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Leadership

Leadership: the most valuable attributes of a leader

TELLING STYLE • HIGH TASK – LOW RELATIONSHIP

  • Those of us who use this style effectively control the work of our staff closely. We act quickly to correct and redirect any performance shortfalls. We make sure staff are clear about what they have to do and stress the importance of their targets and deadlines – emphasizing the use of standard operating proce­dures. Typical comments might include:

Let me be clear as to what it is I want you to do.

I will explain precisely how this work must be completed.

You then need to ensure that you have contacted x. Do you under­stand fully what it is I am asking you to do?

SELLING STYLE • HIGH TASK – HIGH RELATIONSHIP

  • If we use this style we tend to show a concern both for the task as well as people relationships. Utilizing this style we will spend time in positive and supportive dialogues but also ensure that people are clear about their responsibilities and the required standards of performance. This style will also seek to incorpo­rate and might utilize staff suggestions but ultimately the manager retains full control over how a task is completed. Typical comments might include:

This is a great opportunity for you to learn something new so let me explain what you need to do…

Thanks for coming in today I am pleased to be able to get you involved in this important project as I think you can learn a lot from it. So let me outline what you need to do.

PARTICIPATING STYLE • LOW TASK – HIGH RELATIONSHIP

  • The manager who uses this style lets staff organize and manage their own work plans following a dialogue. Participative managers allow people to set their own goals rather than adopting a direc­tive task focused approach. Such a style also encourages and supports positive staff ideas and contributions.
  • This manager will be available for discussion and advice, but will not push their involvement. They try to minimize the need for direction and will work hard to make staff feel valued and involved in the process. Staff are encouraged to determine their own roles and priorities, with guidance being available if requested. Typical comments might include:

So I have outlined the problem, what are your ideas as to how we might approach the customer with the issue?

So what do you think about the challenge?

I would be very interested to hear your comments as to the way ahead?

DELEGATING STYLE • LOW TASK – LOW RELATIONSHIP

  • When we delegate we effectively let staff address any problems and formulate solutions for themselves. When we delegate we do not intervene unless we are asked for help or unless our assess­ment or monitoring processes lead us to think there may be a problem – in which case we can switch to a participating style of management. Typical delegating statements might include:

So I am going to hand over the problem to you!

I guess you can get on with that project without help from me – but I’m available if you need to discuss any issues.

Here’s a new assignment for you to carry out. Let me know if you want to discuss anything, otherwise I’ll leave it to you.

By utilizing the model we come to recognize that there is no generally accepted ‘best’ style. Rather the model urges us to think about matching the ‘best’ style to any given situation. The situational approach argues that in order to be truly effective managers, we need to adapt our style according to the maturity of the people who have to carry out the actual task. Hersey defines maturity into two distinct elements:

  • Motivation. Is the individual motivated and willing to under­take and complete the work or task they are being asked to undertake?
  • Competence. Is the individual competent to do the work? In other words, do they have the necessary level of knowledge, skills and experience to complete the task?

Based on the answers to these questions an effective manager then chooses the most appropriate style to the given individual and situa­tion. The model then points us to using four classic leadership styles:

The telling style

• Where people have low levels of competence and low levels of motivation this suggests that close management supervision is required. Otherwise we might discover that the work may not be completed to the required standard or time limitation. In some cases an individual may lack confidence in addition to not possessing the skills to complete a task. In such cases a manager will need to spell out in detail what needs to be done and show how it needs to done in order to give the individual confidence and the skills to get the work done. If you think about some new staff it is essential that close attention is paid to clarifying their roles, responsibilities and any limits of discretion when it comes to completing any new tasks. Attempts to use a partici­pating or selling style of management may prove less effective. Whilst good relationships may be established, people still need to have a clear understanding of their job and what is expected of them. So a telling style is a perfectly legitimate approach to adopt with people who don’t have the right experience, confi­dence or motivation to complete a task. You need to be directive and spell out in detail what is required.

