What’s the best way to get the most out of your team? Rule them with an iron fist and push them to the brink? Or is there a different approach you can take?

I was speaking recently with Marco Aurelio the Global Services VP at Delphix and we got onto the question “how to best manage team members when there’s a client issue”. Marco’s opinion crystalised a gut feeling into a tangible view for me about people who perceive themselves as great managers but who essentially fail to manage anything other than self justification.

Essentially the managers who have a “game” face, fire out their orders and to senior management look like they’re “getting things done” – even though in reality they’re losing staff, failing to hit targets and aren’t achieving project success. Marco classed these individuals as the “command and conquer” group and can be illustrated by a case scenario I’ve seen time and time again.

Command and Conquer

Here an employee approaches their manager with a client issue. The manager says “do XYZ”, the employee goes away and does this and the situation gets worse. To the directors it looks like the manager has acted swiftly and decisively. To the employee they’ve half delegated responsibility of the outcome to the manager because “I was told to do that”. To the manager they’ve ‘managed’ the situation, by giving out orders.

In reality though the outcome is bad for everyone, including the client. The manager has stressed out an employee who now isn’t taking responsibility for their actions. The client hasn’t actually got what they wanted (though this may be the outcome whatever the situation), the manager now has to call the client themselves, and there is resentment to the staff member who’s got her into that position in the first place.

The Alternative Option

An alternative approach is for the manager to not be a commander, but a sounding board. Rather than telling the employee what to do, ask them what they feel the right approach is and coach them through the outcomes (i.e. discussing what the likely outcomes are and exploring how these could be dealt with). This means if it all blows up the employee feels like they’ve got ownership of the issue and are much more likely to go the extra mile to fix the situation rather than simply deferring up with “I was told to do this”.

So what’s in it for the manager and the directors? Well, you get an employee who feels like they have responsibility and can be trusted with making important decisions. This leaves the manager to get on with other duties and reduces the risk of the team member leaving (which should be a KPI for senior management).


In conclusion given the speed and complexity of technology and simple commercial reality there’s never going to be a process which covers all bases. As a manager it’s natural to expect staff members to come to you for help and support. Keep in mind that staff are people too, and can feel let down, angry and disassociated with poor management. It is the managers responsibility (and it can be a real challenge) to get the best out of the team by using the right management techniques.

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