Leaders today have their hands full. A global pandemic has blown through the economy like a storm, creating labor shortages and disruptions to workplaces. These days, managers have a whole new set of problems: finding new people and bringing them up to speed, helping existing employees adapt to new tasks and conditions, and retaining the valuable talent on their teams.
Relationships Are the Key to Talent Development and Retention
What is the secret to unleashing the power and potential of people? Here’s a hint: it all happens through relationships. And relationships are the central focus of SLII®, the game-changing leadership method that The Ken Blanchard Companies® has been refining for the past 40 years.
SLII® is not a leadership method you do to someone, it’s a leadership method you do with someone. So, your first order of business is to establish harmonious relationships with your direct reports. Make sure they feel comfortable coming to you with questions and problems.
Don’t be afraid to show your human side. A lot of managers put up a front with their team members and are careful not to reveal any vulnerabilities or weaknesses. That’s an ego problem. As I learned from Colleen Barrett, the former president of Southwest Airlines, people admire you for your talent and expertise, but they love you for your willingness to be vulnerable.
To build a rapport with your team members, you must first be authentic. Equally important, you must make their growth and development a priority. Remember, you’re the person who is in the best position to see their promise, and it’s up to you to guide them to the next level of development.
The Four Styles of Leadership: Tips and Tricks
In a recent blog I summarized the basics of SLII®—namely, how leaders can diagnose a person’s development level on a task or goal and apply the most effective leadership style to help them accomplish it. Today I’d like to provide some color commentary on the four leadership styles.
Enthusiastic Beginners (D1s) Need a Directing Style. When someone is new to a task, they’re usually enthusiastic but need lots of step-by-step instruction. It’s appropriate here to use a directing style of leadership. But even at this stage, you don’t want to be dictatorial. It’s okay to ask your direct report what they think about what they’re learning. Remember, relationships are a two-way street, even with beginners and new hires. (For an excellent summary of how to turn new hires into top performers, check out our free ebook here.)
Disillusioned Learners (D2s) Need a Coaching Style. Once the novelty of a new task has worn off, your direct report’s enthusiasm may wane, and they may become discouraged. At this stage, your job is to be a compassionate coach. It might help to say, “Don’t worry, I’ve been where you are before.” With the pace of change today, it’s possible you won’t know how to help your direct report with the technical or operational tasks related to their job. There’s no shame in admitting you don’t have those skills. Your job as a leader is to connect them with someone who can help them with those tasks.
Capable but Cautious Contributors (D3s) Need a Supporting Style. In time your direct report will know the ins and outs of a particular job and will have acquired the necessary skills to perform it. Yet they may still have some insecurity and self-doubt about their performance. At this stage, your job is to support and encourage them. Don’t make them wonder if “no news is good news” from you. Cheer them on and be their champion!
Self-Reliant Achievers (D4s) Need a Delegating Style. At some point your direct report will become so adept at the job that they are successfully managing on their own. While a delegating style that turns over responsibility is appropriate at this stage, don’t let your direct report get lonely! It’s important to keep your Self-Reliant Achievers stimulated. Bounce ideas back and forth with them. Ask what they’re excited about and what their biggest challenges are. If they don’t have any, keep them motivated with interesting new projects.
The Leadership Development Curve Goes Both Ways
The SLII® Model shows a bell-shaped curve that leads from Development Level 1 (D1) to Development Level 4 (D4). What people often forget is that the curve goes both ways. In other words, when circumstances change, it’s possible that someone who has become a Self-Reliant Achiever at D4 will move back along the curve and again be a Disillusioned Learner at D2.
With all the changes in the workplace today, this is often the case. Think about how many Self-Reliant Achievers became Disillusioned Learners when they had to grapple with Zoom technology during the pandemic! As a leader, you need to tune in to your direct report’s current development level and adapt your management style accordingly. So, don’t be afraid to move back a style. Development isn’t always linear. Great leaders give their people what they need, when they need it.