Consider you are facing a new task? It could be finding a new team member or delivering a new project. What would your priority be? To achieve the results as efficiently as possible, with the focus on the tasks or would you start organizing things based on your team and their strengths and interests?

Your answer to the question can tell quite a bit about your management style and approach to solving managerial problems. Leadership theories come in many shapes and sizes, but the Managerial Grid model is one popular model that is built around the two themes suggested in the question: task-orientation and people-focused approach.

MANAGERIAL GRID MODEL IN A NUTSHELL

The Managerial Grid Model came about during a prominent time in leadership studies. In fact, the model is the culmination of findings in other leadership studies and an attempt to identify the different ways you can lead. The Grid’s original developers are management theoreticians Robert R. Blake and Jane S. Mouton and they created the model during the 1960s.

The model was a product of their findings at Exxon, where they worked to improve the effectiveness of leaders. When they studied and observed the leaders, they found their management behavior to work on axes and moving along a continuum. Some had concern for the production and others for people. In 1964, Blake and Mouton published their finding in the first edition of The Managerial Grid.

So, what is the Managerial Grid Model? It’s simply a tool or a framework for understanding your leadership style. It helps to examine your answer to the most topical dilemma of managers: Should you focus on the tasks or the people? If you have a managerial task ahead of you, you’ll need to first think what your priority is. Are you thinking about the tasks, with their deadlines and objectives? Do you instead think who is the best person for the role or whether they are excited about the project? The Managerial Grid model is essentially going to help you understand which kind of manager you are and what your style says about you. Furthermore, it can even showcase the problems you’ll face with your specific style.

I’ll explore the concepts and theories further in the following sections, but let’s consider the findings of Blake and Mouton in short. The management scientists noticed, as said above, that there are two main axes in which the managers fall into: the task-centered people and the person-centered people. They placed one on the axis Y and the other on axis X. Since not every manager has a clear preference to either of the two, but they can be a combination of both, Blake and Mouton discovered the five possible combinations of the two. The five leadership styles, according to the Grid, are:

  • Indifferent or impoverished management
  • Dictatorial or ‘produce or perish’ management
  • Status quo or middle of the road management
  • Accommodating or country club management
  • Sound or team management

The above five styles can be further divided into subdivisions, creating 81 different leadership combinations. Furthermore, Blake went on to develop the Grid model further and even added two more leadership possibilities to the model. Although these are not in the official Grid model, it can be worth remembering them. The styles are:

  • Paternalistic management – A mix between the Country Club and the ‘Produce or Perish’ management styles. The leader can be both encouraging and guarding of his or her position. It can leave little room for questioning the manager’s decisions.
  • Opportunistic management – The opportunistic manager doesn’t appear on the grid because it can fall under each of the five categories. If you’re opportunistic, you simply put yourself first. You will shift between styles and approaches when it benefits your objectives. You won’t be people oriented for the team, but because you might gain something from it. This is a rather manipulative management style.

THE TWO BEHAVIOUR DIMENSIONS AND THE STYLES THEY PRODUCE

The below image perfectly illustrates the Grid model. As you can see, you have the horizontal axis for concern for results and the vertical axis for concern for people. Depending on where you fall in the scale, you would represent one of the five basic management style.

managerial-grid-model

Source: Wikipedia

The behavior dimensions

The Grid believes management is divided into focusing on two key things: tasks or people. These things influence the behavior of the manager. When you are leading, how do you think about the results? What about the people? You can show prominence in one of the behaviors or you could place both of them low on your agenda. According to the Grid, the different behavior dimensions would lead to the following managerial behaviors:

  • Concern for people – People orientation. The first behavior examines the leaders approach or concern for people. This includes consideration for team members’ needs, interests or their personal development. The importance of the points depends on how high or low you rank on this scale. If you are concerned for people’s needs, you would consider the tasks with the needs in mind. For example, you might think whether the team has enough time to finish the task before a specific deadline and you could push the deadline further to avoid team members losing their free time or getting too stressed. You might also pick a person for a task simply out of the educational value, even if the person might not be the best pick for the role. On the other hand, if you rank low on the concern for people axis, you wouldn’t consider the needs and interests of the team to be a top priority.
  • Concern for results – Task orientation. The second behavior examines the leader’s approach to results or the tasks ahead. This would be the focus on the objectives, the efficiency of accomplishing them and maintaining high productivity. When you are deciding a task, you’d emphasize these points as the key to the proper accomplishment of goals. If you scored high on concern for results, you would think what is the most efficient route to finish a task. You would assign tasks based on the efficiency of finishing it, not necessarily based on who might enjoy the role the most. Similarly to the first behavior, if you rank low on the scale, you won’t be too focused on the results when management an objective.

