Pitbull or Peacenik – What’s Your Change Management Style?

My colleagues and I have often discussed which type of change manager gets more results, especially which type gets more results in our particular organization. We have a lot of pitbulls, who adopt a fairly confrontational stance when dealing with those who need to make a change. They sink their teeth into the data, make a bulletproof metric, and then proceed to beat their adversaries over the head until the metric moves. Performance is segmented and presented by person, not process. One group goes so far as to designate one general manager “Top Dog” and one “in the doghouse” (complete with a photo of the manager in a doghouse) on their metrics reporting portal each week.

Seriously. I’m not making this up.

I’ve worked with people like this before – senior management tends to love having people like this around because they force issues, upset the status quo and make things generally uncomfortable for those who need to change. In other words, they do senior management’s dirty work for them.

Like true pitbulls, they don’t let go once they have their teeth into something. They make things happen, that’s for sure. Whether they are always the right things is another matter.

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On the other hand, you have consensus builders – the peacemakers. Short of bringing the guitar to meetings for a round of Kumbaya, they strive for accord. Never mind the fact that consensus means “what everyone can live with”, usually resulting in lowest common denominator solutions, instead of what’s best for the business or the customer. Peers often feel better in meetings led by these folks. They may not make things happen quickly, or make big things happen, but they tend to build a lot of support for whatever the team decides to do.

These are clearly extremes – most of us in the quality field probably have some of each, and have to exercise one over the other depending on the culture of our organizations, the personalities involved with the changes to be made, and the speed at which the changes are needed. These days, speed is probably more important in your firm than comfort – it is in mine.

At the end of the day, we have to be about results. Absolutely. Leadership should care about the process by which we achieve those results, though it often doesn’t.

So what’s your change management style? Has it changed during the economic downturn? Please post your thoughts in the comments section.

Comments 6

  1. Everton de Andrade

    I think the managers need to understand that they work with people… not with animals…
    I think we have mind to understand and to do the right things, without a foreman around us…



  2. Kevin Rogers

    I know that this might sound a bit wishy washy, but the style that you use depends on the situation. You have to know the people, the process and the customers of the change.
    Sometimes, for the greater good of the company, the department, the team –> the peacemaker approach is the best. The relationships that are built are more imprortant and will be of a greater benefit to the company both short term and longterm.
    Sometimes, for the greater good of the company, the department, the team –> the pitbull approach is the best. The need for change and the right change is more important to the company and the benefits are both long and short term. To get those benefits, the changing of the relationships is required, it’s not easy but it is what is needed.

  3. Sowmyan

    It is question of how much the team member knows in terms of understanding the issues and solving the problems. If a person has the necessary qualification, experience and training and is capable of thinking reasonably well, one can given them a lot more say in deciding what to do and how to do.

    It would be wrong to presume every one can be given this freedom. There was a very popular Harvard Business review classic on initiatives. Let us say there was a fire. Some may just observe and do nothing about it. Some others may shout ’fire, fire’ and expect others to lead. A third can ask ’what should I do about it?’ and await instruction. A fourth may ask shall I pour water on it and wait for the endorsement? A fifth may say ’I used a CO2 extinguisher because it was a electrical fault related fire’ and routinely report it. Multiple levels of initiative based on multiple levels of knowledge to deal with the complexity of the problem on hand. But if a person takes initiative by pouring water on a electric fire, there can be further complications.

    What i want to emphasize is human attitudes and abilities also have variance. While negative feedbacks in harsh words all the time is not good, swinging to the other extreme and trying to be extremely sensitive is also not efficient all the time. The variance needs to be recognized and a mix of styles may have to be adapted. The supervisor needs to know which cow needs to be milked by singing to it and which needs to milked by dancing before it. (The last sentence is a crude translation of a proverb in Tamil).

  4. Kosta Chingas

    As far as my style goes, I have changed a little since the economy has changed……maybe a little more aggressive. I get a little more impatient when I don’t see the results that I’m looking for.

    My style dicates that I give my employees as much room as possible to achieve results. I see my role as "leading" my people to results.

  5. Dike Drummond

    Wow James … Pitbull or Peacenik … there just has to be some middle ground here.

    There is a common misperception that if you are not a Patton style leader … you are too namby pamby to be in a "real business". NOT true.

    – If you want to have the team take on the work.
    – If you want to build a culture of CPI.
    – If you want to build the skill sets of your teams so they can do more today than they did yesterday.
    – If trust and respect matter at all to you.
    – If you want to feel good when you look in the mirror at the end of the day …

    You simply have to be aware of your Leadership style. I think of two main styles:
    – Tellers
    – Askers
    And "Askers" win hands down.

    As an Asker, you set the performance parameters … the outcomes, the metrics, the vision

    Then … you ask the team to participate in coming up with the means to hit those metrics.

    Don’t tell them what to do! You will turn them in to sheep. From now on they will wait for you to tell them what to do. You have effectively communicated that you are the boss and you make the decisions around here. You won’t say that … and the subconscious message has been sent.

    The "Teller" almost certainly does not have the best solution anyway since they aren’t the ones in the front line doing the work and are only working off of one person’s opinion anyway… theirs.

    So just observe yourself this week. How often do you ask as opposed to telling. Notice the results you get from asking and the results from telling.

    Think back to the people you considered to be inspirational mentors … where they askers or tellers.

    Then you choose.

    My two cents,

    Dike Drummond

  6. JConsidine

    Dike, thanks for the comments. I like the "Asker" vs. "Teller" concepts.

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