Types of managers: the laid back manager
This is the second manager of my series of four. His name is Bill and he is a laid back manager.
Bill is pretty much the opposite of Karen. He is very laid back and relaxed. He is definitely a people pleaser for better or worse. Personality wise, Bill tries to avoid the conflict at all cost, he knows conflicts are generally time consuming. He is very nice to hang around with, especially outside working hours and he would not deny you a couple of jokes in the office as well. He is very down to earth but can still keep the distance if required because he knows his place.
PROS: Bill has probably a good amount of experience from a management perspective. He operates from behind the scenes and lets the team dynamics happen naturally. This makes his team members feel empowered to express their opinion but also to find their place in the team and grow their skills accordingly. Bill really sees the value of non-intrusive leadership: his team is autonomous and responsible and he trusts his team’s skill set.
CONS: Because Bill does not like conflicts, he rarely takes a strong position unless the matter at hand is very important or undermines his credibility somehow. This can lead to Bill or Bill’s team’s voice sometimes not being listened to. Sometimes it could happen that this typology of leadership results in problems being ignored or not addressed as quickly as they should. Bill will mostly act upon problems that have been reported by people at his level or above.
Also, because Bill is very laid back and does not like breathing on people’s necks, if his team is not mature enough the risk is that they will be taking advantage of this and the situation may get out of hand with the risk of missing deadlines. Sometimes Bill may forget that having a laid back approach does not necessarily mean not putting his foot down with his team or with the business in general.
How to spot a laid back manager
Usually a laid back manager is a person with a considerate amount of experience in leadership. He knows how to run a synergic team because he has done it before. The team’s internal dynamics are very natural, like a group of friends. They are all free to operate the way they like, even if that creates a lot of discrepancies. Bill, in his effort to avoid conflict will likely be found saying “let’s take this offline”, especially directed to members outside of his team. Bill is somehow protective of his team and you may find him giving inspirational speeches when he sees that the dynamics are not as fluid as they should be.
How does a laid back manager affect the office dynamics
Bill’s team is a team! Because the dynamics within evolved naturally, in most cases the team members hang around also after working hours to get to know each other better or, because they are entirely responsible of their workload, they would not mind working extra hours when needed, even if not asked to do so.
A problem may occur if someone spreads the rumour that Bill’s team may be privileged. The team may have very flexible working hours compared to teams like Karen’s and if Bill’s team does not deliver, it may be easy for the the company to blame it on his management style creating some sort of unbalance. In a less mature team this can also lead to deliverables becoming sloppy or late, this is due to there being no direct drive from their manager or him not applying pressure. A team with experience finds this great as they won’t be arbitrarily pushed into untenable commitments, but with less experienced members this could contribute to team members taking on less important tasks that they might find more interesting.
How to best work with a laid back manager
You will have plenty of opportunities with a laid back manager. Your work-life balance will definitely be easier — if you need to take a day off with little notice, Bill won’t question it because he trusts you. If you are part of the less experienced team members, with Bill you can experience and rotate across roles to enhance your skill set and you can focus on learning more than solely on delivering. On the downside you may notice very little guidance in how to move to the next step in your career and will need to rely on the help and experience of more senior team members for direction here. If you are instead one of the more senior team members then Bill’s team can be a great environment to build your own leadership skills and style. Perhaps you find a lack of structure frustrating, maybe other problems or annoyances in the team — Bill won’t mind you stepping-up to help with tackling them.
If you want to read about the previous type of manager I have been writing about, you can find it here: https://medium.com/@giorgia1london/types-of-managers-the-micromanager-f7890b82fe11