Selecting the right management style is vital if your employees are to feel valued and appreciated for their hard work – which is what they most want from you. It’s up to you to see they receive it! So select your style with care. The same style may not evoke the same feelings in everyone so you may want to develop a hybrid style or use different styles for different team members.

Once you select and implement your management style, pay attention to project and task results and the behavior and morale of your team. If results and morale are good, keep on keeping on. If downside changes start to emerge, ask questions and make the needed adjustments to your management style choice.

Directing Management Style: Managers tell people what to do, how to do it and when it needs to be finished. They assign roles and responsibilities, set standards and define expectations. A Directing Style is appropriate when it is dictated to you from above, describing what and how something must be done. It is also appropriate when your team members have only limited experience or lack the skills needed to complete the assignment.

Discussing Management Style: Managers using this style discuss relevant business issues with their team. Team members present ideas, ask questions, listen, provide feedback and challenge assumptions. The manager performs the role of a facilitator. Use this style when there are opportunities to influence the answers to questions: What are our goals? Who should do the work? What process should we use? What quality standards are needed? Involvement in determining the “what” and “how” of a project increases the team’s commitment to making it happen.

Delegating Management Style: Managers use this style to explain or get agreement on what has to get done and when. The actual “how-to” is left up to the team members who have the authority and responsibility to make it happen. This style is appropriate when you have a seasoned, knowledgeable, motivated and highly skilled team. These folks want the freedom to choose how to get the work done and the benefit for you is that it gives you more time to focus on strategic thinking and planning.

The chart below provides a more detailed picture of how the three management styles work in terms of communication, goal-setting, decision-making, monitoring and providing feedback, and rewards and recognition.


Directing Style Discussing Style or Participatory Style Delegating Style or Teamwork Style
Communicating The manager speaks. Employees listen and react. Managers provide detailed instruction so employees know exactly what to do. Communication is clear, and concise. The only feedback requested is “Do you understand”? Two-way communication is the norm, giving everyone a chance to discuss their ideas. Managers spend much time asking questions and listening to answers. Depending on the subject, communications can be one- or two-way and is followed by additional communication to review accomplishments or obstacles preventing progress.
Goal-Setting The manager establishes short-term goals, specific and time bounded. Employees are clear on expectations and the goals are motivating.

The team discusses goals that are then jointly agreed upon. This style generally increases employees’ commitment to achieve team goals.

Specific goals may be established by the manager or evolve following discussion. Failures usually are traceable back to lack of understanding of desired outcome.

Decision-Making The manager makes most or all decisions. When problems occur, the manager evaluates, decides and directs employee action

Decisions are also made collaboratively. Both the manager and employees play an active role in defining problems, evaluating options and making decisions.

Decisions about how a task will be accomplished are left to the employee. Avoid “reverse delegation” if an employee tries to give decisions back to you if they should be making them.

Monitoring and Providing Feedback Managers establish specific control points to monitor performance. They provide frequent feedback and instructions on how to improve performance.

The manager and employee both monitor performance and discuss and agree on actions needed. This style requires openness on both sides.

The amount of monitoring depends on the priority of the task and the person doing it. Feedback comes from the employee, keeping the manager informed.
Rewards and Recognition When people follow directions, directing style managers are happy. “Great job! You did exactly what I told you to do”.

Managers recognize people when they contribute to discussions, ask good questions, build on ideas of others and are open to new ideas.

Managers reward and recognize employees who show the ability to work independently, make decisions and get the job done.

Notice how the amount of management involvement lessens as the amount of employee involvement and responsibility increases - a great incentive to provide development opportunities for your team members.

Once you have a chance to assess your team's skill levels, you'll be able to choose the most appropriate management style. If you decide you need to create a hybrid style, that's fine too.

Managing Older Employees

Ignoring a significant age difference between you and your older employees may work for a little while, but eventually you will need to address it. It’s a growing workplace issue and a tricky one as women, in particular, are delaying retirement.

According to an article in, you can bridge the age gap without jeopardizing productivity or overall morale, even if they think of you as “that young whippersnapper” or some dreaded “Gen X’er”.

What’s at issue here is your reputation as a good manager - of everyone! Not to mention avoiding any hint of age discrimination.

Try some of the following ways, quoted from the same article, to address the age gap:

Don’t allow yourself to get defensive. It’s probably the most common response when an older worker refers to your age difference in a disparaging way. If you get defensive, you’ll come across as weak, immature and unprofessional. Try to understand the context of the remark so you can defuse the situation.

You don’t have all the answers. If you want respect from older employees, you need to show it to them. Instead of dismissing your older employees’ points of view or ideas, tap into their range and breadth of experience. They’ll quickly see you as a listener who values their opinions. Consider assigning them as mentors to younger employees.

Listen! If you’re always talking, eventually everyone will stop listening. Older employees are adept at spotting “great pretenders”. Read the situation then take action. Remember, no one ever learned anything from talking. Listening is the best teacher.

Work on team spirit. When you create a team whose mission is to collaborate toward a common goal, age doesn’t matter any more. Create an environment of learning and treat everyone equally and fairly. Participation and enthusiasm will follow.

Establish clear expectations. Communicate with them with respectfully. Encourage your older team members to communicate with you frequently. Focus especially on helping them with conflict resolution – something they may not be accustomed to. Encourage them to initiate and take responsibility for conversations about their jobs and career moves within the company.

Be inclusive. Especially when it comes to technology! Older workers probably remember the days before the business was dependent on computers. Ensure all your team members are trained on new software and equipment. Insist everyone participate and never allow your older team members to “opt out” because they’re “too old”.

Be flexible. Retention is a key issue in successfully managing older workers. Consider options like flextime, part-time work, job-sharing, even phased retirement. You might even help an older worker set up a home office. Be sure to check with your boss and your human resources department beforehand to be sure you are able to meet the expectations you may be setting.

Be sure to consider the older employees on your team when selecting your management style or adapt your style to accomodate their unique needs.