Insights from our Expert Speaker Series – Flexing your Management Style with Kirstin Hunter

The Mintable recently launched a new membership feature – The Mintable Expert Speaker Series. We’re bringing some incredible speakers to our community who have real-life experience and know how to inspire, inform, and educate managers on what matters most.

This month, we’re teaching you how to flex your management style. Kirstin Hunter, Chief of Staff at Human, joined us to share her infinite wisdom on the topic, gained from her experience spanning corporate (ex-Bain and Freehills) to high-growth startups (ex Future Super, Brighte and current mentor at Startmate). There’s not a lot this people-wizard hasn’t encountered when it comes to management in all of its incarnations.

Keep reading to discover tips, frameworks and tools that will help you adapt your management style for every situation and direct report.

#1. Do better to expect better

Before diving into frameworks and tools, Kirstin reminds us that managing is a symbiotic relationship. It requires more than telling others to be better. First and foremost, it requires managers to level up and do better.

“It’s really easy to focus on what your report can do better. And as managers, we’re in a position of power over our direct reports. We are the ones who can tell them ‘do more of this, do less of this, do this better, etc.’ But we often don’t think about he we could tweak our own style to help our reports better receive and respond to our feedback,” she says.

In a world where technology is changing more rapidly than you can say the word “startup”, it’s clear that there isn’t a singular playbook on management. According to Krstin, every manager needs to source a raft of tools and approaches and consider thoughtful application of them to every new person and situation.

This requires hard work from managers. If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves, keep reading…

#2. Leverage personality tests (but don’t rely on them)

Personality tests are a controversial topic in the management space. Are they prescriptive? Limiting? Expansive? Helpful?

Kirstin says: all of the above. Which is why she recommends using these tests as one of many tools, without relying on them as the silver bullet.

“Personality tests are deeply flawed. You have to acknowledge that up front – there’s no way to really categorize the full complexity of a person using a set of personality types, whether it’s four, eight or 16,” says Kirstin.

“But these tests are really, really good at helping self-diagnose where tensions are coming from for an individual, giving your team a language to talk about those tensions, that is separate from who you are as people,” she explains.

Kirstin has employed many a test in her time, from Myers-Briggs to the Gantt Chart, to assess individuals’ approach to work and productivity and how they show up on good days and bad days.

#3. Know the 6 core leadership styles

According to authors Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee in their book Primal Leadership, there are six core leadership styles: Commanding, Visionary, Affiliate, Democratic, Pace Setting, and Coaching. Each is useful depending on the situation and the person being managed.

6 core leadership styles

“Most managers tend to gravitate to one, two or three of these as their “natural” leadership style. But the best managers are able to flex between all six,” says Kirstin.

Interestingly, even the styles perceived more negatively have their place in the leadership matrix.

“The Commanding and Pace Setting styles are often seen as quite negative and overbearing, but there are times as leaders when we have to be the ones to make the call. And so recognizing those opportunities and being willing to leverage that commanding leadership style in balance with the other styles, can be really helpful,” she says.

#4. Apply the Situational Leadership Framework

The Situational Leadership Framework, developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the late 1960s, provides a framework that allows managers to flex their style, to meet direct reports where they are at on any given day or stage of their career.

Situational Leadership Framework

“Think about where your direct report falls on this quadrant, and then apply the right management style for the situation you find yourself in,” says Kirstin.

This can be either a “Directive” or “Supportive” management style. A supportive style listens to concerns, reinforces positive behavior and communicates the bigger picture (think of this as a “cheerleader” style). In opposition to this style, is “Directive Management” which offers specific, and constant feedback (think of this as a “sports coach” style).

“You’ve got to be able to adapt to the people who are willing to come and work for you and your mission, on the salary that you’re able to offer. And you’ll need to flex your style across every individual,” she says.

A huge thank you from The Mintable to Kirstin Hunter for these incredibly valuable insights, and to our Mintable Managers who joined us for the session and asked the important questions.

Missed our previous Expert Speaker Sessions on Time Management and Resilience? Catch up now!

Are you an individual manager and want to see how The Mintable can give you the training, tools, and community to succeed? Learn more and join us here.

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