What Kind of Manager are You?

Many designers start their design firms with little if any business education and may not have any experience in managing a team.  So when they realize the necessity of building a team for the success of their business it can be a challenge.  Managers need to take command, have a vision and encourage the engagement and motivation of the team all while building collaboration toward the key objective of the success of the firm.

A recent HubSpot marketing blog article identifies the 4 best management styles:  Visionary, Democratic, Transformational, and Coaching.  These are some of the same core ideas that we use at Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting.  Our Design Persona Quiz uses the terms Design Star, Prospector, Transformer, and Mentor to mean very similar things.  With which style do you identify?


Visionary managers clearly communicate a definite purpose and direction in which their team believes and are convinced to work to fulfill that vision.  Once visionary managers share their vision, they allow the team to work on their own terms – as long as they are productive – checking in periodically to be sure the team is on track.  Though they have a clear vision, visionary managers are still open to input from the team, give the team the freedom of self-direction, but still give a great deal of feedback and praise.  For this management style to be successful you need a clear vision and then effectively sell the purpose of that vision in order to truly inspire them to make your vision a reality.


A Democratic manager allows their team to participate in the decision-making process, offering the opportunity for a variety of ideas and the ability of team members to use their skills to their full potential.  To be successful, these managers need to take quick action on decisions and be sure the firm is actually making progress.


Transformational managers are innovators and push their team beyond their comfort zone, motivating the team to keep raising the bar – thereby increasing team performance.  Being very innovative, these teams adapt quickly to industry changes, but caution is needed to not move too quickly so while pushing the team, it’s important for these managers to know the limits of their team without creating burnout.


The coaching manager uses their passion for teaching and encouraging the growth of their team to encourage long-term professional development.  They motivate their team with opportunities for growth leading to possible promotions and additional responsibility.  Their two main areas of focus are the individual development of the team members as well as bringing the team together.  To be effective these teams need to be united and have the investment in their development from their manager as well as their teammates.

The article also identifies four management styles to avoid if you want to build a successful firm.  They include autocratic – a top down style; servant – prioritizing people over tasks; laissez-faire – completely hands off; and transactional – using incentives and rewards (not effective long term).  None of these will build unity within your team nor will they encourage enthusiasm to work toward the success of your firm’s vision.

As you build your team, consider the words of John Maxwell:   “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision”, so focus on being an effective leader.

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Drue Lawlor

Pearl Collective Coach Drue Lawlor is a long time Pearl Collective coach. As a NCIDQ certified designer she and Gail co-developed the Strategic Business Transformation Coaching program. The program led the way in teaching designers how to build or redesign their businesses for profit and success. Drue is also a regular contributor to the Pearl Collective Resources library of interior designer business articles. Outside of Pearl Collective she is the co-founder of Boomers with a Plan B. She is driven to help clients create a safer and healthier homes. You’ll find her in Senior Magazine and a contributor to the following books: Design for Aging: Post Occupancy Evaluations and Interior Graphic Standards, second edition.

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