At the Harvard Business Review Leadership Blog, Linda Hill and Kent Lineback have some excellent suggestions for understanding your “default” settings as a manager, meaning the approach you are most likely to take in certain situations based on your nature.
Linda and Kent encourage us to think about our own preferences by answering the following eight questions, each of which has no right or wrong answer:
1. Do you prefer to include others in choices you make — by asking for their ideas and opinions or even giving them freedom to decide — or do you tend to direct others on what to do?
2. Do you prefer to focus on the work people do or on the people doing the work? In your relationship with directreports, do you tend to deal primarily with the work, or do you prefer to interact with them as close colleagues and unique individuals?
3. Do you prefer to develop people through constructive criticism of what they need to improve on, or by praising them for what they do well? Do you let them figure out for themselves how to improve, or work with them using close contact and instruction?
4. Do you prefer to deal with your direct reports one-on-one or as a team? When there's a problem in your group, do you tend to call everyone together and deal with it as a team, or do you prefer to go around person to person and work on it?
5. Do you prefer to focus on today's challenges or do you prefer to think about tomorrow and what's coming in the future?
6. Do you prefer execution, getting work done day after day, or innovation, creating new products or services or new ways of working?
7. Do you tend to work mostly with direct reports, your own group, or do you prefer to work with others throughout your organization?
8. When you have to make a tough choice, do you tend to focus on the harm that might befall someone or some group? Or do you prefer to focus on the greater good even if a choice may cause harm to some?
These preferences impact the decisions we must make every day as leaders, and as Linda and Kent point out, if we don’t know our preferences when we encounter them, we're far less likely to make the best choices.