Why Authentic Engagement Is Central to Effective Management

Two managers explain how they craft a leadership approach that aims to resonate with the unique needs of their team members.

Written by Stephen Ostrowski
Published on Apr. 01, 2022
Why Authentic Engagement Is Central to Effective Management
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Determining your management style is not a copy-paste matter. What works well for one organization, one role, one relationship or one situation might not be the best fit for another. That’s why Bri Newhart, VP of human resources at Form, emphasizes flexibility and a tailored approach. 

“A good leader’s management style can and should evolve over time. A good leader knows when to adapt based on the circumstances and personal needs of their team members,” she said.

The same goes for the question of whether to be hands on or hands off as a manager. In reality, it’s not so much an either-or question so much as figuring out what resonates with a specific individual. Certain team members might benefit from the dialed-in oversight of the former; others might like the feeling of flying free.

“This is where relationship-building is so important. You have to know your team well enough to know when they need your help and when they don’t,” Newhart said. 

Amber Knapp, director of client support at CampMinder, placed a similar emphasis on the importance of making the effort to peel back what might work best with colleagues. And that’s where fundamentals like solid communication and intent listening can reveal your direct reports’ needs. 

“Get to know your team members,” Knapp said. “It becomes much easier to take cues from your team members and respond with the appropriate approach if you understand the individual.” 

That’s why, in some respects, it’s not a question that begins with the manager, but rather, starts with those whom they’re overseeing. So, whether you’re a seasoned manager or just hitting your stride, read on for additional tips from Knapp and Newhart on how to strike the right balance for every person and situation. 

 

professional working in office
Farknot Architect/Shutterstock

 

Amber Knapp
Director of Client Support • Campminder

How would you describe your management style?

It’s a mix of collaborative and democratic. My team is customer-facing, and the role is very reactionary. I work closely with team members to understand pain points and use them to help shape workflows and processes. Listening to and addressing feedback and concerns leads to greater employee engagement, stronger connections across the team and increased trust in leadership. 

Recently, several team members shared their concerns around individual workflows. We discussed the concerns as a team and were able to identify some changes, and team members implemented the ideas. As a result, I’m seeing greater engagement and efficiency as we head into our busiest time of the year.

 

How does an effective manager know when to stand back and be hands off, or take a more hands-on approach with direct reports? 

An effective manager must take the time to know their direct reports through consistent one-on-ones and other interactions. It is important to understand the whole person and not just the “work persona.” It becomes much easier to take cues from your team members and respond with the appropriate approach if you understand the individual.

 

An effective manager must take the time to know their direct reports through consistent one-on-ones and other interactions.”


What can a new manager start doing right now to help become a better manager?

In a distributed team, ask team members how someone would know they’re having an off day — and remember their answer. Make space for your team to engage and discuss non-work-related things. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable — it lets team members see that you’re human too. Deliver on your word and admit when you make a mistake or don’t know an answer. All of these actions lead to greater trust in you, and you’ll see team members reciprocate in kind.

 

 

Form
FORM

 

Bri Newhart
VP of Human Resources • FORM

 

How would you describe your management style? 

I don’t think I have just one management style. I believe a good leader’s management style can and should evolve over time. For example, if someone on my team is experiencing self-doubt or another barrier that is creating a cloud for them, walking them through it and pointing them to facts and context can help clear that cloud.

It’s not always about providing the answers; sometimes it’s simply encouraging team members to think it through and guiding them to the answers they already have. In today’s remote working environment, it’s especially important to have a coachlike manager who can act as a sounding board when needed.

 

How does an effective manager know when to stand back and be hands off, or take a more hands-on approach with direct reports? 

By knowing each individual on a more personal level, you can more easily tell when you're interfering and making things harder for them, or when they visibly need more support from you.

I love having diverse teams with different backgrounds and strengths coming together. When you have a diverse team, it’s crucial to get to know each individual personally. Knowing their unique situation — whether it’s work styles, family and home life, or hobbies and interests — allows you to be more agile and specific in how you approach them. That agility can create a team where everyone feels safe, comfortable and respected.

 

You have to know your team well enough to know when they need your help and when they don’t.”

 

What can a new manager start doing right now to help become a better manager?

Begin to get to know your team on multiple levels. Ask them pointed questions: What was their high and low for the week? What do they value? What motivates and demotivates them? All of these small conversations can help you learn more about each individual and can help you to guide them in their career.

In addition to understanding your team, it’s also important to understand your own communication style and what you need. It’s important to recognize that even as a manager you can have high moments and low moments. No one is infallible.

Know that your management style doesn’t have to be one thing and can change over time. It can even change from day to day based on team goals and business objectives. The important thing is having the emotional intelligence to recognize and understand your own values — as well as those of your team and company — and to adapt your management style and techniques accordingly.

 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Header photo by SFIO CRACHO via Shutterstock.

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