I have a theory: all good managers have ready access to two fundamental skill sets—the ability to Relate and the ability to Require.

You may be a little skeptical about the simplicity of this theory, but play along for a little while and tell me what you think.

Define: Relating and Requiring

“Relating” encompasses relationship-building behaviors: asking, listening, including, coaching and encouraging. When managers relate well, their employees feel heard and cared for. Each employee understands he/she is an important player on the team. Employees bloom professionally and their contributions to the organization also grow.

“Requiring” refers to results-oriented activities: creating expectations, focusing on goals, insisting on excellence, setting appropriate controls, asserting your views and confronting problems. When managers require well, the group performs well—high quality, high productivity, new ideas being generated to solve existing problems. Employees see the results and appreciate the part they play in making things happen.

My theory states that all good managers have ready access to both skill sets, but my research shows that very few managers actually possess this versatility naturally.

Most managers find that only one of the skill sets feels natural, so they rely on a single skill set too much. Those who instinctively Relate are usually less effective at Requiring. Those who instinctively Require are generally weaker at Relating.

Extremes can damage business results and relationships

Sometimes, managers utilize their natural style way too much. Over-Relaters and Over-Requirers come in many varieties. For example, softies who do not confront poor performance, sacrificing business results in an effort to preserve relationships, have gone overboard in the Relating department. Micromanagers who request status reports every 30 minutes are taking Requiring too far.

To become more versatile, managers first need to evaluate how much they use each of these fundamental skill sets. Then, they need to begin practicing the skills they have been under-utilizing or avoiding and pulling back on skills they are overusing.

A simple checklist

Instead of dreading this as a change management task, managers can use the Relating and Requiring skill sets as a daily check list. They can think about upcoming employee interactions and ask themselves, “Which of these skills will help me most in this situation?” Or if an interaction goes poorly, a manager can ask, “Which skill, if I had used more of it, would have produced a better outcome?”

For example, you might need to ask more questions and listen fully to the employee’s responses. Or, you might need to confront a performance issue earlier next time and with more confidence. These steps feel like feasible to-do items, rather than impossible personality adjustments.

Looking at the list of skills, a manager might say, “I want to learn more about coaching. I don’t feel I know enough about how to do that.” And it becomes a voluntary quest for new knowledge instead of an external mandate for change.

There is not one “right” management style. Natural Relaters and natural Requirers can both be excellent managers. The key is versatility—knowing when and how to utilize each skill in each business circumstance and employee situation that arises.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this theory. Are there any additional categories you would include on the Relating or Requiring skill lists?

If you are a manager, you can find out where you score on the Relating and Requiring scales for free by visiting www.managingpeoplebetter.com (you will be helping us with a research study, too). All participants will get a free personal report with recommendations.

Peter E. Friedes
Retired CEO, Hewitt Associates. Co-founder, Managing People Better, LLC—a management research firm/think tank. Avid competitive golfer (when my back cooperates). Connect with Peter on his Lead Change or Twitter profiles.
Peter E. Friedes

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