The selling style

• If we are continually directive and constantly use a telling style towards people they will soon become resentful and demoral­ized, particularly if they are smart and motivated. A relentless telling style might provoke a “My boss thinks I am an idiot!” type response. As a result some people might eventually leave the organization. In other cases they might be unwilling to take on further responsibility – why should we make any decisions, the boss always tells us what to do! Longer term implications of this approach might also cause the boss to work longer hours as they struggle to keep up with ordering people what to do all the time. Equally, on return from holiday the boss might find nothing has happened as people have developed too high a dependency on them for direction and decisions.

So, as someone matures in a role and shows enthusiasm, as effective managers we will want to further encourage them to do more by providing a supportive and friendly approach. Conversely, if someone lacks the right competence or skills to complete a task we will still need to be direc­tive if we are to get the outcome we need. So we still have to be task focused but seek to combine it with a high level of relationship support to encourage and respond to someone’s enthusiasm. For a manager to jump to the next level and use a participating style will fail because the individual still fundamentally lacks the skills or experience to address the problem under their initiative.

The participating style

• As people become increasingly competent and motivated, we no longer need to emphasize the importance of the task element in directing work – competent people already know what they need to do and how to do it – so we can concentrate on estab­lishing strong supportive working relationships. This participating style enables us to keep in touch with the individual and their work. If necessary we can easily move back to a selling style to correct any performance problems that relate to competence or experience. A prime benefit for the manager in moving into a participating style is that it is far less time consuming as you are no longer having to tell people what to do all the time as their competence level is starting to be optimized. When we are in the participating zone we are really getting into the coaching and facilitating role of leadership. Essentially we are growing people into a high performance role.

The delegating style

• A high level of staff maturity is reached when an individual is both highly skilled and highly motivated: a manager can, in effect, delegate and withdraw from any form of supervision leaving the individual to get on with it unless advice is sought. This approach also has an added motivational impact as high performance people will respond further to the additional respon­sibility. This of course is the ideal zone in which we all want to be able to operate as it allows us to get on with our real role as a leader which is to think about the longer term future – safe in the knowledge that our people are highly capable.

The situational approach also helps us understand that if there are perform­ance problems, we can simply move back to a different style – from participating to selling. Equally, if an individual’s performance is good, a manager can advance – from a telling to participating style. Consistency of approach is important, however, as too many style changes can create confusion and uncertainty amongst staff. The worst management habit is to continually jump from one end of the spectrum to the other. Classically this involves jumping from participating to telling and back again. Not surprisingly, such managers complain frequently about the unwilling­ness of their staff to assume responsibility, whilst staff complain about being confused and de-motivated. If you have a task delegated to you and the moment there is a problem your manager starts telling you what to do, it is confusing to be on the end of such a shift in approach. Of course to have delegated in the first place your manager must have assumed that you were both skilled and motivated. But if they then start ‘telling’ you what to do they are of course working on the basis that you are unskilled and not motivated or confident. The situational approach helps us appreciate the motivational impact of this type of sudden shift in style.

Management style is a complex and difficult area. Few of us get it right all the time. The situational approach provides a powerful methodology for managers to assess both their people and tasks in order to choose appropriate and successful leadership styles.

THE SITUATIONAL APPROACH APPLICATION • FOUR STYLES SUMMARY

  • Telling             Highly directive and suitable for individuals who

are either:

  1. New to their work and need to be supervised.
  2. Will not perform the task unless directed to do so – namely unwilling people.
  3. Selling             Very directive and supportive. Ideal for individ­

uals who do not yet have the necessary level of capability (skills, knowledge and experience) but who are motivated, and as their manager you want to further encourage their commitment and confidence.

  • Participating For individuals who have the right skills and

experience but who may need some additional relationship support to build their confidence and motivation, e.g. the newly promoted manager – you know they can do it but you may need to draw solutions out of them.

Counselling issues – to find out any problems – why is someone who is experienced and able not willing to do something? For example, they are bored, feel let down by the company in some way etc. You have to discuss the problem to get to the solution – you need to participate.

  • Delegating For highly skilled, experienced and motivated individuals who know what they are doing! They are there – A team players who can be trusted to get on with the job without manage­ment direction!

TWO STYLES OF LEADERSHIP BEHAVIOUR

  • Directive Giving individuals clear task instructions or directions about how, when and where they complete any specific tasks.
  • Supportive Listening and encouraging people to perform well. Securing their involvement and gaining their commitment. Being available to coach, counsel and guide.
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