In each of the axis, both horizontal and vertical, you can find nine ranges. Nine is the highest and one is the lowest range. So, if you are people-oriented manager who thinks about the team’s needs first, you would score closer to nine (or even nine). On the other hand, if you had less care for the team’s needs, you would be somewhere close to zero. When you score yourself in both the horizontal and vertical axis, you’ll get the results for your management style

The five combinations of the dimensions

Your approach the each axis can produce a number of combinations of your style. As I mentioned earlier, the model identifies five core styles, with the overall styles reaching an impressive 81 approaches to management.

Indifferent of impoverished management

If you score low on the result orientation axis, as well as the concern for people axis, you will fall in the indifferent management category. This is the most ineffective management style. A manager with this result would show no interest towards creating effective systems to achieve tasks and he or she wouldn’t pay attention to motivating the team. It simply is an inefficient way to lead, since your focus is not really on anything – you would need to find some inspiration to focus your attention as a manager.

Under the indifferent management style, organizations can’t expect much. You won’t get things done, since you aren’t focused on effectiveness and productivity. But at the same time, your team will suffer from lack of organization and satisfaction. You won’t feel happy at work, when you don’t have clear instructions and your personal interests or needs are not met.

Dictatorial or ‘produce or perish’ management

You’ll start seeing a more meaningful management, as you move away from ranking near one in both axes. One of the more ‘extreme’ scenarios is the management style of ‘produce or perish’. The authoritarian style means you rank high on the result scale, but fall low on the people-orientation. For a dictatorial manager, people are more like a means to an end and the productivity of the team is at the heart of everything. If you’re a dictatorial manager, then your leadership style is marked with the following principles:

  • Autocratic management style
  • Strict rules, procedures and policies for getting work done.
  • Punishment viewed as an effective motivational tool.

When you emphasize tasks and effectiveness, you can obtain rather great results in terms of productivity. You essentially create a strong system or a framework for achieving objectives; and not just achieving them, but doing it efficiently and effectively. Results under this type of management style are impressive. But only at first.

You see, the style tends to have a negative impact on the team. Since you’re not concerned with the team’s interests or needs, the work moral can suffer consequently. You don’t focus enough time on motivating or inspiring the team and the hectic framework you’ve created can mean people are stressed and overworked. In the long-term, the lack of work morale can start affecting the results, leading to problems in productivity or retaining the best performing employees.

Status Quo or middle to the road management

It’s easy to think (especially after reading the above) that finding the golden middle ground would work the best. If you just focus on people and results in a mild manner, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. While the style is great in trying to find a balance, the strategy doesn’t prove as successful.

Since you are essentially trying to constantly compromise as a manager, you won’t be able to obtain solid performances or to motivate people in the most efficient way. In fact, the middle of the road management style, with a medium focus on results and people, will likely lead to mediocre results. While your team is unlikely to dissatisfied, they are also not the happiest and the results for the organization are rather average.

Accommodating or ‘Country Club’ management

If you are concerned about team members and their needs, you might score high on the people-focused axis, while scoring low on your attention to the results. The management style where people take priority and task-orientation is low is called Country Club management.

The style is about ensuring the people in the team are doing well and enjoying the work – almost like having a good time at the country club. As a manager, you emphasize your teams feelings and needs. You have the idea that by ensuring employees are happy and secure with the work, they are also working hard.

Although the style can be effective, especially in terms of guaranteeing high employee motivation, productivity might suffer. You essentially don’t have enough control over the workers, since you are willing to put their needs first. By not focusing on the results, you can also create a framework that lacks direction. People won’t be able to know what is going on and what is expected of them.

While the work environment might be relaxed and fun, you won’t see as many results and certain team members might even find the situation unchallenging.

Sound or team management

The final of the five management styles is the sound or team management. In this style, you will focus highly on both the results and the people. For Blake and Mounton, this the Grid’s most effective leadership style. The team management style is about a leader who is passionate about the work and achieving results, but who also wants to do the best he or she can for the people in the team. A team management style has the leader projecting the following principles:

Team management is a challenging leadership style, as your attention and focus must be equally divided in achieving results and ensuring people are happy. As a manager, you would want to ensure people are committed to the organization and that they understand its vision and objectives. You would include the rest of the team in decision-making, to ensure everyone has a stake in productivity and effectiveness.

HOW IS HUMAN BEHAVIOUR VIEWED?

Management styles and theories are essentially all about human behavior. Whether you are using a democratic approach to leadership or managing with an authentic flair, you are basing your style on certain assumptions on what works best with the employees.

What makes them tick? How to draw inspiration and motivation out of your team? Since human behavior is such an integral part of management theories, I’ll explain briefly what assumptions the Managerial Grid Model makes.

