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Projecting versus attracting strategies

Projecting versus attracting strategies

When thinking about our own influencing and management style we have to recognize that we all have different strategies. We may not think of them as strategies but that is what they are. When we get out of bed in the morning we use different strategies. Some of us need just one alarm call and 30 minutes to get ready before we leave for work. Others need at least two or three alarm calls and a good hour and a half before they are ready. Conversely, some people need no alarm clock as they always wake up at the right time. In much the same way when we go into meetings at work we also tend to use different strategies. Some of us will be great listeners and reflect on what people are saying before we contribute. Other people will use a stronger approach making sure that their ideas are put on the table very early on in the meeting. They might then follow up by being very persistent in getting their ideas across by repeating and reinforcing their arguments. For some of us our strate­gies have become quite habitual and when we enter the world of management we may need to develop different strategies. Over time we all tend to develop a set of preferences and strategies about how we go about influencing others. One way of looking at these strategies and preferences is to highlight the difference between those of us who like to Project and those of us who like to Attract.

At one end of the spectrum some of us might be seen as aggressive and demanding, always pushing to get our own way regardless of the rela­tionship costs involved. If we upset a few people in the process that does not matter so long as the job gets done. In meetings we will tend to push our own agenda and perhaps be very direct and even confrontational. If something is wrong we are not slow in pointing out the problem to colleagues. Others might describe it as being very blunt and lacking in diplomacy. Taken to an extreme this managerial behaviour or set of strate­gies can lead some to be described as domineering or autocratic. But in terms of influence these people do not have a problem with achieving influence over others. As strong ‘Projectors’ everyone knows where they stand. The downside however is that ‘Projectors’ may have difficulty in motivating people to follow them. They may be direct and forceful but when overdone they may in fact push people away. What they may need to do is develop some more attraction strategies to draw people towards their goals and aims. Projection is often a good strategy if you need to direct and secure compliance from others.

In contrast to the ‘Projectors’ other managers might be described as more relaxed or laid back when it comes to dealing with people. They in effect operate strategies that might lead them to be termed ‘Attractors’ – happy to go with the flow rather than force their own views. The ‘Attractor’s’ preference is to pull rather than push. People who employ lots of attraction strategies will typically be good listeners and inclined to let others have their own way at the expense of their own or some other specific business goal. This manager is frequently and rather unfairly characterized as a ‘soft touch’. Individually they may feel frustrated that they should sometimes push harder and strive to get their own way more: but their approach is not to do so. In effect their frustration is created by their desire to try to develop some of the strategies of the ‘Projectors’. However, the benefit of good ‘Attractors’ is that people generally feel comfortable with them and they can be good at collecting people as they will listen and seek to understand other perspectives. Attraction strate­gies are very effective at building commitment and followership.

They just represent a different set of choices in how you might deal with other people. The key of course is to be able to achieve the right balance between the two. Knowing when to push and be direct but equally to know when to pull and listen is critical for any effective leader or people manager. In the real world very extreme ‘Projectors’ might be described as very aggressive and threatening. They often get a comeback as they invariably create lots of enemies who in turn seek some form of redress or revenge for the excesses of the ‘Projector’. Conversely, the easy going ‘Attractor manager might lose out on oppor­tunities because they might fail to ‘project’ strongly enough their own ideas or opinions. They might even be felt to lack the killer instinct needed to survive in the hostile and competitive corporate world. Either way you have to achieve the right balance.

Early research and study into leadership style revealed the people and task dilemma that faces us as managers. In the late 1950s and 1960s two highly influential models were developed which characterized funda­mental management styles. In 1958, R Tannenbaum and W H Schmidt wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘How to choose a leadership pattern’. This definitive text characterized the classic manage­ment styles and was very significant in shaping thinking about leadership and people management. In the late 1960s Robert Blake and Jane Mouton, two American psychologists, developed their famous managerial grid which characterized the task and people continuum facing managers. In the Blake and Mouton model, managers were essentially character­ized by their focus on the task and people dimensions. The grid outlined a number of stylized management styles. Their model suggested that the ideal was a 9.9 type manager who combined a high task and productivity focus with high levels of people support and enthusiasm. In effect, someone who combined good projec­tion and attraction strategies to both provide direction and also commitment and motivation. What we need to do as managers and leaders is develop a flexible and responsive people management style to enable us to deal with different types of people in different situations.

So what is management really all about?

The need for management in the business world normally arises when a group of people come together to tackle a task that is too large or complex for any one individual to cope with. When we are faced with such situations we soon discover that we may need to define tasks and allocate roles in order to develop an effective solution. The process of breaking tasks or problems down into key elements traditionally involved the classic management practices of Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Co-ordinating, Reporting and Budgeting – or the acronism POSDCoRB as it became known. These activities make up the key elements of most traditional and classic management roles.