There are at least three fundamentally different styles of dealing with employees. The best approach depends on what you are expecting of your employees, the capabilities of your employee and your capability to effectively utilize the various styles.
I’ll call the first approach the supervisor style. It is not uncommon for people to be promoted into their first management position because of their knowledge, skill and dedication to doing the organization’s work. It is also not unusual for these managers to assume their role is to make sure people are always using their best practices in doing their work or responding to issues. The strength of this approach is insuring that the department’s quality standards are always met, even if there is a high turnover of entry level personnel. If there is any process improvement, it is typically created by the supervisor.
A second style is results oriented management. In this approach, the manager typically sets measurable goals for performance improvement, and encourages their employees to continually think about ways of doing their work that will improve the quality or quantity of the results they are producing. This manager does have to know that much about how the work is currently done, and trusts that their employees are capable of finding ways to meet existing standards. This style works best with a department with a low turnover of competent employees. The style tends to deliver a lot more improvement than the supervisory style.
A third style is the leadership or visionary approach. This executive trusts the organizations that report to them to maintain quality standards and to continually improve productivity. They are looking for breakthrough ideas for moving their organization into brand new markets or services. They do this by continually selling the vision and encouraging some of their staff to think “outside the box”, hoping that one of them will develop of a compelling breakthrough idea. Most of this effort will be worthless, but if one great idea emerges, it will be worth it.
Different styles tend to produce different kinds of valued result. Using a style that is not well suited to the results expected and the mindset of your employees can produce a disaster. A supervisory approach has the lowest downside risk or upside potential. The leadership approach is the opposite, with the management approach somewhere in the middle.