The Importance of Circular Management
My late father was an executive with the U.S. Postal Service for many years. At one time, he supervised at least 500 people. I never asked him how he did it. I just watched him in action. He knew each employee and their personalities. He knew what needed to be done. He handled each person differently as individuals in the pursuance of achieving collective results. I have managed a variety of staff through the years. I tried to emulate my father, but he was the master of his type of management.
Torch notes that effective management is critical to running a successful organization. The two most used management techniques are top-down and bottom-up management. Top-down management happens when goals, projects and tasks are determined by senior leadership and communicated to the organization.
The pros of top-down management are that employees are used to this style of management, it’s likely to create alignment, it’s likely to set clear goals and expectations for the organization and it lets employees focus on work. The cons are employees may feel disconnected from the company’s mission, infective leadership may lead to poor decision-making and dissatisfied employees, and does not allow for creativity and pride of work.
Bottom-up management happens when goals, projects and tasks are informed by employee feedback. Employees help set goals and communicate these items with senior leaders. Positive attributes of this style of management are having employees aligned with company culture, it can lead to improved performance, employees can set goals aligned with their strengths and employees have insights that senior leaders do not have into operations.
Cons include having too much input that slows progress, employees may not want to share ideas with top leadership and employees may not have all the key information needed to align with the overview business mission. It is important that employees and top management use both approaches as business demands constantly shift.
Forbes provides insight into management strategies. These strategies are needed for nonprofits to succeed. They impact culture and approaches to management. Organizations must have a strategic approach to overcome business challenges. The top-down method of management was needed during the pandemic that allowed for communication to employees, many of whom worked in different locations. While a top-down strategy is important, at times, many employees do not know what the organizational goals are as they are not at the strategic planning table.
Many companies sought to create a sideways management approach where the employees and upper management worked side by side through constant process analysis and managerial improvement involving sharing of ideas and concepts. Sideways does not always work as it is based upon the culture, trust of leadership and ultimate determination of who is in organizational control.
The Balance Careers examines the perils that exist to the organization when top-down management is the exclusive method for managing employees. This article stated that four problems exist with the top-down management concept: You miss out on great ideas from other people besides top management; it kills employee engagement as people work for money, challenge and sense of accomplishment; succession planning is a disaster because inside employees are not prepared for advancement; and employees are micromanaged, and it makes them frustrated. Organizations need to fix their top-down organizational management structure and allow for greater employee ownership and ideas in their organization.
Human Business emphasizes that organizational service knowledge is assured in a top-down management scenario. The top-down, one-way power rests in upper management. This style is good when leaders have the knowledge about a problem and the solution is linear. The ultimate information flow is one way. It provides a context where the leaders feel superior to employees as they control key knowledge elements.
Today’s world is complex, and knowledge is needed to solve complex problems by everyone in the organization. The bottom-up approach creates a foundation for knowledge-sharing and creativity by the entire organization. This leads to greater employee involvement, job satisfaction and motivation. There is greater employee commitment and identified organizational solutions. Employees are treated as partners. They are valued for their talents and abilities. Combining the best of the top-down and bottom-up approach allows an organization to thrive. The direction for organizational development is set by management and goals, plus vision lies in employees.
sgENGAGE also reinforces the fact that a successful organization should employ a combination of top-down and bottom-up styles. When there is good collaboration between the visions and operations, achieving organizational goals will come naturally. With evaluating top-down versus bottom-up management styles, Touro University encourages employers to make bottom-up communication and management a priority. Employees need to have greater organizational input for work and how to better merge work lives.
I mentioned earlier that leaders should consider employing circular management knowledge and style of leadership. A McKinsey & Company article reinforces this idea. The article believes effective leaders must manage up, down and sideways. Leaders need to exercise their influence in several directions. Complex modern organizations benefit the most when people engage with their peers across functional and business-unit boundaries. This brings a variety of ideas, change and innovation into play.
A research study of 1,200 marketing executives noted that senior executives should pay more attention to managing upward and managing horizontally. The best executives build strong teams, enhance team member skills, provide performance measures and create an environment of trust and loyalty. Actions by leaders in this style of management require continual reinforcement.
When you think of management going forward, begin to think in terms of understanding circular management. Study the elements of top-down, bottom-up and sideways management. You will begin to understand that you have led in a variety of ways over time. Practice your management craft with your team. Continually strive to communicate, engage and motivate your team.
When they feel they are truly part of the organizational process, everyone will experience a greater degree of organizational satisfaction. Your organizational demands are great. Make sure your management style meets these challenges.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.