Mixing Up Management Styles

Get the most from your staff by varying your leadership techniques

Mixing Up Management Styles

While many of us in the cleaning and facilities management industries may aspire to be in a supervisory position, once we reach our goal, we may find ourselves pulled in too many directions, procuring more clients, keeping current customers happy, staying abreast of new technologies, and satisfying our own bosses. With so many demands, it’s easy to overlook the key to success in all these areas—employees who work hard and consider the company’s success their own.

Do your employees put their best efforts into every job and take pride in their work, or do they put forth the least effort possible, resisting and complaining about every innovation, even when it’s meant to benefit them?

If it’s the latter, it may be time to examine your management style.

Your Management Style

In my experience, most managers tend to fall into one of two categories: “sage on the stage” or “guide from the side.”

  • Sage on the Stage: These leaders consider themselves experts and demand obedience from staff. As the description implies, this method tends to work best in situations where decisions must be made quickly and discipline is of the utmost importance, such as in the military. This style can create resentments or even hostilities among employees who find their needs and interests overlooked. More importantly, these managers miss the benefit of input from front-line workers who may have information not readily available to the managers.
  • Guide From the Side: These managers operate more as facilitators who help the employees—and thereby, the company—to succeed. This style enhances cooperation and problem-solving ability within the team by allowing people the freedom to express ideas and opinions. Employees under this style of leadership tend to be more innovative and work harder because they feel they are being heard and respected. Additionally, familiarity with the company and how it functions makes your cleaning staff a potential resource for future supervisory positions.

Mixing It Up

Good managers soon learn that neither style works effectively 100 percent of the time, and some situations may require a change of style. While “guide from the side” tends to be the most effective style for the long term, employees should not see their leader as someone who will look the other way or accept excuses for poor work.

On the other hand, while some instances may require “sage on the stage” style, it should be used sparingly. For instance, a manager whose client is on the verge of terminating a contract may need to act quickly and employ this style temporarily.

What Goes Around Comes Around

During the years I worked as a vocational teacher, I rotated the supervisor position at intervals to make sure everyone had an opportunity to experience managing a crew. When we had complaints about a supervisor’s management style, it became a teachable moment for what staff should and should not do when promoted to a supervisory position.

At some point in your career, you were probably in the position of having a supervisor—either in the cleaning industry or elsewhere. Maybe there is someone you report to now. Take time to evaluate your supervisors’ styles and how they made (or make) you feel. Were you inspired to work harder? Did you become a team player? Or did you feel diminished and ineffective, always looking for that escape route to a better job?

Use your own experience to tweak your management style and get the most from your employees.



Posted On June 5, 2017

Kevin Keeler

Founder of Keeler Consulting

Kevin Keeler is founder of Keeler Consulting. He specializes in the development and implementation of tools, technology, and systems that provide cleanliness, cost effectiveness, and accountability. Keeler is a co-author of Behind The Broom. For more information, visit

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