Bin the cookie cutter: five great leadership techniques for engaging your team in 2015

12 February 2015 -


We are not all the same, and there are many ways to inspire staff – not just one. So it’s time to ring the changes

Ben Walker

Given that every human being is different, it’s remarkable that many managers give everyone similar treatment. But research shows that cookie-cutter approaches to management are counterproductive, and robotic approaches to leadership alienate great employees. Successful leaders like Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith have spoken of the need to bin rigid frameworks and treat people as individuals, because different people respond to different triggers in different situations. That means varying your leadership style to suit – one-trick ponies rarely succeed. Here are five tips to do just that…

1. Invite challenges

Ask each member of your team to tell you one place you are going wrong every week. As a leader, you cannot be expert on all facets of the business. While your staff won’t always be right in their critique, you might be surprised by the lessons you can take from their responses. Management training can help you learn how to handle important feedback from your team – experts such as Lynne Eisaguirre say that even arguments can lead to inspiration.

2. Seek success not sweat

Lord Sugar is fond of saying that “hamsters in wheels work hard and get nowhere”. Your job as a leader is not to make your team work harder, it’s to make them work more successfully. The legendary German general Kurt von Hammerstein Ford used the unfortunate moniker Clever-Lazy to describe those whom he thought the best-suited to making business decisions, because such types are blessed with intellectual clarity. But these people aren’t lazy as in slothful – they are those who hate wasting time. Identify them and delegate process-design to them, as they will find the best, most efficient way of doing something. Not sure which staffers fit the bill? An introduction to management can help those new to the profession examine team dynamics.

3. Do less

Leaders are paid to think – not to do! Chief executive trainers such as Lawrie Philpott focus on leaders taking time to consider situations and devise strategies – rather than get bogged down in day-to-day detail. Unshackle your team and let them do the delivery – strategy is your role. Consider short courses on how to improve your leadership techniques or draw up a personal development plan to help you manage your time, delegate more and empower your people.

4. Swap rules for values

Because rules don’t work. CMI’s own research reveals that one in four employees knowingly break company guidelines, while a similar proportion admit they had never even read them. Research shows that the best strategy is to convey a few clear, simple values that your company ascribes to – and hire and retain great staff that share those values. Staff who feel they are attuned with the purpose of the company are more likely to be engaged. You can find out more about binning the rulebook in management articles like this one.

5. Look inward

Sound counterintuitive? Perhaps it is – but unless you know yourself you will struggle to grasp how your behaviour as a manager will be interpreted by others, and how they will respond to it. Thankfully, self-awareness is a quality that can be developed through the Chartered Manager accreditation. Indeed, 93% of respondents to a CMI survey of 400 Chartered Managers reported a boost in their self-awareness, with 86% saying that their self-confidence had improved.

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