The Key to Managerial Success? Here It Is – in One, Bite-Sized Nugget

By Devora Zack

Life isn’t neat and tidy. Neither, therefore, is managing.

Sometimes we bang our heads against the wall; sometimes we need the visceral sting. Other times, we can face the facts calmly.

We all carry baggage, harbor distinguishing quirks, and maintain astonishingly diverse responses to the world at large. These facts of life display no observable intention of ever going away, so we may as well learn how to understand and amicably appreciate the people we manage, near and far, formally and informally. As this occurs, our work as managers becomes much easier… even (gasp!) enjoyable.

The key to managerial success

How is such a tremendous feat accomplished? Do you need nerves of steel, superhuman patience, and the ability to leap buildings in a single bound? And don’t you already have enough swirling around in your busy, busy brain? No sweat. Well, perhaps a few tiny droplets of perspiration, easily wiped away.

Your success  — and fulfillment — as a manager is neatly encased in one bite-sized nugget:

Be who you are, just flex your style to manage others.

What a mysterious statement. Let’s dissect, shall we?

Be who you are

D’oh! Who else would you be? A fine question.

This book guides you to carve out a distinctive brand of management from your natural strengths. No one size fits all sold in this book.

Just flex your style to manage others

What does this sweet little, unassuming phrase mean? Why must we follow its mandate? And how? Take a number and find a seat.

Flexing your style means being versatile in how you lead, communicate, and motivate. A tough approach propels one employee; mild-mannered encouragement inspires another. Being flexible requires proficiency in a range of techniques, to draw upon as needed.

This does not require disregarding your own temperament.

It means maximizing rapport with others while maintaining your core of integrity.

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Flexing your style does not mean holding people to varying standards — accountability remains consistent across the board. All that changes is how you manage and motivate different personality styles.

2 skills you need to have

Implementing this high-level concept requires two challenging skills: the aptitude to assess others’ temperaments and the ability to modify your communication style on the fly.

Plenty of us jump to conclusions on a regular basis. If only we could accumulate frequent flyer mileage, then we’d really be going places. Examples include jumping to the conclusion that others have the same perspective as we do or that only our opinion could possibly make sense.

Keep in mind that people are often speaking different languages, figuratively, even when the words sound strikingly similar.

What’s a modern manager to do?

It’s pretty simple: just pay attention

The best response is to Pay Attention. We are bombarded daily with a veritable tsunami of information about how people process the world and what motivates them.

What do average-to-middling managers do with this valuable information? Breeze right on by, without so much as a backward glance. Like receiving a gift and tossing it right back at the giver. They are apparently far too busy, preoccupied, or important to match their management style to the personalities on their team.

The result? They are ineffective and frustrated.

That is so not you.

Reprinted from the book Managing for People Who Hate Managingby Devora Zack, with permission from Berrett Koehler Publishers 2012

Devora Zack, the CEO of Only-Connect Consulting, Inc., is an expert speaker, strategy consultant, author, and executive coach. She has served as a visiting faculty member of Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management’s Leadership Skills Program for 15 years, teaching MBA students from across the world. A certified practitioner in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Ms. Zack has also worked as an investigative reporter, emergency counselor, actress, and disc jockey in the U.S. and Italy. Contact her at


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