Four Steps Forward

Which is worse, losing money on a well-calculated investment or never making the investment in the first place? If you’re in business you ought to answer that the latter is worse, otherwise you should just buy annuities and called it a day! Last week we discussed hiring, and what is hiring but a calculated risk to grow your business. Just like any investment, the initial expenditure is only the beginning of the process.

A new hire is an investment of not only money but also time. Depending on the type of job you are hiring for, the amount of time and money varies. Some companies prefer to hire experienced individuals, paying more but hoping to save overall on training time and costs. Others hire those straight out of college or only a few years into their careers. While of course less experienced hires are less expensive, they also provide a fresh perspective and enthusiasm.

Everyone will need training. While fresh blood will need a lot of on the job help and technical education, even the most experienced hire needs a company orientation and familiarization with their new environment. So, everyone will not need the same training.

This is where the Situational Leadership Model comes into play. This theory identifies two key variables relating to employee performance. Not only do employees have to be competent, understanding their job functions and what is required of them, they also have to be confident in themselves and motivated to get the job done. These two attributes only connect in experienced, developed employees.

With these two attributes the creators of the Model – Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard – identified four different combinations that could manifest in an employee, defined by their development level:

D1: Unable but Confident – these are employees totally new to their function, someone with little to no experience. They are excited about the job, but do not have the necessary skills. They need to know what they do not know.

D2: Unable and Unconfident – After having begun to put in the hard time to learn the necessary skills for the job, their confidence has shattered. Individuals at this level struggle for confidence, knowing enough to know they know nothing.

D3: Able but Unconfident – Having put their nose to the grind, an employee at this level has developed a grasp on the necessary job functions and skills. However, this process has taken a toll on their motivation and confidence, which must now be rebuilt.

D4: Able and Confident – At this point, the employee is ready to be a rock star. They have weathered the learning process and have rebuilt their confidence. Equipped with all the tools they need to succeed and the confidence to use them, they are ready to perform.

It’s important to remember that employees make valuable contributions regardless of their level of development, and everyone has something good to contribute. The Situational Leadership Model is not an excuse to ignore the insights of employees that are not yet at the highest stage of the Model, but rather instructions for getting them there. Training and development is an investment you need to make if you want your hiring decision to pay off.


Leadership for every situation

So, with employees each at a different level of maturity in their career, they cannot all be trained in exactly the same way. Hersey and Blanchard matched four different methods of leadership with the four different levels of employee development. In just the same way that employee performance is dependent upon two factors – task ability and confidence – leadership behavior reacts to these two characteristics with task leadership and relational leadership:

S1: Directing – The most direct method of managing, the leader tells the employee what to do and how to do it. There is a high degree of direct supervision. Since the employee is not yet able to perform at the required level, this micromanagement is necessary to assure success and learning. There is minimal emotional support as the employee’s initial confidence and excitement have not yet waned.

S2: Coaching – Similar to directing, but communication now goes in both directions. The employee has gained some level of task aptitude, and the leader, while still providing direct guidance, focuses on teaching and providing the “cheerleading” needed to keep the employee invested in the process.

S3: Supporting – Major decisions are now made in a more consultative manner, with the employee having a higher degree of ability for the task. They will still need guidance, but not micromanagement. Emotional support is still incredibly important, as the worker’s confidence is still being reconstructed from the learning process.

S4: Delegating – At this point, the employee is both able and confident. They need minimal guidance and minimal support. Their confidence has been restored. Leaders with employees at this level can now provide them with tasks to do and reliably expect the task to be accomplished in a timely manner.


Off to Italy

Most business owners aim to make their business self-sufficient, so that it can run without their day to day involvement. We’ve talked in the past about the three key roles within a business, and the Situational Leadership Model provides business owners ability to transition from a technician role to a manager role. Once this happens, the owner can begin training managers in much the same way, transitioning to an entrepreneur role.

Once the pieces are in place and everyone is comfortable in their jobs, it’s time for a vacation! Having worked on a project all year, BIG’s lead consultant Anthony had applied just this style of adaptable leadership to his team over the course of the project. The team was able to run for two full weeks without his direct supervision. Whereas earlier in the year everyone needed supervision and coaching, Anthony was able to step away and let the gears turn on their own. Without a model for leadership and talent growth, it will be difficult to affect and measure this change in employees.

Investing this time and energy into a person is a mutual win-win. The benefits to each are obvious, but it is important to remember that employees are volunteers in a sense. They can at any time choose to go work for another company. You have no way of requiring them to stay. If an employee does not feel like you are interested in their long term success, they will not be interested in yours, an expensive problem to have.

The old joke about the CEO and CFO comes to mind. A company’s CFO comes to the CEO complaining that employee development programs are costing too much money. “What if they leave after all this investment?” he asks. The CEO replies, “What if we don’t invest in them and they stay?” Next week we will be discussing employee retention, building off of this idea. As we said, employees are volunteers! Unless you offer them a compelling reason to, they will not stay.

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