Situational Leadership Simplified

Leadership is complex, dynamic and often controversial, both in theory and in practice. (Given the constantly shifting and mysterious nature of human emotions and relationships, is it any wonder?) The Situational Leadership theory, developed by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the mid-70’s, is one of many mental models that can help us get our heads around the concept of varying our styles of leadership. It is based on the simple notion that different situations call for different styles of leadership; there is no single best style for all situations. Before explaining the model, here are the underlying assumptions: • People (or teams) can vary in their readiness to take on a task, job or responsibility and this is based on two sets of factors: their ability (i.e., skills, knowledge) and their willingness (motivation, confidence, commitment) with respect to that specific task. • Ability and willingness can be developed. • A goal of leadership is to develop a team’s ability and willingness so it can take on more and more responsibility for its work (i.e., delegation). It is about developing high performance teams. • Leadership is best when it adapts to meet the changing needs of the developing team through, in this case, 4 distinct styles. • The leader meets the team’s lack of ability by providing a lot of directive behaviours (e.g., explanations of the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the task). • The leader addresses the lack of willingness with supportive behaviours such as encouragement, discussion and listening. Situational leadership theory proposes that, presented with a new task, a team’s main limiting factor is usually...

Team Building 101: What is a team charter and why is it important?

Teams, whether they are well-established work teams or temporary project teams, function best when all members have clarity around their purpose and their procedures. As simple as this sounds, we are continually surprised how few teams spend any time at all on this important aspect of their work together. A ‘Team Charter’ will help a team get off to a good start by describing briefly and clearly the team’s purpose, what outcomes they expect to achieve, leadership expectations, decision methods to be used, roles and responsibilities of the members and expected behaviours. If you spend a few hours removing ambiguity at the beginning of the team’s work (while heads are cool and objective), you can often avoid time-consuming and painful conflicts that become magnified by heated emotional states. Often, the Charter will include a set of expected behaviours or ‘ground rules’ for participation called ‘Group Norms’. For a well-established group that is clear on its purpose and responsibilities, sometimes it is enough to just clarify the expected Norms. They, more than anything else, describe the culture the team would like to create. They keep the team members’ interactions positive and productive. Here are a few tips for establishing a Team Charter and/or set of Group Norms: 1. Get the right people involved at the right time. If you have a small team of, say, 10 people, you might include everyone. If you have a large group or department that is being formed, it will be difficult to get everyone involved at all times. Get up to five or so key people with the knowledge, authority and broad perspectives of...

Steps to Building an Effective Action Plan

We’ve all been there – hectic work schedules and changing priorities and growing demands on our time, talents and resources can make us feel stretched pretty thin sometimes. Part of us realizes that times like these leave us focused on just keeping our heads above water yet another part knows instinctively that there has got to be a way to be proactive and get ahead of the curve. It’s not easy to get into the habit of action planning but once it becomes part of our approach it’s hard to understand how we ever got ahead without them. Here are some simple tips to get started. 1. Start with the end in mind. (Thank you Steven Covey for this one.) Ask yourself, “what is the ultimate goal here? This project/ plan/ idea I have may have an impact on me as well as others I work with. How do I want people to see, experience and talk about it once all is said and done?” 2. Start small. If you’re new to action planning a goal like “Let’s triple our profits by next year” or I want to have 10,000 new twitter followers by Christmas” may seem a little daunting. Choose a small goal you want to work on – one that makes you stretch outside of your comfort zone a little but is definitely attainable. 3. Create a short vision statement – one that can easily be remembered and repeated. This statement should sum up in a few words what it is you want to accomplish. Write it on a post-it note and stick it to your computer...