I was thinking recently that it's pretty easy to manage people when they are similar in thought and process to yourself - or had at least been trained to mimic your thinking. That's a strength of the former Big Six consulting firms. Hey, they didn't call us Androids for nothing.
But that lead to the next topic - does it necessarily have to be difficult to manage people who are different from you? In this regard I don't mean skin color, religion, musical taste or so forth. I mean people who are really different. For example, my desk is constantly covered with paper. It looks like a blizzard hit my office. However, I've managed people who were so neat that you could eat off of their desks. Not that I've ever done that.
The challenge in working with people who have a different perspective than you at work is trying to harmonize what's important to you as the manager with the results you need to get from the team. I happen to be (as you may have guessed) free with my opinions. Some of the people who've reported to me over my lifetime as a manager have found that difficult to take. I can be a bit sarcastic and have a dry sense of humor. Never a good match for people with thin skins.
Most difficult of all though is a mismatch between a micro-manager (which I am not) and a person who wants to own or control much of the direction of her work. Many people I've known who were micro-managers never developed the trust that others would do the job in the way they would do it, and so would constantly badger their reports with leading questions. This is a recipe for disaster.
When you manage people who are different from you, you must keep three things in mind:
1. What's important to get the most out of the people who are working for you?
2. What's critical to getting the work done successfully?
3. What biases or complaints do you have that will impact the team but not the result?
You're paid as a manager to get the most from the people who are on your team. That does not mean molding them in your image, but using their capabilities and talents to accomplish the task. Sometimes people won't do the work in the way you'd have done it. The real need is for them to finish the work on time and on budget, with a high degree of quality. There are many paths to the ultimate goal. You should direct them on things that matter to the result, and ignore the things that don't matter. You should also get out of their way - sometimes you'll find their approach may work even better than your approach.
I think there should be a version of the "Serenity Prayer" for managers. It would go something like this:
Grant me the insight to let others work as they are most effective, the willingness and ability to change only the things that are necessary, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Ultimately our goal as managers is to get the best effort and result from each person - focused more on the quality and the timeliness of the end result and less in the day to day process. Except when necessary, of course.