Understanding and Changing Your Management Style
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Understanding and Changing Your Management Style

Assessments and Tools for Self-Development

Robert C. Benfari

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eBook - ePub

Understanding and Changing Your Management Style

Assessments and Tools for Self-Development

Robert C. Benfari

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About This Book

An update of the classic book that reveals the 6 keys to successful management In this new edition of his best-selling book, Robert Benfari explains that the best mangers are not born that way but share a mix of characteristics that can be analyzed, understood, and most importantly changed. He identifies the six characteristics of successful managers (Psychological Type; Needs/Motivation; Use of Power; Conflict Style; Our Basic Values; and Our Reaction to Stress) and uses these building blocks to show how anyone can use personality-specific strategies for resolving conflicts, solving problems, managing stress, handling difficult situations at work, and positively influencing others.

  • Includes a proven pathway for becoming an effective manager
  • Contains new information on management style and leadership, human nature and neuroscience, and the dark side of management
  • Includes a self-assessment for each of the six building blocks to successful management

This research-based book offers the tools leaders need to improve their management style and succeed in the workplace.

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Chapter One

Assumptions, Perceptions, and Feelings

How They Influence Performance

Developing new skills sometimes requires changing our attitudes and cognitive beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. We need an evidence-based model for this developmental process. Cognitive restructuring, one of the newest approaches to changing behavior, is based on a framework developed by Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. The basic goal is to identify internal monologues that are related to stressful events, to evaluate this self-talk for its rationality and influence on behavior, and then to produce new self-talk to modify the original cognition and the undesired behavioral pattern.
In order to set the stage for cognitive restructuring, we need a model describing our behavior when we are confronted with stress. How we react to stressful events can be described in a series of behavioral proceedings that is referred to as the ABC chain. It begins with the trigger event (A). How the event is perceived, which is a function of the person's core beliefs and assumptions, forms the (B) of the chain. The (C) part is the response: behavioral, physiological, and psychological. Through the process of perception, largely based on previous assumptions, we label events in a positive or negative way, and this labeling in turn gives rise to emotional and behavioral reactions. Our perceptual labeling may be accurate, or it may be inaccurate, inappropriate, or irrational. When the latter happens, we put ourselves into a state of stress. The cognitive restructuring technique focuses on changing our assumptions, perceptions, and feelings (APFs). Let's look at a short example.
Joe an engineer reports to John a senior project engineer and is called into John's office.
John immediately jumped to the problem: “The damn circuit failed for the tenth time. Joe, we have to fix the problem, or we'll have a severe overrun.” As John paced around the room, constantly looking at the test documents and slamming them on his desk, Joe could only think, “This is awful. John is accusing me of fouling up. I only did what the design people told me to do. He is really mad at me. There go my stomach cramps again. What am I going to say?” He stood immobilized with anxiety and fear, until John demanded of him, “Joe, what are we going to do? We need answers. We need action—and promptly!” Finally Joe stammered, “I'll do my best. I'll go back to the lab and see what I can do.”
John is a reactive type who lets his emotions show when under stress. In this instance, John was angry at the design, not at Joe, who did not explore what John was angry about. In a quick reaction, Joe misperceived the situation and subjected it to negative distortion. He evaluated John's emotional reaction as directed at him rather than at the situation. Further, he allowed his negative emotional reaction to overwhelm him and prevent engaging in dialogue with John to examine and solve the problem. Finally, he left to avoid further emotional damage.
Criticism from a tyrannical boss can be perceived differently by different people. Joe had been taught that perfection is the sole goal in life. He perceives his boss's criticism as an unconditional putdown of him personally, not his behavior. As a result, he suffers anxiety and fear of failure whenever he has to interact with his boss. Eventually he may avoid his boss—a perceived solution that only compounds the problematic situation. A vicious cycle of the boss's anger and Joe's terror flights develops. Cognitive restructuring would help Joe deal with his difficulties.
Cognitive restructuring would take this scenario and
  • Demonstrate that Joe's reaction did not fit the reality. He had an irrational or distorted view of the interchange.
  • Demonstrate that if he continues to allow false perceptions and beliefs to shape his present and future behavior in a negative way, he will set himself up for failure.
  • Help Joe change his thinking (his cognition) and abandon his irrational beliefs.
  • Help Joe develop a more rational appraisal of such situations and generate alternative interpretations.
The critical factors in this case are Joe's APFs. They will form the foundation for understanding and modifying his ABC chain of reactions. The next sections will elucidate these concepts.

