What Kind of Manager Are You? 7 Habits for Managers

By Jessica Wishart

"How do I become a highly effective manager? To answer that question, let’s climb out of the crevices of the 'day to day' so we can see things from a mountaintop perspective — to challenge the mindset that is bringing us the results of today so we may get superb results tomorrow." — Stephen R. Covey

Last year, our team learned about Stephen Covey’s levels of leadership as part of a 7 Habits for Managers training that Dane Hewlett facilitated for us. He stressed that we all spend time operating out of all three levels on the maturity continuum, but we want to strive to primarily operate out of the most advanced level.

  • Do you just want someone to tell you what to do?
  • When something goes wrong, do you make excuses or place blame?
  • Are you hesitant to rock the boat?
  • When communicating messages from upper management to your team, do you frequently find yourself saying “they want you to do this,” or “they say we have to do that”?

These could be signs that you are operating as a dependent manager - a manager who focuses more on external factors to influence his or her success. Focusing now on improving your skills in managing yourself will help you move to the next stage on the continuum. Covey’s first 3 habits are designed to help you with the skills you need to become more independent as a manager: Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, and Put First Things First.

  • Do you let your own internal values guide most of your decisions?
  • Do you believe you have the ability to determine your own future?
  • Do you think you are in control of your current situation, and of your team?
  • Are you the “captain of your own ship”?
  • Do you tend to fall into the trap of micromanaging your team, or have you received feedback that you are not as supportive or team-oriented as your reports would like?

If you answered yes to many of these questions, you may be operating primarily as an independent manager. While this can be an effective style of management in some cases, typically A Players don’t want to be micromanaged, so operating primarily out of this style can create problems on the team and even cause high performers to leave. If you primarily operate as an independent manager, Covey recommends working on your skills to lead others. The habits to focus on to move to the next level of management are Think Win-Win; Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood; and Synergize.

  • Do you define leadership in terms of serving others and making others successful? 
  • Do you focus on doing what’s right for the company and for your team, not for yourself?
  • Do you strive for win-win in most situations, and are you able to get your ego out of the way to resolve conflicts?
  • Do you rely more on principles and deeper truths than your own sense of being in control?
  • Do you have humility, and are you able to forgive yourself for mistakes?

Congratulations - if you answered yes to most of these, then you may be primarily operating as an interdependent manager, the highest stage in Covey’s maturity continuum. If this sounds like a tall order for most of you, that’s because it is. This high bar of leadership is only achieved by about 15-18% of leaders.

If you manage managers, you may be wondering how to coach your direct reports who are in different developmental stages, or even using great skip level meeting questions. If you have identified that you have leaders who operate primarily in the dependent stage, to coach them to be more independent, you want to help them to solve their own problems. You can do this each time they come to you with a problem; rather than solving it, ask questions to coach them to solve it on their own. If you have identified leaders operating primarily in the independent stage, you can coach them to be more interdependent by encouraging them to step outside of their own perspective. You might ask questions like, “Is there another way to look at this?” or “What are some assumptions you may be making?” You might also help them strengthen delegation skills so that their direct reports don’t feel micromanaged by them. Helping them think through the level of decision-making they use most frequently might be a way to start this conversation.

Good luck developing your own leadership capabilities and helping to grow a team of highly mature leaders. Comment below if you have any tips for coaching managers or developing your own effective leadership mindset.

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Jessica Wishart


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