After retiring from the corporate world with over two decades of front-line and executive management experience in 2012, Victor spent the next couple of years thinking about, researching and writing The Type B Manager.
Long interested as a practitioner in the subject of management, both good and bad, Victor is the founder and principal of Howling Wolf Management Training. He has a B.A. from Harvard College, where he majored in psychology, and he holds an MBA from Western New England University. He is a regular contributor on both Forbes and Psychology Today.
So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce today's guest: Victor Lipman.
Hi Victor, thanks so much for stopping by Activia’s Expert Insights. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me. I think you’ve seen my bio, but one of the key things I wanted to convey is that I was in management for nearly 25 years, and when I began to write about I’ve always tried to approach it from an in-the-trenches perspective. There’s a tendency for the challenges of management to often be written about by individuals from the consulting and academic world, but less so from long-time managers, and it was that on-the-ground feeling and viewpoint I wanted to capture.
How did you get into management training, and why do you enjoy training others?
As I mentioned, I was in management for many years, both at the front line and executive level, and during that time I just saw a lot of things that just seemed to be unnecessarily wrong – a lot of treatment of employees that was simply ineffective.
When I retired from the corporate world in 2012, I began to read and research and write about management – trying to reflect on what I’d been doing for the past quarter century – and one of the things that struck me was just how widespread ineffective management is. To take a quick example, surveys routinely show that roughly 30% of employees are fully engaged with their work – meaning of course that the vast majority are not – at enormous costs, hundreds of billions of dollars a year in the U.S. alone (according to Gallup data) in lost productivity.
So there’s a huge need out there for better training for managers. And management training is interesting work. I enjoy talking to – and with – other managers. To me, it’s always fascinating to hear about the kind of issues they’re dealing with.
Your book, The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, was published by Prentice Hall last year - could you tell us a bit about it?
Sure. I won’t go into exhaustive detail here, as I think we’ll probably cover other aspects of it as this interview unfolds, but my fundamental premise is this: Our basic long-held stereotypes about the kind of personality that is most effective in management is just plain wrong.
Management has long been considered the province of Type A hard-driving high achievers, but if you think about it is this sort of high-intensity personality really the most effective way to build rapport and motivate others? And successful management is, of course, at its core, all about accomplishing work through others. So my point is that many quieter, lower-key Type B individuals – who are frequently overlooked when it comes to assessing potential managerial talent – are in fact surprisingly well-suited for it.
In the book I break down many key management functions – motivating, communicating, evaluating, employee development, resolving conflict, accountability, etc., etc. – and explain how a Type B approach often gets excellent results.
Could you briefly explain the difference between a type A and type B personality for our readers?
Interestingly enough, these personality types were originally conceived by two doctors, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, during cardiac studies back in the 1950s. Their great insight was that Type A individuals, characterized by high competitiveness, aggressiveness, impatience and so on, had a considerably greater chance to develop heart-related problems than did Type B individuals, who were quieter, more relaxed and reflective and slower to anger.
It was groundbreaking medical research at the time. But over the years – even though “the Type A personality” became widely known and entered our common vocabulary – these findings were never applied to the field of management in any meaningful, systematic way. That was the insight I’ve tried to bring to life in The Type B Manager. There are many great potential managers out there who never get the chance to manage but would actually do very well if they did.
Do you have any new projects lined up? Or what’s next for you?
I contribute regularly to Forbes and Psychology Today on management topics, and occasionally to Harvard Business Review. I always like working with companies whose managers can use assistance and training – I fully believe that the challenges of effective management are underrated, as those very low employee engagement numbers I cited earlier show. If management were truly easy, we’d never have some 70% of our workforce disengaged. Good management is hard – it takes a combination of skills that aren’t always easy to come by.
How important is it to look into the psychology of management?
As you can probably guess based on some of my earlier answers, I believe it’s extremely important. I often say effective management involves 49% understanding business and 51% understanding people. Again, consider what the core of management is: accomplishing work through others. Thus, the relationship between manager and employee is of paramount importance.
As the old saying goes, “People leave managers, not companies.” As anyone who’s worked a day in his or her life can tell you, an employee’s relationship with his or her boss makes all the difference. As I say in my book, “A good relationship with a manager makes a bad job bearable, but a bad relationship with a manager can make a good job a misery.” These relationships matter – a lot.
What are some strengths of a type B personality in management?
Type B’s tend to be good communicators, good listeners, and patient, even-tempered problem solvers. Since they tend to be easy to work with, people not surprisingly like working with them. In contrast, a steady diet of Type A high intensity can become quite stressful over time. Most people naturally chafe under too much authority, too much forcefulness, too much control.
What are some of the biggest problems managers face today?
In my estimation they’re essentially the same problems they’ve faced for decades: how to keep employees motivated, engaged and productive over the long-term. And that last phrase, “over the long term,” is an important one. Successful management is a long-term endeavor.
Ideally, you’re not constantly turning staff over and teaching and retraining them. That takes time and money; it’s ineffective and unproductive. Which is why positive long-term relationships and retention matter. I know this may seem – in a digital, freelance age where we often have super-short attention spans – like an old-fashioned approach to business, but I believe it’s ultimately a far more effective.
Do you believe there is a difference between being a manager and being a leader?
Well, sure, no one would argue there’s no difference between being a CEO and a front-line supervisor. But I also believe that philosophically this distinction has become artificially vast. The way I see it, the best managers will always be effective leaders, and the best leaders are also effective managers. So I wouldn’t worry too much about these differences. The study of management is what I’m most interested in, and that encompasses, as they say, a multitude of sins.
Are there any last thoughts you want to add?
Just that, if you’re truly interested in going into management but feel, or perhaps have been told, that you may be too quiet or reserved for it… forget that line of thinking. Great managers come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t think for a minute that management is a game you can’t play. What matters is how you choose to play it.
Victor's book, The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World is out now. If you'd like to have a look and get your own copy, you can do so here. If you'd like to connect with Victor, make sure to say hello on Twitter at @VictorLipman1.