A “Golden” Management Rule for SEM Pros

By Tom Kuthy, VP, Marketing & Business Development
Appeared in
DMNews on September 15, 2009:

Since search marketing is still a relatively young discipline with few truly veteran players, every day many bright young practitioners are getting promoted into their very first management roles. As I think back to my first managerial position, I cringe at the awful rookie mistakes I made, and savor the advice that more experienced managers gave to me that helped me get through the rough spots. Today, I thought I would share the one single insight that has helped me more than any other to improve my management skills.

Since management has been the subject of hundreds of books and countless business school case studies over the years, one might suspect that the fundamental principles of effective management are well-established, and consistently practiced by the more enlightened business leaders everywhere. In my experience, that is far from the case.

Management styles vary widely from person to person, and the individual members of any given team respond dramatically differently to the same management style. This plethora of styles and reactions to styles has led to a cottage industry of advice-givers and book-writers on how to deal with a bad boss, how to manage your boss, how to motivate your staff, etc.

So why is there so much confusion around what makes a good manager or a good boss? I believe there are there are four simple reasons:

  1. Individual personality types vary widely
  2. Personality type largely determines our management style
  3. Personality type largely determines our reaction to our boss' management style
  4. Personality type is fundamentally outside of our control

When I reference “personality type” I am specifically referring to the widely used, and validated, Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). As a college student, I studied psychology and was given the MBTI. When I read through the descriptions of 16 different personality types the different types, I was blown away by how accurately they described my personality and those of my friends. It also validated the friction points I felt in my relationships with family and friends. About 15 years later, I took the MBTI again and guess s what: my personality type was still the same, and the same fundamental friction points were there with long time friends and family members.

Over the years, through observation, I have tried to understand the personality types of my bosses, peers and subordinates, and to modify my behavior as much as possible to minimize the friction points that inevitably arise. Based on these observations, I would like to propose a Master Principle for Effective Management that might help all the newly promoted managers out there make sense of the chaotic new world they are entering . Instead of the age-old Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated”, I would like to propose a slight tweak and say “Treat other people as they would like to be treated”, based on their personality type.

Of course no one will be perfect at doing this, but I think it goes a long way to improving the way we all can manage and motivate our subordinates, work with team members, and even manage the inevitable “bad” bosses we all will encounter.

As savvy search marketers know, trial and error is a part of the daily routine. But managing people is not like managing search campaigns. By keeping this golden rule in mind, you'll be able to avoid many of the common pitfalls of management.


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