One of the most difficult challenges managers face is balancing the need for their employees to achieve certain results by a certain time, and avoiding the temptation to micro-manage to make sure those goals are reached. Employees need a certain amount of freedom and the ability to make choices.

This can be a difficult line to draw. If a manager is too demanding or acts like a dictator, employees might go through the motions but not put 100% of their efforts into their work. On the other hand, if a manager only makes suggestions, employees might not take them seriously.

In the supply chain environment, a manager needs to adapt his or her management style to the situation, the needs and personalities of his or her employees, and the organization’s corporate culture.

Consider this example from a research services firm: the president of the firm asked her managers to find ways to either reduce costs or grow their high profit offerings. Four months later, the president discovered very little progress on the assignment. Why?

Although she had given her managers plenty of choices, she didn’t give them a specific target and time frame. So most of them considered the entire exercise to be optional. The manager had assumed that each manager would put the same amount of effort into the project. But participants had different views of how much improvement was needed overall, and most had a limited perspective about how much change was needed in their own area. Only when the president gave each manager a specific target and deadlines did she get the information she needed.

Forcing goals on subordinates isn’t the answer. Setting goals and giving them the tools they need to achieve them are parts of the answer.

Organizational restructuring and cultural changes over the decades have caused management styles to change, also. We have moved away from the authoritarian style, where control is key, to one that’s about teamwork and empowerment. Currently, there is emphasis on participative management styles and people management skills. The days where the boss was the absolute authority, who rarely came out of his office, are long gone. Today, successful managers are building teams, fostering employee relationships, and creating plans to develop and motivate their employees.

One thing that doesn’t change in the supply chain industry is the need for skilled employees. Contact ZDA if you want more information on finding, hiring supply chain employees or managing the best in the business!