Breaking the X Cycle

Becoming the Manager as Leader and Coach

In the 1960’s a management theorist named Douglas McGregor split managers into two neat types: Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X types are the authoritarians, directive, closely monitoring employee performance and managing any process breaches rigidly. Theory Y types are the participative managers. They collaborate with employees to set goals and individual action plans, they focus on the future learning required in order to be effective rather than assessing past efforts and staff performance is managed by coaching against end goals.

In certain organisations McGregor’s Theory X manager is arguably the type of boss that is needed. Where there is a need for strong command and control, such as in the Army, Police, Frontline Service Provision or Security organisations, this is generally seen to be an appropriate type of management style. It is often believed that in dealing with an emergency in any organisation, the Theory X manager will be the most effective to get the job done. Theory X is an easy type to replicate and most people will have experienced this type of leadership in our careers.

Theory Y management requires more empathy with people and personal self-awareness. You have to influence people rather than direct and for most people training of some form is required to gain the necessary skill. Organisations with Theory Y managers gain an empowered workforce, with higher productivity rates, greater individual commitment and personal satisfaction.

Unlike McGregor, Linked Training has found that most managers display traits of both Theory X and Y, which come to the fore under different circumstances. Regardless of the degree to which a manager operates as X or Y, developing the ability to choose to practice Theory Y traits is seen to be beneficial. Most people experience a high level of personal satisfaction by developing people through Theory Y management so that they, their team and their organisation can experience success over the long term. It is the expectation of many in today’s workforce that this will be the type of management they receive, and they are likely to rebel against Theory X managers by moving on rapidly to another employer.

Given that there is a strong tendency to manage others how we ourselves are managed, a history of Theory X traits either from our personal experience or being embedded within the organisational culture, makes it challenging to break the cycle and become role models of Theory Y and so encourage the next level down to adopt the same.

Linked Training has found that many managers dominated by Theory X fear a loss of credibility if they now choose to adopt a Theory Y approach so we recommend a staged approach. We call this transition becoming a ‘Manager as Leader and Coach.’ There are 6 components to work through in transitioning to a ‘Manager as Leader and Coach’:

  1. Become conscious of our Theory X & Y traits and attitudes and understand their impact
  2. Involve team members in some level of forward planning which requires knowledge sharing
  3. Introduce a feedback and development framework that works with our people in your workplace
  4. Collaborate to address issues and in so doing increase problem solving skills within your team
  5. Use delegation and coaching as preferred tools to develop individual skills
  6. Actively pursue new opportunities for your business unit and your team

Managers who develop these skills will be in a position to build high performance teams who see their manager as an inspiring leader. They will also be able to apply the most appropriate management approach to different situations, thereby empowering themselves. And managers that operate as leaders and coaches can break a Theory X cycle, setting up their organisation for long term success.

Manager as Leader and Coach workshops for the Community Services Sector are currently available in Sydney and regional NSW. In our workshops participants create their own transition plan, learn more about how to coach employees and create an individual supervision framework for their own team. Call Rachelle on 02 8824 4677 for more details or download the course outline.

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