As the managing director of Ogilvy PR, Joanna Oosthuizen has learnt the importance of providing people with the flexibility to work in a way that suits their needs and personality type.
“I really battled with this in the beginning, but I came to realise that there is no single ‘right’ way of managing people, no single set of ‘rules’ that will work for everyone. The bottom line is this: when people are happy and feel supported, they are able to deliver their best,” she says.
Working in a highly pressured public relations industry, burn-out is common. As Oosthuizen points out, “If we want to keep our good people, we need to be flexible enough to recognise that they need to be allowed to work in different ways. Some of our people like to work independently. They are problem solvers with a can-do attitude who want to get on with it. Other people will forward a problem to me and feel more comfortable if they receive input in devising a solution. The thing I learnt was that my style of working was irrelevant in these situations – my role as a leader was to provide every individual with the space and support that allowed them to deliver, even if their route to delivery was different to my own or to another person’s.”
Getting it right is not always easy. “People change as they grow, and you have to be flexible in your response to them. This is a very fluid thing, so you have to continually communicate so that you keep in touch with where people are. I’ve also needed to develop the skills to read people correctly,” she adds.
Different people need to be allowed to work in different ways.