to choose between results and relationships. Effective managers focus on both.

4 Types of Managers

A compilation of internal values and external focuses interact to create each of the four manager types. To better understand the principles of managers who win well, take a look at each of the four manager types.

The User Manager

User managers value confidence above humility. They prioritize results above relationships.

User managers focus on short-term results. They emphasize getting things done today and will worry about tomorrow when it gets here.

User managers tend to treat people as objects—the people are there to achieve results and that is their only value. These managers push hard for results and try to compel productivity through fear, power, and control. At the extreme they say things like, “If you don’t like it, leave” and, “Why should I say thank you? It’s their job.” They do not offer relevant encouragement and are inconsistent with accountability, often becoming reactionary and explosive when frustrated with poor results. Their meetings are often one way information dumps with requests for input met with silence. Meetings also end in silence, which the manager mistakes for agreement.

User managers create work environments that resemble sweatshops. They do achieve results, but at a high cost. Their employees do the least possible to avoid punishment. People leave as soon as they can afford to. Employees don’t solve problems or take initiative; they are happy to leave those tasks to their manager.

Since they get things done through fear, power, and control they have to spend a tremendous amount of energy policing their workers, forcing people to work, and replacing employees who leave. They often feel out of control (since they can’t possibly control everything or everyone). Frequently, these managers are frustrated, bitter, stressed, and suffer from poor physical and emotional health.

The Pleaser Manager

In the lower right quadrant are managers who aren’t trying to win but do put effort into amiable relationships with their colleagues. We call them Pleasers because they spend most of their energy trying to be liked by other people.

Pleaser managers value humility above confidence, and the confidence they do have derives from how well they perceive they are liked by others. They prioritize relationships above results.

Pleaser managers have a short time horizon. They work hard to ensure that people think well of them today.

Their short-term focus on being liked drives Pleasers to reactionary behaviors depending on who doesn’t like them today. These swings in behavior can make Pleasers seem wildly unpredictable. When an employee comes to a Pleaser with a problem, the Pleaser will often try to fix it. Paradoxically, in the attempt to be liked by one person, a Pleaser can verbally abuse or publicly humiliate another person without realizing it. When the humiliated employee confronts the Pleaser manager, the Pleaser will often apologize and say something like, “I don’t know what to do” or, “I just want everyone to be happy.” Pleasers rarely practice accountability unless someone pushes them to do so. When they do, their accountability is often insincere and ineffective since they are really just trying to make another person happy. Until their poor results catch up with them, Pleaser work groups and meetings can feel like happy hour—lots of fun and feel good, but no appreciable progress or commitments. They put a significant amount of time into the politics of hiding. They schmooze other managers and supervisors trying to maintain good will and avoid accountability for poor results.

Frequently, these managers are well liked by a majority of their team while being silently despised by many of their high performers, who eventually leave for a more productive and supportive environment.

Pleaser managers often feel out of control and overwhelmed. The constant need to manage relationships without demonstrable results exacts its own toll with stress and ultimately, termination—if they are ever held accountable.

The Gamer Manager

In the lower left quadrant you will find the manager who isn’t trying to win and who doesn’t build meaningful relationships with colleagues. We call them Gamers because without a connection to people or purpose, they spend their time playing a self-created game where status and survival are the score.

Gamer managers don’t value confidence or humility and do not prioritize business results or relationships with colleagues.

Gamers generally have a short-term focus on survival and status.

Gamers are manipulators. They spend their days playing dirty politics, working one person against another in their ceaseless quest for status. In their mind, winning is not related to organization results. Their meetings and efforts at delegation usually have two layers of meaning, with political subtext just beneath the surface.

Gamers attract a motley cast of sycophants, other Gamers, and the disaffected. Productive employees leave as soon as they can.

In unhealthy organizations, Gamers can hang around a long time as they manipulate the people around them in a warped game of “who will be the last one voted off the island?” Whether or not a Gamer experiences stress and discomfort depends on his or her internal values. Living and working this way is caustic to people with any self-regard.

The Winner Manager

Finally, in the upper right quadrant are the managers who win well.

Managers who win well bring confidence and humility in equal measure and focus on both results and relationships.

Where the other three manager types tend to focus on short-term goals, managers who win well have a longer time horizon. They build teams that will produce results today as well as next year.

Managers who win well build healthy professional relationships with their employees. They maintain high expectations for results in a supportive environment where people can grow and take healthy risks. Managers who win well master the art of productive meetings, delegation, and problem solving. They run meetings that people consider a good use of time. These managers practice steady, calm accountability along with celebration.

Their employees tend to stick around (often until they get promoted), and there is a line of people wanting to work for managers who win well.

They work with less overall stress than their colleagues and enjoy the benefits of productive, energized employees who take initiative and problem solve. These managers do work hard but tend to enjoy their work and have time to enjoy life outside of their job.

Where User and Pleaser managers can feel out of control and powerless over their circumstances, managers who win well know they have influence over their environment and enjoy a strong sense of personal responsibility and efficacy.

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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt is the founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international training firm which helps leaders achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. She was recently named on Inc’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers. Other books include Winning Well.

David Dye is President of Let's Grow Leaders, an International training firm that works with leaders to achieve breakthrough results without losing their soul. Other books include Winning Well: A Managers Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul and The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say.

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