Supply Chain Council of European Union |

Is Your Management Style Fit For The 2020s?

Employees want to work for managers who coach and inspire them, not for those who tell them what to do and then look over their shoulder. That was the resounding finding of a recent survey we conducted at my company, the “Boss Barometer.”

This trend is likely to increase in the next decade — the 2020s — as the zoomers (or Gen Zers) enter the workplace. They are so self-directed and tech-savvy they probably reprogrammed the baby monitor to listen in to their parents. Good luck to anyone who tries to micromanage them.

Having been a manager in the tech sector for 30 years, I think we saw this coming — we’ve been at the forefront of many of the changes in the work world today. The Agile Manifesto was produced by software developers who sought a new way of working in teams to create value for customers in a dynamic sector.

It turned out that there was a competitive advantage to developing processes that let the people at the forefront lead innovation and change, instead of keeping them hanging on the commands of those at the top. Many of the fastest-growing, most successful organizations in the world today have moved away from a top-down style of decision making.

The survey also showed that three-quarters of employees say satisfaction with their boss is a significant factor in deciding whether or not to leave their job. No manager wants to be the reason that high-performing employees pick up the phone when the headhunter calls.

So how are you doing? Are you riding the waves of the seismic change in management styles required in the digital workplace? If you tick no to these four questions, you will probably survive another decade. But if you tick yes, you’d better take a long hard look at your 401(k) or get with the times.

1. Do you tie people up in red tape?

Workplace technology allows for the collection of more data than ever before, but if you require the collection of specifics that nobody ever uses, that’s a problem. Creating onerous information-gathering exercises to get results is disengaging for employees. It makes them less likely to comply when they’re asked for information that would actually be useful.

What should you measure? Different teams and divisions within your business can be part of deciding what the metrics should be. Have open conversations about this. What does success look like? How can you use measurement as a lever to move the business in the right direction, and measure what matters?

2. Do you withhold important information about how the business is performing?

Employees are the main asset of any business. They’re the ones who build relationships with customers on a daily basis and are in the best position to notice when the business is not performing as well as it could. But in order to contribute effectively, they need to know what’s going on.

Everyone in the business, from the CEO to the administrative assistant who joined yesterday should be able to access information about the company’s vision and how they are performing against that.

Also, employees should have easy access to information and data about themselves. How are they performing against targets? What bonuses will they earn? How many vacation days do they have left? What is their time and expenses record?

It is important that managers show they value the information that people on the ground can contribute, because “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” It is the employees who know how reality is departing from the board’s vision.

3. Do you tell people what to do, rather than handing over tasks?

A significant minority of people who responded to our survey complained that their bosses micromanaged them. Recent research confirms that this has a deleterious effect on people’s engagement levels at work.

That’s not surprising. It’s difficult to do your best work if someone’s breathing down your neck or worse, if you’re working under someone who “becomes irritated if decisions are made without their approval,” or “is strict about you completing a task exactly as instructed.” Rather than issuing instructions on how to complete tasks, it is more effective to hand over job ownership.

When your department presents to the board, consider asking a more junior member of the team to deliver the material, while offering support and coaching, of course. Even a relatively inexperienced person who is taking on a task can take responsibility for managing the budget for it. Encourage people to bring you solutions, not problems, and when they do, take action; don’t procrastinate.

4. Do you look for a culprit when something goes wrong?

Any way of making decisions — even throwing darts at a board — will occasionally come up with the right answer. But if you have a good decision making process, you will get things right in a more consistent way.

For me, the key to this is looking for trends and not reacting to single points of data. A knee-jerk reaction is rarely a good idea. Take the example of a restaurant that gets a terrible review. Say the restaurateur fires the new chef because of this review, but that snap decision may have damaged the business more than the review. In actuality, it could be that this chef is a rising star and the customer was coming down with something.

Rather than hunting for someone to blame when something doesn’t go according to plan, it’s better to take a team approach. That involves everyone working together to find a way of ensuring that the same mistakes aren’t repeated.


How did you do? We all probably have room for improvement. Managing people is always challenging — that’s something that technology doesn’t change. Managers tend to define their jobs in terms of the enterprise missions, and perhaps customer experience. But the employee experience is equally important. Building a great team is the starting point for building a great business.

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