Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Team manager philosophy brings outstanding performance

Jorge M. Estrada Published on 24 November 2015
drawing of men

Editor’s note: This article is last of an article series to review the four most common management philosophies dairy managers employ.

Willie has been a successful dairy manager for nine years and a pretty good supervisor for three years before that. Ever since he can remember, Willie has always enjoyed being around people and helping them get the most out of themselves.



His approach with people, and the production numbers he has been able to achieve, is what got him the promotion to manager in the first place. In his current role, he has seven supervisors reporting to him at the home dairy, where they milk 14,000 cows. Ask Willie’s team, and they will say they love working with him. What it is that they like about working with Willie?

1. Willie sits down with them once per week to plan the main tasks for the week. He reviews their regular weekly tasks with them, but he also challenges them to think beyond that and to see what else their work areas need – things they may not have thought of. He works with them to develop SMART goals for the month and for the week. He also reviews in detail with them their previous goals and numbers, evaluating aspirations versus results.

2. Beyond just respect, they feel he expects more from them and works to develop them – not only in their technical skills, which are essential to their role, but also in the soft skills of leadership and communication, which takes their role to a whole other level.

3. They all feel they trust Willie and have built a lasting relationship, and after all is said and done, they know where they stand with him. They feel he is superb at recognizing the contributions they make to the business and shows it honestly and directly with non-financial and financial rewards.

management stylesWhat clearly has worked for Willie is the fact that he uses a combination of management philosophy that is highly focused on people and task. He is concerned with the needs and feelings of members of his team. At the same time, he manages to focus himself and his team on being concerned with tasks assigned/completed, goals, accountability and results.


Although Willie’s style gets him more results, it doesn’t mean he is always 100 percent on his game. He has been known to drift into being an authoritative manager – and at times being too soft on people. After all, he is human.

The team manager could let his results and ways of working effectively with people get to his head (ego). But he or she might just be thankful for having these abilities and go to a Level 5 leadership as Jim Collins describes it in Good to Great.

If the team manager can integrate this hard-to-find mix of ambition and humility into one, he or she may just be hitting a sweet spot of inspiring others to pursue their own excellence in management to become a role model and inspiration to others.

The team manager no doubt possesses skills and abilities others could use. He or she is in an ideal position to contribute to others, primarily the immediate team of supervisors, and to improve their management through mentoring.

Mentoring would be the process and ability Willie would use for transferring his knowledge, skills and abilities to others. He would do it in daily conversations, especially with those employees who are in a development stage.

Previously, I have discussed how working on becoming more self-aware of one’s preferred management style can improve management execution. I don’t want you to think it is any different for this style. The team manager must practice self-awareness at all times.


He or she needs to know the situations and people on the team so well as to know when it is time to shift focus from tasks and goals to people and vice versa.

The goal is for these focus shifts to occur seamlessly so they don’t negatively impact employees. Additionally, the team manager must be self-aware so he or she can assist supervisors in becoming self-aware.

As the team manager continues to fine-tune his or her approach, there is a fundamental need to deepen his or her self-discovery of his or her emotional state. Dozens of emotions have been identified, but the team manager must have internal knowledge of the basic five: fear, anger, happiness, sadness and love.

blake and moulton leadership gridEmotional self-awareness is the first step for the team manager, which allows him or her to know self-emotions and to manage them. Social self-awareness is the second step, allowing the team manager to manage the emotions of others.

As this manager achieves results through his or her approach, he or she will have to start paying attention not only to the performance side of the team but also to their development.

The team manager is in an ideal position to be able to help employees identify their strengths and their weaknesses in order to be able to focus their strengths on producing results and to manage around their weaknesses.

Coaching this manager involves high levels of development. The coach must be able to help the manager see how he or she is working with others and integrating new things he or she is learning about management into his or her role.

Topics this type of manager will be studying includes how to inspire commitment, build collaborative relationships, influence change, strategically plan and lead employees.

Willie has worked well with the business owners and stakeholders. He has earned their trust and respect. He produces results. And in today’s world of leadership and management, a world of continuous change and learning, Willie must self-assess a few times a year and have a development plan for both himself and for his immediate team.


The intention of this series of articles has been to explain several management philosophies so you can become more aware of which one you tend to use more often. From that knowledge, I hope you will be able to see the strengths of other styles.

Integrate these strengths into your own style and manage around their individual weaknesses. Make a goal to support your own development and take your leadership game to the next level of effectiveness.

Work with your entire team as a whole and individually to establish the management philosophy you want for your operation and to help others on your dairy develop a range of management skills and abilities within these approaches.  PD

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Corey Lewis.

Jorge Estrada
  • Jorge Estrada

  • Leadership Coaching International Inc.
  • Email Jorge Estrada