The Basis of Our Assumptions, Perceptions, and Feelings

As we pass through life, we build up an assumptive system of what is, what should be, and what ought to be. These assumptions, highly charged by emotional events and our upbringing, come from encounters that we take for granted. We all have assumptions based on our beliefs, values, and attitudes, though the range and depth of them vary from person to person. Because these assumptions and beliefs in part determine our needs structure, becoming conscious of them can help us modify these underlying elements and lead to change.
Perception is what we process through the five senses or how we interpret these sensations through intuition. Given that there are different ways of processing a situation, there is tremendous latitude in what we perceive. There are general laws of perception, but individuals create their own spin in a given situation. Cognitive restructuring makes us acutely aware of the role of our perceptions in determining our behavior. By modifying our perceptions, we alter our emotional state and our reactive behavior.
Feelings—pain, pleasure, hate, love, disdain, grief, hope, joy, disgust, and so on—are our evaluative reactions to a situation. Our emotional state is critically linked to our immediate perceptions. For example, love can change our perception of another's thoughtless action into acceptance, or hate can intensify our perception of the same act into a deliberate affront or worse. Assumptions, perceptions, and feelings interact, each influencing the other. Deeply rooted assumptions can distort our perceptions such that they reinforce the old assumptions. By opening up our perceptual field with “floodlight” vision rather than “spotlight” vision, we have the opportunity to alter these assumptions. The emotional tone can reinforce or alter either assumptions or perceptions. Assumptions can set the stage for a positive or a negative emotional state. A current perception that triggers a previous negative or positive image can affect our emotional state.
Practitioners in the field of cognitive restructuring have identified three core activities that are necessary to bring about behavioral change:
1. Identification of the thoughts, beliefs, and values that cause negative affect and behavior. This is a systematic attempt to bring to the surface automatic, and sometimes dangerous, thoughts so that we can recognize them.
2. Evaluation of these thoughts, beliefs, and values in an attempt to judge their validity.
3. Shifting of any irrational or untenable beliefs to a more rational basis. The anxiety level is reduced by repeated attempts at mastering the irrational belief.
Cognitive restructuring takes into account self-talk, all our internal scripts, of a positive or a negative nature, that promote or deter our purpose. We all talk to ourselves. In this ongoing process, we may build up scripts that are so negative that they interfere with our well-being and performance.
In order to diagnose your self-talk, take into consideration the following particulars:
  • Self-concept: the degree of your self-worth and any corresponding negative thoughts about the outcome
  • Self-instructions: corrective scripts that promote new behavior
  • Self-reinforcement: changes of approach, even in moderate degrees, that you reinforce with positive self-talk
Cognitive restructuring can be used to modify most elements of management style. It can be directed at these elements:
  • Modifying psychological type for a given situation
  • Strengthening and changing motive patterns
  • Developing positive power and influencing skills
  • Overcoming barriers to effective conflict resolution
  • Managing stress
  • Coping with organizational culture

How We Know What We Know

When Robin flew in to Phoenix to work with Todd, who had recently transferred into her district from another sales territory, she thought it would probably just be a typical pleasant day of visiting customers and writing orders. But it did not turn out that way. Even though she had heard great things about Todd, he was withdrawn and dull, did not seem to pick up on opportunities, and had not drawn up a logical call list so that they could use their time well. Her questions to him elicited little response; Robin started to wonder whether the other district manager had “dumped” Todd on her. She found herself criticizing everything about him, his clothes, his need for a haircut, his sloppy briefcase, his way of greeting buyers he was meeting for the first time.
Robin started to feel anxious; how would she ever make her numbers with this dullard in such a key territory? Would she have to start a termination process—if so, how soon? She hated this kind of conflict; that was why she was so careful in the way she hired reps. Her team always came in first in the company in sales because she hand-picked them and nurtured their efforts. Todd had an attitude she did not like and one that, moreover, would surely keep him from making his goals. As they walked in to make their last call of the day, Robin wondered what she was going to do with this guy. He just did not seem to have “it.”
When we encounter a particular situation, our reaction to it is like the process of taking a snapshot. We scan the environment, decide what we want to focus on, and take the picture. The specific settings (lens, focus, and speed) influence the type of photo we get. Depending on the type of lens (wide-angle or telephoto), for example, breadth may be sacrificed for detail or vice versa. In addition, we highlight certain aspects at the expense of others and may distort or lose some parts of the scene as we reduce three dimensions to two. Details may be lost or blurred if we haven't used the right settings; filters could further influence the image we get of the scene we are trying to capture.
As managers (and as human beings), we process information and conceptualize events and people in much the same way. Our mindset at the time determines whether we focus on the broad, the narrow, or selected portions of what we see, hear, and observe. The first images of events and people give us data that we evaluate as being positive, neutral, or negative. It has been estimated that we evaluate 95 percent of our perceptions as positive or negative rather than neutral. In the example of Robin and Todd, Robin had decided very early on that the experience of working together was negative. Those perceptions will color her working and personal relationship with Todd from that point forward.
The ability to be aware of our assumptions, perceptions, and feelings and to change the way we view situations and people (and our reactions to them) is essential to the Integrated Management Style Model. The capacity to shift thinking empowers managers to make the best use of the b...

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