A Style for all Occasions

One of the first issues for me to handle with a new client- let’s call him John as that’s his name!- was why his “new, improved leadership style” wasn’t working. John had attended a one-day seminar in Leeds when he learned much about how to lead and delegate. Sounds like he really took it in, made sure he understood, and then had the confidence to apply the new knowledge.

So what’s his problem? Well, John had often been criticised by his managers, and people outside his business, for not delegating enough, Some people told him he didn’t let go, took too much on himself, carried the business on his own shoulders. This isn’t a large business- just 39 staff in total, so John is pretty involved operationally, and certainly day-to-day; not a distant leader who sits in an ivory tower.

He left the seminar and reflected on his own leadership & management style, and made a determined effort to be more assertive- “started laying down the law” was how he described it. He actually enjoyed this change of style, at least for a while.

When we met last week he wasn’t convinced about “management theory”, and was losing confidence. “I’m getting so much resistance, even people who wanted me to be like this are retreating, not talking to me so much. This isn’t shifting the workload from me to them”

By the end of our session, the problem was identified and a different approach is being tried from this week. What John, or the presenter, had missed from the seminar was the essential principle of “situational leadership”. (For those who love management theory, look up Hersey & Blanchard.) There needs to be recognition that as a leader (or manger), you don’t just pick a particular style from the leadership cupboard and use it in all situations- you do however need to know what’s in the cupboard, and when to use it. This applies generally to a team as the team “matures”, progressively adjusting your style from “telling” to “selling” to “participating” to “delegating”. John recognised he wasn’t delegating well, but hadn’t realised that not all his people were yet ready for that. He missed that he needs to adjust his style depending on the team, and individual manager. Ah, the value of coaching! Watch this space to see how John progresses…

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