Theory Y

The framework for the Grid was built around the theories of both Abraham Maslow and especially Douglas McGregor and his Theory Y. The theory is a famous attempt to identify what drives human motivation and therefore management. McGregor developed his theory, together with Theory X, during the 1960s and the Managerial Grid is essentially an expansion into his findings.

Theory Y has a positive view on human behavior, with the theory assuming employees don’t need a ‘direct’ reward in return of the work, but they are looking for self-improvement instead. If you fall under Theory Y, you wouldn’t be motivated by bonuses or perform your duties simply to avoid punishment; you’d actually relish in the opportunity to improve your own skills with the tasks.

The Theory further assumes employees love the challenge and aren’t afraid of saying ‘yes’ to a new exciting role. The motivation is evident in the Grid, as it believes people-orientation to be a key way to motivate and control the team – if you give the employees a challenge, they will take it. For a much deeper insight into the Theory Y and its counterpart Theory X, check out the below SlideShare document:

The 7 key behaviors

The Grid theory also breaks managerial behavior into seven key behaviors. If you are using the model to analyze your management style, then these seven are crucial elements to consider.

Behavior/element How the behavior manifests
Initiative Taking action, willingness to lead and a supportive approach to work.
Inquiry Researching nature, questioning the tasks and processes involved in the task.
Advocacy Championing ideas and showcasing strong ideals and convictions.
Decision-making Focus on evaluation and assessment of both the available resources and the consequences of actions.
Conflict resolution Confronting nature, with the ability and wish to resolve disagreements on the spot.
Resilience Good problem-solving skills and the ability to persevere despite setbacks.
Critique Ability to provide honest feedback and to deliver effectively on objectives.

If you highlight the above seven behaviors in your management, then you are off to a great start. According to the Blake and Mouton model, these qualities are essentially the characteristics a team management style introduces and reinforces in your behavior.

THE PROS AND CONS OF THE GRID

So, Managerial Grid Model is a tool for understanding your management style, as well as the difficulties and possibilities each style can have in terms of employee motivation and achieving results. So, what are the benefits of the model and the downside of following it in general?

The pros

It goes without saying the Managerial Grid is a great tool for analyzing yours or someone else’s managerial style. You can use it to identify the type of manager you currently are, as well as the kind of manager you might aspire to be. By looking at the grid and thinking about your own placement, you do need to take a deeper look at your own behavior.

The Grid makes you think about your decision-making as a manager. What would you do in certain situations? Would you focus on the tasks or perhaps think about the team needs? The answers to whether you are a task-focused or people-oriented manager can help you improve and strengthen the weaker areas of your leadership. You learn to identify the different ways you could respect the need to focus on both and the difficulties of maintaining this balance of concern for production and balance.

You therefore gain an in-depth view of your style and personality. Self-analysis and self-reflection are crucial tools for managerial success, so the Grid model can be another powerful tool to use in this way. You can learn more about different self-analysis methods from the interesting video below:

The Grid can naturally be beneficial for organizations as well. If you are looking to hire new personnel or figure out what are the main problems with your current management, you can use the Grid and the questionnaire to evaluate your situation. The findings can be used during the hiring process.

For example, you might have identified the key needs for your business beforehand in terms of management style and after having applicants fill out the questionnaire, you can pick the people with the best management style to suit your needs. On the other hand, you might also utilize the assessment tool if you are having management problems.

If employees are not happy or productivity is low, you could test the managers to see whether they are applying the wrong type of management styles. You might find that your management ranks in the ineffective leader style of the Grid. Using this information, you can improve management training. The training will be more efficient, since you’ve identified some of the weaknesses. For example, in the case of the ineffective manager, you can teach the person more about the company’s vision and objectives, as well as develop their interpersonal skills.

The cons

While the Managerial Grid is generally great for assessment and analysis, you do need to keep a few things in mind. Although the theory adds to leadership and management theories, it does so with an emphasis on just task versus people. But not all managerial decisions are as clear-cut and you might not be able to always pick between the two when managing objectives. Management is also influenced by other internal and external variables.

For instance, what about the culture you are in? In the business world, different cultures respond to management different and what might seem people-focused in the Western world might not be considered as such in Asia. The company culture might also differ depending on the nature of the work and in certain situation a more task-oriented approach might not be as ill sufficient as you might assume. The ‘Green Zone’ of management, which Blake and Mouton identified as the sound management, is not necessarily always as easy or even desirable to achieve.

There’s also a more obvious theoretical criticism. The Grid is not based on enough empirical data to suggest managers who are high on task-orientation and low on people-orientation would end up as dictatorial managers. Therefore, there is a lot of assumption involved in the findings and the charts, meaning that you shouldn’t necessarily rely solely on the Grid model to sort out your managerial career.

