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Three styles that take you there

Paul Thornton believes successful managers practice and master three core management styles.

Directing — Discussing — Delegating

Directing includes defining deliverables, establishing timelines, and explaining how you want something done.

Vague directions produce vague results.

Direction requires organization before employees are approached.

Discussing requires good questions and listening skills. Ask questions to gather input, engage others, and create buy in. The quality of your questions determines the quality of the input you recieve.

Avoid questions that begin with, “Don’t you think we should…”

Ask questions when plans and goals aren’t set yet.

Don’t ask questions if you don’t want answers.

Ask general questions first and specific questions later. In addition, specific questions often open the door to more general questions that lead to more specific questions.

I think it’s best to begin with “what” questions and move to “who, how, and when,” questions.

Discussion includes others in the organization process.

Delegating includes defining deliverables and timelines but not explaining how to get things done. Delegating may be as simple as saying, “Handle it,” to an experienced, reliable, and trustworthy employee.

Good examples enhance and accelerate the delegation process.

Delegating leaves most of the organizational work to others.


The genesis of this post was the arrival of, “Leadership Off the Wall,” by Paul Thornton, professor of Business Administration at Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, MA.

His short book of quotes and sayings that hang on leader’s walls intrigued me so I gave him a call. We chatted briefly about quotes and sayings but moved quickly to a discussion of management styles. This post reflects my recollection of the insights Paul shared during our invigorating conversation.


What tips can you share about directing, discussing, and/or delegating?

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