Is Your Management Style Hurting Your Small Business?

Ask yourself these seven questions to see if the answer might be “yes.”
Moira Somers
Are you a good leader? Moira Somers, Ph.D, clinical neuropsychologist, helps break down what it takes to analyze your management style. (Photo: Moira Somers)

Successful businesses have one thing in common: good leaders.

What makes a good leader? It’s easy to list adjectives. For example, they are bold, insightful, inspiring, committed, confident, honest, trustworthy and positive.

What makes a bad leader? Attitudes and tactics that exhaust rather than inspire and block opportunities for growth.

Could your management style be costing you sales and good employees? Ask yourself these seven questions.

Do I micromanage?

Do you find yourself spending more time checking up on your employees, watching them perform routine tasks or explaining exactly how you want it done than doing your own work? You might be a micromanager.

According to Moira Somers, Ph.D, clinical neuropsychologist, professor and executive coach, “There comes a point in the evolution of a small business where the owner has to give up attempts to control all aspects of the business and begin to trust that the employees he or she has brought on board can take over critical functions.

“If that evolution does not occur, the business will have to stay artificially small. It will have to shrink back to a size where the owner can retain control over all aspects of the business,” she said.

Do I think I know it all?

According to Somers, one problem that often brings leaders to her coaching practice is their need to be seen as the expert on all aspects of their business or the smartest person in the company. “This frequently causes managers to be impervious to, or punishing of, feedback that something is going wrong or that they could stand to change and adapt. It can shut down healthy dissent or frank exchanges of viewpoints,” she said.

Mike Provitera, D.B.A., management consultant and professor of organizational behavior at Barry University, said small business owners must create an open climate and select people who can offer critical opinions and suggestions. “Allow mistakes so that people are willing to innovate and create,” he said.

Can I delegate?

Is your motto “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? Do you believe every daily duty of your business, no matter how small, is a direct reflection of you? Does your staff fear making even small decisions without your input?

Provitera said it’s important for small business owners to delegate to key people and empower them to begin projects and take them to fruition. “Not only will this help keep business moving, but it will help you build the effective team you need to grow your business,” he said.

Small business owners should look for followers who can be developed into leaders, Provitera noted. “Proceed to develop them accordingly to take on some of the responsibilities to free the leader up for more conceptual issues that may take a great deal of time.”

Failing to trust your team can halt expansion and lower the ceiling on profit and on the company’s creative or intellectual growth, said Somers. “Employees feel thwarted in their attempts to be useful and to grow in their careers and ‘vote with their feet’ by leaving the company,” Somers said.

Am I self-centered?

Does every conversation you have at work end up being about you or what you think? When other people are talking, do you find yourself trying to decide what to say next instead of listening?

Remember that you hired each employee for a reason. When you fail to listen to them, you miss an opportunity to benefit from the traits or qualities that led you to hire them.

Somers said leaders can avoid the pitfalls of self-centeredness by deliberately welcoming dissenting viewpoints and by frankly admitting past mistakes. “They can get coaching to change bad habits in their leadership, including such things as needing to ‘tweak’ or ‘improve’ every recommendation that their staff might suggest to them and being sensitive to constructive criticism,” she said.

Am I aware of my weaknesses?

The best thing you can do to improve your management style, Provitera said, is to be an authentic leader. “Authentic leaders tap into all their strengths but also recognize their weaknesses and fill the gaps with knowledgeable people that can offset that side of them.”

Am I empathetic?

Can you relate to your employees? Do you ever put yourself in their shoes and try to see how working for you may seem to them? Do you care about their concerns?

In a 2015 paper based on proprietary data, Development Dimensions International reported that empathy was the single most important trait of effective leaders, yet only 40 percent of 15,000 business leaders evaluated had strong empathy skills.

Building an effective and successful workforce comes back to building strong relationships with your staff. “You build interpersonal relationships by having empathy and understanding people’s situations,” Provitera said.

Am I a bully?

Do you ask — or do you order? Do you catch yourself raising your voice or outright yelling at employees? Or are you subtler with your bullying, using sarcasm or the presence of other employees to belittle or humiliate?

Bullying can take many forms, and all are destructive to your staff and the success of your business.

Somers said a boss’s fragile ego can sometimes lead to bullying. An insecure leader might mock exceptionally talented employees or constantly critique or “improve” every recommendation.

“Loss of good staff and failure to engage in adaptive change is often the result of this behavior.”

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