As I mentioned earlier, even Blake went on to expand on the different leadership styles later on, finding the original Grid somewhat insufficient. Leadership styles and figuring out which one is the best can be a complex issue.

Therefore, while the Managerial Grid Model is definitely a good point to start analyzing your managerial performance, you don’t want to rely solely on it when developing leadership skills.

HOW TO APPLY THE MANAGERIAL GRID MODEL

So, how can you use the model to benefit your management or leadership style? There are three simple steps for using the Grid as part of your development.

Step 1: Identifying your managerial style

First, you should identify your managerial style. You can do this by thinking about your past experiences as a leader. It doesn’t matter what kind of leadership position or decision you took (if it was a school project or a senior management role), but find those moments when you took the lead. Write the situations down in a piece of paper. Examples scenarios could be:

  • I was a leader of a school group and our task was to make a PowerPoint presentation.
  • I was the floor manager at a café and we had to sort out the Christmas sales
  • I ended up leading the team meeting to solve a sales problem because the manager wasn’t present.

The situation can be anything – you just had to be the leading and the situations to be a bit different from each other. Even if you can’t think of many situations where you’ve managed others, you can experiment with situations that could happen. For example, perhaps you are taking on a new role as a sales manager and you could think about the scenarios you might be faced with.

Once you have a list of five situations of leadership, think where you’d be placed in the scenario. In the PowerPoint presentation, did you immediately start thinking about the deadline and the most efficient way of doing it? Or did you perhaps start discussing with the team the different roles they’d want to take?

For both the axes, pick your number from 1 to 9 and see where you end up on the scale. Look at each scenario and your score. Is there a pattern there? An average of the type of leader you might be? Maybe you score high on tasks on each of your examples, yet have a more mixed results with the people-orientation. Spot the traits and leadership patterns.

Step 2: Identifying the areas for improvement and development

Now, start analyzing and assessing your results and your current approach to management. What do the findings above say about your management style? Are you more about taking the easy road and therefore settling for middle-of-the-road management? Or do you feel you emphasize the results more than the team?

Be honest about your current approach to management and think about the strengths and weaknesses of your style. Did those examples prove successful or what were some of the hiccups your team might have suffered? For example, if you didn’t get the team to receive high marks for the PowerPoint presentation, think carefully why this might have been. Was it because you didn’t push hard enough for people to deliver the tasks in time? Was there a lack of organization? Or did you pay too much attention to the results and forget to ensure people were enjoying the task?

If you analyze each situation through the strength and weaknesses, you can get a better sense of the situations when your style has been a success and the times when you probably didn’t perform as well as a manager.

If you notice yourself falling too much on either side of the framework and scoring high on either results or people-orientation, while falling behind on the other axis, try to improve your skill set. How can you do it? Well, if you are having trouble with ensuring the team members are active participants and enjoying the tasks and roles, you can:

If you want to learn from the master, in terms of getting your team involved, check out this video by Brian Tracy. It’s great for gaining deeper insight into inspiring your team.

On the other hand, if you are good at keeping the team engaged, you might find yourself lacking some of the organizational proficiency. If your task-orientation scores are constantly low, you should consider boosting your skills in:

  • Scheduling tasks.
  • Enhancing decision-making.
  • Project progress monitoring.

Step 3: Using the Grid in the right context

While Blake and Mouton believed the team management style to be superior over the others, you shouldn’t regard the other styles outright. Certain situations might call for different management styles and you might often get efficient results simply by emphasizing either the tasks or the team’s wellbeing.

The context in which you apply your style matters and you might have realized this when mapping your strengths and weaknesses. In short-term projects, focusing on efficiency in receiving results might guarantee the most successful outcome and if the process is rather short, you probably aren’t even damaging your chances by neglecting the team’s wellbeing to a certain extent.

For example, if you need to deliver a product review for a major client and to do it in the shortest possible time, you might want to ask your team to push just that little bit more. On the other hand, if you have a new team or the team mood has dropped, you might shift to a more people-oriented style just until everyone is feeling more motivated.

When you are using the Managerial Grid model, you need to keep this in mind. The model is not the ‘eternal truth’ in the best management style. Learn more about the different styles and their impact and become better at judging which situation calls for which approach.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Managerial Grid Model is a popular framework for looking at management and your approach to some of the core managerial tasks. The Grid can help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses as a manager, helping you understand the impact your decision-making can have on the team’s mood and the efficiency of achieving results.

The five core leadership styles are useful to keep in mind when you are analyzing your behavior or that of other managers. While the theorists behind the model believed the team management style to be the most effective, you shouldn’t even consider leadership without its appropriate context. Different styles can fit different situations and knowing how to use different approaches can help you be a better manager.

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