The last post looked at the Situational Leadership Theory, which advocates for adapating your style depending on the person’s level of competence and commitment to the given task.
If the person you are giving a task to has:
1. Low Competency and Low Commitment – a Directing style may be best
2. Low/medium Competency and High Commitment – a Coaching style may be best
3. High Competency and Low Commitment – a Supporting style may be best
4. High Competency and High Commitment – a Delegation style may be best
Imagine an employee who is fairly new to the job. Perhaps a graduate or a trainee. It is probably fair to say that they have a lowish level of competence for the task you are about to give them. Perhaps they have a high level of technical/theoretical knowledge, but this may be the first time they have ever performed this task in the real world. But they may be quite keen and motivated to get the job done.
So we can consider they have a Low or Medium competence level, but a high level of commitment and motivation. Looking at points 1-4 above, this would indicate a coaching style is best, and logically this seems to make sense. Your trainee knows something, so to be incredibly directive and give them every single detail they need to get the job may actually demotivate.
What does a “coaching style” look like…think about a football coach. They give instruction, listen to the team’s comments and thoughts (sometimes!) but then they step back. The team still has to get back on the field and play the game without the coach’s involvement. A coaching style in the workplace looks much the same…provide your trainee with direction and some guidance, but then take a step back and let them do it for themselves.
A directive style, by definition, takes away the opportunity for your trainee / graduate to think for themselves, because you are doing all the thinking for them. Because the trainee is keen to learn, adopting this approach is likely to demotivate and disengage them, and will result in low performance.
A supporting style may not be appropriate for the trainee / graduate as this is a more hands off approach. A supporting style may sound something like this… “Here is a task to do, and here are the broad guidelines. I am not too concerned with how you get this done, but we need it done by the deadline. I’m here to help you out and provide you with guidance. Let me know when you need some assistance”. And then you would check in with them to see how they are progressing. The reason that this approach may not work for the graduate is because you are assuming they are highly competent. The trainee may need a bit more information to get started.
A delegating style is definitely not the right approach for the trainee, as it is completely hands off and assumes high levels of competence and commitment. This is obviously the point you want your trainee to reach, but it is a journey to get there.
The challenge with all this is to be flexible in your approach, and to realise there is not a one-size fits all method. Constant change is required, because tasks and people are constantly changing! Just because an approach worked with someone, one time, does not mean it will work next time. Learning how to do this well takes time, but is certainly worth the effort.
Next post, lets look at another scenario and consider which style would work best.