Friday, 2 August 2013

'One size fits all' management does not work

You may be surprised (or not if you know me!) to hear that I find it hard to read text books. This is not because I am not interested in the content (I am, and I buy them all the time, in fact I have a stack on my dining room table right now!) but because I have a low attention span, and I get easily distracted. I can easily read an entire chapter  without taking anything in. This is why I use mind maps to help me retain the information. (See my short video on this subject). I've always been the same, so I have always been a fan of the One Minute Manager series of books. In fact one of the reasons I invented the Five Minute Fundraiser series of videos for the Institute of Fundraising was because I think a lot of people learn in short simple bursts like me.

So I was pondering on a particular management situation the other day when I was inspired to re-visit my well-thumbed copy of  Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, which really helped me. You can read the book n a couple of hours tops, and it is brilliant. What it reminded me was, not in these words, that 'one size fits all leadership, simply does not work, but that situational leadership does. Put very simply, as a manager and leader you need to be able to adapt your style to the situation, to the individual and the stage of development they are at. 

Now this sounds very obvious, but I think a lot of leaders forget to do it, or maybe even don't know that they should. It is interesting that a frequently asked question at interview is 'How would you describe your leadership or management style'. So I thought it might be useful to summarise the concept of situational leadership, and if you are interested it is something that you could look into further.

So to start with there are four styles of leadership within situational leadership:
Style 1: Directing
The leader provides specific instructions and closely supervises task accomplishment
Style 2: Coaching
The leader continues to direct and closely supervise task accomplishment, but also explains decisions, solicits suggestions, and supports progress
Style 3: Supporting
The leader facilitates and supports employees' efforts towards task accomplishment and shares responsibility for decision making with them
Style 4: Delegating
The leader passes over responsibility for decision making and problem solving to employees

Now I have experienced all of these styles of leadership (often used inappropriately!) and it can be completely demoralising. I'll give you an example. I have managed close to a dozen Royal events of one sort or another in my career. A previous boss, who did not have this experience, tried to manage me down to the real minutiae on what I saw as quite a simple event at Clarence House hosted by HRH Prince of Wales. It was not well received!  We have all heard of 'micro-managment' and probably have experienced it. But a directive style with a member of staff who has little experience in a particular task really is essential, and then as that staff member learns how to master that task the style can move through to coaching, supporting and onto delegating. The mistake that managers often make is to delegate before the staff member is ready. 

So it is really important to not only consider and use the correct leadership style, but it is vital to consider the stage of development the staff member is at, not just overall, but for a particular task. For example if I was asked to prepare my organisation for its annual audit I would need a different style of leadership to if I was asked to introduce a new income generating activity. It's quite obvious when you think about it.

In situational leadership the four styles of leadership therefore need to be linked to the right level of development. It also needs to be acknowledged that people's level of motivation differs with the level of development. For example when you are learning something new you are fully motivated to learn, when you know partly how to do something but not fully your motivation level may drop or be variable, but when you achieve mastery you will be fully motivated again. See below:

Level 1: low competence, high motivation (Directing style required)
Level 2: some competence, lower motivation (Coaching style required)
Level 3: high competence, variable motivation (Supporting style required)
Level 4: high competence, high motivation (Delegating style required)

So hopefully you can see that when it comes to managing people, it should not be an automatic process. You need to seriously consider where that individual is at with their mastery of their role, and elements within their role before you choose the appropriate style of leadership. It is also helpful (if you are a leader being led) to look at why you are happy or unhappy with the way you are being managed.

Good luck with this and let me know how you get on.

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