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A “deadfoot” driver is one who keeps the accelerator pedal at the same position regardless of the slope or condition of the road they are on. As such, they often climb hills at 40mph and descend them at 80mph. They also tend to be the people lying with the shiny side of the car facing down just beyond a slick patch of pavement. You get the idea and you know who I’m talking about.
This deadfoot phenomena actually happens more frequently in management than on the road. Managers adopt a single style and apply it no matter who is being managed or what the situation is. The results are the same, though. Deadfoot managers crash and burn more frequently.
Sometimes, this is because the manager doesn’t know any better – management is management, right? And at other times, when people are stressed, they tend to fall back on what they know and on what has worked before. For individual performers, this may work. For someone responsible for a group of people, it almost never does.
Not only does managerial style need to change for each individual being managed (see It’s OK to Micromanage . . . Sometimes), but it needs to be further adjusted situationally. At times, a different style is needed to address the then current performance of an employee and at times because the macro-environment has changed, creating new or different demands on the group or its members.
As I’ve spoken about before, managers are the cornerstone of success – they have more leverage over the performance of an organization than any individual performer can ever have. Successful managers learn to adjust their management style for every person they manage and according to the situation that the group and the individual are in.
It’s important to keep in mind that the actual changes to style are often subtle – the frequency of meetings or reviews; the amount of teaching and hand-holding versus delegating; and the percentage of time spent guiding versus simply checking in.
Managers who constantly adapt to their situation and to the particular needs of each of their employees will avoid becoming a deadfoot manager and, ultimately, be well equipped to lead the highest performance teams.