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Are You a 'Tell' Manager or a 'Sell' Manager?

~ By Duncan Haughey

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Have you been in a meeting where the senior person takes over the agenda and dictates the way he or she wants every aspect of a project to run? I certainly have, and this is what I've termed the 'tell' manager. These managers aren't interested in what other people have to say. They've already decided what will happen.

Let's flip things.

Have you been in a meeting where the senior person sets the scene for a project and encourages an open and collaborative discussion? I've experienced this, too, and this is what I've termed the 'sell' manager. These managers are interested in what other people have to say. They're open-minded to the way things will happen.

Two different approaches—both get work done, right? Perhaps, but some methods are more effective than others. Let's look at the pros and cons of each approach:

The Tell Manager

Quick, no argumentsA narrow perspective from one person's point of view
Provides a clear directionIgnores the input of other team members who may have more experience or expertise
Single person accountabilityCan cause unhappiness or frustration in the team
Clear reporting lineRisk or issues may not be highlighted or disclosed

If you 'tell', you give the message that you don't want feedback, ideas or input from other people.

The Sell Manager

Explores different options for delivering the projectSometimes difficult to reach a consensus
Promotes buy-in and team cohesivenessTime consuming
Taps into experience and expertise of the teamLack of clarity
Highlights and explores risks and issuesAccountability is unclear

If you 'sell', you give the message that ideas, feedback and an open discussion are welcome.

Do you tell people what to do, or do you work collaboratively with your team to sell your ideas?

Personally, I like to sell my ideas and work collaboratively with my team. Selling an idea feels better—and, for me, produces the best results.

Comments (1)

Topic: Are You a 'Tell' Manager or a 'Sell' Manager?
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2nd November 2015 10:32am
Subodh Dikonda (Pune) says...
Liked the concept of Tell and Sell Managers. My thought, it’s related to the leadership style as well. As mentioned there are pros and cons to both the approaches. Consensus and buy-in from the team comes when the idea comes from within the team. Guiding and providing support for such solutions and removing impediments is also part of selling.

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