Simon says...you're doing a great job, but you could improve on a few things. Actually, he often says a lot worse. When it comes to management style, all you have to do is turn to American Idol, Jeff Dearduff says.




Simon Says...

After a long ugly winter and a bone-chilling and soggy spring, we finally have decent weather in the Chicago area, and I have my Tuesday evenings back.

    You see, back in January, the 2008 season of American Idol started, need I say anything? With my newly found love of music tied together with a minor attraction to reality shows, I couldn’t resist the forces coming out of my television that were sucking hours upon hours of time from my life like a supercharged Hoover.

    Yes, sad to say, I’m an American Idol junkie. As I sat there locked in on the triumphs and tragedies of this show, I said to myself that I needed to learn something from this formidable addiction, so here it goes.

    Every once and a while, we need to take a moment to evaluate how we judge people in various workplace situations. As a maintenance manager, your responsibility is to get the best out of your crew through guidance, mentoring and training. Your employees need regular feedback as to how well they are doing in their jobs and suggestions on how they can become better at their craft. Depending on your approach, you can end up with a group that is thriving or one that is constantly taking one step forward and two steps back.

    Of the judges on American Idol, I see three distinct approaches to evaluating a person’s performance. These range from ultra-supportive to constructive honesty. And then there is the one who is brutally, if not cruelly honest.

    If you have seen the show even once, you know who is who.

    Let’s start with the “ultra-supportive” types. No matter how people have performed, these judges always have something positive to say. Even if the contestants choked or tanked in their performance, nice words follow and the performers walk away feeling like they have learned something that will help them improve.

In the workplace, this type of approach from managers works well in some situations. However, at other times, it can result in the managers being walked on by their crew. There is a fine line in my book between being ultra-supportive and being perceived as a pushover. If you lean to this type of management style, just make sure your support is sincere and appropriate because it’s your responsibility to make a difference in the crew members’ work habits. You’re not just there to make them feel good.

    Next we have the judges who evaluate performances with “constructive honesty.” All of us have heard the term “constructive criticism,” but in today’s softer world, any word derived from “critic” should be avoided for achieving best results. “Honesty” is a better term.

    It is good to be constructive in your feedback because that is where the most meaningful guidance occurs and where thoughts are shared. Your message may be direct and your words are often to the point. However, when you back up this approach with honesty, your crew walks away not only feeling that they have learned something, but also with their heads held high. You always will win when your employees feel you have taken the straightforward approach to help them to improve.

    Then we have the judges who use what can be called the “harsh honesty” approach. The tools for this management style include hurtful words, painful looks and negative body language. Rarely does this type of demeanor lead to improved performance of a group. Instead, the initial reaction to such blunt comments is usually extremely counterproductive. All too often it is unnecessary and, ultimately, detrimental to job performance.

    People who have this management style tend to find fault with their crew and their work, even when they are doing the job correctly. It takes a strong person to be on the receiving end of such comments to get any good out of this approach. Any manager who uses this method will struggle to get his group to buy into their work. And forget about getting them to advance to the next level, whatever level that might be. Going negative is rarely effective at developing someone in the workplace.

    So let’s ask some important questions when it comes to your management style. What would happen if you tried to combine these three styles when giving feedback to our staff? What would the best formula be? Would it need to use an even percentage of the three styles, or would it be better if one style dominates over the others?

    We have to constantly ask ourselves what’s the right management style. For every group and every manager, the formula will be different. It’s up to you to evaluate your situation and come up with the style that works for you.

    You may think you have the combination figured out already. However, if you are open to other approaches to your management style, you are missing an opportunity to become a better manager yourself.

    Are you a Simon, a Paula or a Randy? Or better question yet, are you a Simon Fuller?

    Only a true American Idol buff like me would understand what I mean with that one!


By Jeff Dearduff

j.dearduff@comcast.net