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Did You Make the Grade? (Part 1)

Analyzing and grading your own management technique

PEMBROKE, Mass. — What is your management style?

Let me talk a moment about my own management style, as a former drycleaning owner. Then, think about your own style and grade yourself.

As a business owner with 17 full-time employees, my management approach was aggressive in a slow, undemonstrative, steely way. I wasn’t loud or pushy.

In fact, I was rather quiet. My general manager (a great person to have) did the “dirty work.” He hustled drivers when they were tardy. He made constructive criticisms. But my presence was felt.

At the beginning of each day, I was the one who asked/begged for special come-throughs. (“Can you do this for me?”) I was the boss who showed disappointment when things went wrong.

When we lost a customer, small or large, I went into a deep funk and it lasted for days. So I created the tension in the place. I did it through the force of my silence.

My employees were sympathetic toward me. They felt for me because I was single and lonely. I know this sounds contradictory, that sympathy should not be part of leadership, but it was part of my approach. Yes, my people felt sorry for me.

Evoking sympathy got staffers to work harder for me. I’m not saying this needs to be your way, but it was mine.

Low-key and tightly-wound, I was an owner who focused on the workload, and was always there, willing to work as hard as anyone else (even harder). My staffers knew that when mistakes were made, it would make me unhappy, and they didn’t want that to happen.

My staff respected me because I was committed to making the business grow. Finally, I wasn’t afraid to reward them appropriately.

Was I the best manager? Of course not. But I was a good manager. My people generally liked me, and stayed with me; they were with me when I decided to sell the business in 1980.

Through the ten years of ownership, the business averaged a 30% growth rate. It even grew 30% when we grossed $700,000 back in the 1970s.

Which bring us to you.

How do you run your business? What kind of “leadership pheromones” do you emit?

  • Do you try to be calm, cool, and collected, an analytical type, who sticks with facts, never losing your cool?

  • Are you barking out orders, pugnacious toward your competition?

  • Do you try to lead through example, never commanding your people, but working harder than anyone else?

  • Are you everyone’s buddy, urging them to do this or that for you, pointing out that if they didn’t come through, it would hurt business. Are you always saying, “I need you to do this for me?”

  • Are you a constantly angry leader, shouting out commands and yelling when matters don’t go well?

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

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(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].