Management Styles: What Hat Works?

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Management Styles: What Hat Works?

By Claire Kitson

We all know that not all employees are the same, not all managers are the same—in every work environment there is an eclectic mix of personalities and work styles.  So it therefore makes sense that there are different ways to manage specific people and groups in specific situations.  Correct use of management techniques is the foundation for getting the most out of a team, driving performance through improvement of core skills, staff engagement and time management.  Increased performance means increased operational efficiency and then everyone is winning: management are happy with the results and staff are happy with increased job satisfaction.

Fairly early in my career I learnt about a great technique for management, a fashionable technique when it comes to management style: asking yourself what hat would you wear?

The management hats can be summarised as:

  • The Hands on Hat
  • The Scout Leader Hat
  • The Coach’s Hat
  • The Hands Off, Independent’s Hat

The Hands on Hat: The manager sets specific expectations, tasks and timeframes. The employee knows exactly what is expected for the task and the desired outcome. This hat is commonly used with employees new to a role or staff members who require more guidance. An example of how the manager assigns a task can be, “Can you please produce a spreadsheet that tracks the amount of apples sold against the following dates, by the end of the day?”

The Scout Leader Hat: The manager provides direction and sets expectations but lets the employees execute the task. The manager provides direction or support as needed or when asked. You’re directing your staff but as they carry out work more independently, they may gradually realise this work is required on their own. For example, you may say to your staff, “We need to start tracking apples sold, can you please start on that?”

The Coach’s Hat: The manager coaches the employees to the answer, the manager installs an idea or problem that needs to be resolved and asks the employee to come up with the solution.  The employee is starting to work more independently; this management style may also mean a delegation of higher tasks.  When it comes to apples, you may take the following approach with your staff, “We are having trouble seeing clarity on apples sold, what do you think we should do?”

The Hands Off, Independent’s Hat: The manager is there to ensure the results are coming in, but other than that, it is pretty hands-off.  Some people may work better with room to breathe, they are independent and/or may have been in the role for longer. They know that this spreadsheet is required, and they have come to this conclusion themselves. Just make sure to check that this result is coming in at the end of the day. If you have coached your staff to this stage, it may leave you more time to actively manage and train others.

Sometimes people need to be told what is expected and other times, a push in the right direction is all that is needed.  Operational improvement success is all about the people, engaging staff in the process—correct use of management styles is one of the tools that can be used to achieve this.  In order for a team to function well and performance to increase, it is important for a manager to know what style is the right style. After all, we all know you wouldn’t wear a top hat to the beach.


If you are interested in how management techniques and coaching can aide in operational improvement and increase your team’s productivity, leave a comment or get in contact with us today.

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