You can’t always define right and wrong when it comes to management styles. You have to find your own style that’s right for business. Sometimes this means trial and error – and heresy. There are times when heresy and an unorthodox management style can pay off – as shown by a Brazilian engineering company called Semco.
If you have your own business then it is your prerogative to run it any way you see fit. Your management style might be considered eccentric but no one can prevent you putting it into practice.
The unorthodox management of Ricardo Semler of Semco certainly paid off. As he reveals in his book Maverick! his off-the-wall management ideas have worked for Semco, with unusual business practices such as subordinates giving their managers twice-yearly appraisals. If a boss scores low, he can even lose his job!
The manager is referred to as ‘the subject’ in a multiple choice questionnaire. The first among the 36 questions is: ‘If an employee makes a small mistake, the subject:
1) Is irritated and unwilling to talk about the error
2) Is irritated but willing to discuss the error
3) Identifies the mistake and discusses it in a constructive manner
4) Ignores the error and pays attention only to more important matters.
It’s not rocket science to spot the correct answer and you can tell Semler has a good understanding of management behavior. He expects his managers to be fair and relaxed, secure and friendly, innovative and competent, trustworthy and participant.
So do unorthodox management styles help with the above?
In all businesses and all processes, there is room for improvement and you have to listen when someone comes up with an idea that has the potential to realise that improvement. You have to look at the benefits before dismissing the idea. You should be prepared to embark on challenges and change in order to create an organisation where people are happy with the management style – and that goes for the people managing and those being managed.
Semler has found success with an unorthodox management style and built a company that has the power to create effective new ideas, and continues to do so.