Situational Leading

How do we best handle the stages of team when we are the leader?  How do we help teams and individuals move into high performance as rapidly as possible?

Based on a Situational Leadership model that I learned years ago,  the following leadership techniques are ones that I have adopted over the years and I hope that these concepts will help you and your team members move through the various stages of personal and team development (as described in my last blog post).

Stage One:  When we are new at a job, we basically need someone to tell us what to do.   Yes, we are excited but we also are unsure of what we should be doing.  Remember starting out a new job?  You most likely were anxious but also energized by the unknown.  The leader needs to be highly directive… to give clear, concise direction because when someone is in Stage One ” for they know not what they do…”

Stage Two:  I really think whoever coined the phrase the terrible twos”  hit it right on the money.  When we are in Stage Two, we literally act like two year-olds.  We want independence but we need structure.  Think of a two year-old with a permanent colored ink marker in hand.  The last thing we want to do is allow them full decision-making on how they want to use the marker… do we really want them writing on the floor, the walls, the dog, or their siblings?  No, we want to give direction… “using permanent markers on your brother is a NoNo but if you must be creative, washable markers are okay and here is some paper”. We want to offer support through asking what they would like to draw and what color markers they want to use.  The same thing holds true with adults.  We want to be asked our opinion (support) but in the end, the leader needs to make the right decisions (direction).  As a leader it is important to know that this is the time the individual and/or team will be blaming you and or the company for all the perceived problems… don’t be discouraged but focus on being gentle and firm through support and direction.

Stage Three is the where we are starting to gain traction both as an individual performers and as a team. Individual agendas are pushed off to the side because the team is focusing on each of their own responsibilities and performing pretty well in their job tasks. The team is starting to gel and beginning to think of each other as a support network. In this stage the leader wants to be highly supportive by providing the necessary resources and tools to get the job done. The leader is allowing the individuals and the team to make decisions about their day-to-day work activities. Trust and respect for each other and the leader is emerging.

Team Four is the stage where everything is running like a well oiled machine. The team is driven with passion and a clear focus on what their common goal is that they want to meet as a group. Individuals are high performers and proficient in each of their jobs… they know when to seek direction or support from each other or from their leader when they need it. This is the time for the leader to step back and basically stay out-of-the-way… a time to delegate versus direct… a time to support at a high level (e.g. team acknowledgements)… a time for empowering through high trust and encouragement.

Please share a time when you worked with a performing (Stage Four) team – what is your best memory of that time?

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