#16 Case Study #1

by Steven Cerri on November 2, 2006

”What Should I Do In this Case?”

Good evening!

I want to take a moment and describe a specific case of how management style depends on the situation. I have a coaching client who asked me recently to comment on how he handled a specific situation.

Here is the set-up for the situation:

The manager had recently promoted an engineer to a management position. The engineer clearly had good thought processes. The manager trusted the engineer from years of working together. The manager felt the engineer could step up to the new position as manager of several departmental tasks and two people.

The specific case:

The engineer/new manager got an idea for a new process and sent his manager and excited email outlining the possibilities of this new approach.

The goal:

So now the question is, how should the manager handle this? What should the manager’s response be? The manager’s goal was to “empower” the employee. What exactly does that mean? What would be your goal for this employee and for this interaction?

Now many who discuss leadership would say that the leader should empower the employee. That’s fine but what does that mean? What does empowerment look like in this situation? Some would say that the manager should let the engineer/manager figure it out for themselves. Some would say that the engineer/manager should be shown how to move forward so as to not make any mistakes. There is no shortage of opinions.

What did the manager do?

As I indicated, the manager’s goal was to empower the new engineer/manager. The manager responded to the email with a list of things that they should do next. It was a nice enough email and it listed the next five things that needed to be done in order to prepare this new technology for presentation to upper management for approval.

What happened?

The result was nothing. That was the end of the technology and the end of the discussion. The engineer/manager didn’t do anything else with the topic. It died.

The manager’s perception later was that he killed the motivation of the engineer/manager by making his email too directive, too filled with “you ought to do this.” The manager’s question to me was, “What could I have done differently to keep the engineer/manager motivated?”

My answer:

I look at six parameters to decide on the most appropriate management style to select. The six parameters are:

1. Who has more expertise, the manager or the direct report?

2. What is the risk of the task?

3. What is the timeframe of the task?

4. What is the complexity of the task?

5. What management style does the direct report want the manager to use?

6. What does the manager want the direct report to learn?

I’ll pick up here on Monday

Be well

Steven Cerri

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