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By: Dr. John T. Self

Different Management Style

Q. My General Manager and I (an assistant manager) have totally different styles of management. We're complete opposites: She is a Type A who runs around putting out fires. She loves crisis management. She is always moving around and issuing orders. Don't get me wrong: She gets a lot done, but we're very different in our attitudes.

My style is much more laid back. I take my job very seriously, and I'm good at it (so say my staff and customers). But because I'm not running around all the time, she doesn't think I'm being effective. My management style about preventing fires before they happen, while hers is about catching it after it happens. Although my style is just as effective, unfortunately, it is not as "showy" as hers.

How do I convince her that I don't have to emulate her style to be a good manager?

- Cool Headed in Houston

A. You have my sympathy; I experienced the same maddening thing when I was an assistant manager. What you've got to do is just what you have done here... Explain it SLOWLY to her.

Start by saying that you feel that she is frustrated with you, but you are equally frustrated. Ask her to consider differences in management styles. Yours is a more calm approach that may look, through a Type A set of eyes, like you are ignoring issues or problems around you.

One way to show her that your style is just as effective is to find a situation that you can both resolve differently, using your different management styles. Then, point out that no matter what style, the end result is still the same: the situation IS resolved. Be careful to focus on the results and the route you took to the resolution; in other words, don't criticize her style (even though you probably don't agree with it)! This is about you, not her.

Seeing is believing: Encourage her to randomly drop in on your shift, watch how things work, and ask your employees how your shift runs. Your effectiveness should be measured by how well the shift actually runs, not on a perception.

After saying all that, there's a good chance that she won't really "hear you". After your speech, chances are that you will get one of two reactions: a) her eyes will glaze over or b) she will say something like - "yeah, great points. I never thought of looking at it that way", but nothing further will happen.

The answer is to go deeper. Tell her that you take your job very seriously and only want to get better. Tell her you would like her feedback about your performance on a regular basis (weekly or every two weeks). Ask for specific examples of what you are doing that needs improvement.

Believe me, this is best way to see this through; Focus on getting promoted and moving on. In my personal experience, managers who love crisis management only see other crisis managers as worthy of promotion. Frustrating as it was, I made it past that manager; work hard to work with her, and you'll make it past yours, too.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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