Lead people the best way for them!

I had a conversation with a client the other day about how they were dealing with different personalities in their business. I knew it was one of those chats where I had to get a specific message across.

Thinking about it afterwards reminded me of how I like to be communicated with. This is at times different to how others like to be treated. I’m the kind of person who likes the straight-shooting approach. Coming originally from New Zealand where there are fewer people and the “Fishpond” is much smaller, I’ve grown up with the greater tendency over there to be told exactly what is needed in black & white.

When I’m being mentored or led by someone else, what works is for me to be told what the specific tasks are and results needed. Then, if you leave me to my own devices, I’ll do the research, set up the plan and roll it out with only a small amount of help or encouragement. Keeping an eye on me and/or having a coffee with me is useful at times, more for the social and innovative ideas that come from it than for any need for “help”.

This person I was speaking with was not like that at all. They needed to be spoken to with gentle gloves and much encouragement. It was one of those conversations where I needed to be very supportive and enabling.

It really got me thinking about a model I have used personally for many years. It is a simple reminder to us all to think about what the other person needs from us prior to rushing in and the telling them what we want or must have.

The model is the Situational Leadership Model. Please note I’m not saying you should only ever communicate with people using one of the four steps outlined below. However, personally I’ve found them to be a real help when thinking through tough conversations where results need to occur in short timeframes.

This model looks at the world of leadership inside of 4 simple styles as follows:

Style 1 – Directing

The person leading provides a specific direction & closely monitors task accomplishment.

Style 2 – Coaching

The leader makes sure they direct & closely monitor things, but also explains decisions, elicits suggestions, and provides support where needed.

Style 3 – Supporting

The leader uses a facilitative & supportive approach toward the achievement of tasks using the shared-responsibility decision-making principle.

Style 4 – Delegating

The leader turns over the responsibility for decision-making and problem-solving to the person and/or team in question.

Here’s a short presentation by Ken & Scott Blanchard about how using Situational Leadership II can make a huge difference to the conversations you have with your people. If you get your leadership working with their direct reports in a powerful way that encourages talent-management processes and continuously increases performance, then you tend to keep your people for longer periods.


Have a think about your own business unit and or company. Do you use a variety of styles when working with your people, or just one over and over? Who are the people you find tougher to work with and why do you think this is? How flexible are you with regard to communicating and getting results in your own teams? Consider changing your leadership style when you are working with certain team members.

Have a think about your own business unit and or company. Do you use a variety of styles when working with your people, or just one over and over? Who are the people you find tougher to work with and why do you think this is? How flexible are you with regard to communicating and getting results in your own teams? Consider changing your leadership style when you are working with certain team members.

Have a think about your own business unit and or company. Do you use a variety of styles when working with your people, or just one over and over? Who are the people you find tougher to work with and why do you think this is? How flexible are you with regard to communicating and getting results in your own teams? Consider changing your leadership style when you are working with certain team members.

Making OD & L&D Programs Work

Over the years you hear again and again that we are bringing in this major consulting firm, this one or this one. Most often millions of dollars are spent with the result being that at times little if any change occurs in team results or on the front line. Why is that?

Consider some of the following reasons and then some things to do to switch it around in order to get results.

Things to be careful of:

  • Bringing in a boxed solution or template not properly tailored from outside can be very risky. What “the best” safety managers, project managers, site teams do can be very different from what you need. Ignoring the “Local Context” seems to cost organisations a fortune over and over.
  • Avoid having a project led by an an area of the business that will not actually be using it or be fully accountable for the results that the project will or won’t get. E.g. HR make the decision with the business unit heads to go ahead with the specific solution, but the people “In” the business unit are only consulted in a token manner.
  • It is counterproductive to roll out “Great” personal change/new communication/new performance techniques to managers of business units without ensuring that they are accountable for then passing this on and/or teaching it to their reports. At times, managers go on courses, conferences, get great MBA learning themselves from other participants or students and there is never any accountability for them bringing this information back into their own business.

Try Instead:

1)   Understanding the metrics that you are trying to change at the front line.

Is it staff turnover? Greater productivity? Better performance management mechanisms? Then for every step of the way, ask the question “Will using this intervention move those metrics?” If not, then it’s probably the wrong one. E.g. teaching managers to better manage their own state of mind might be a great thing if it helps them be more focused, more present, more attentive in meetings and to manage their performance more effectively. But if this is not stated in the “Outcome,” then chances are this is less likely to occur.

2)Gain a true understanding of what is and is not working inside the business.

Don’t just listen to the managers. Go and ask the people at the very lowest level of the business what they think is wrong. At times, senior managers go out to market and buy things to roll out to their people when in fact they are far off the mark.

3)Ensure that people from all levels of the business can contribute to the program.

The more people who have access to interventions, the better the results. One of my clients had people going from very poor performance to very high performance fast once they knew what they weren’t doing right.

Getting results from Organisational Development and Learning and Development Programs is like any systemic change. Consider how  the system currently works and why. What kinds of things are going to help specific metrics? If you can’t link the key pieces of the intervention back to the metrics, then you may have the wrong pieces and/or provider!

In this short video, IBM looks at some change project statitistics and suggests based on research from at least 1500 companies that the toughest areas to change are people’s attitudes, mindsets and “The Culture”.

They recommend a focus into four key areas to make things work:

  1. Real Insights & Actions
  2. Solid Methods
  3. Better Skills
  4. Right Investment – Time/Resources

Good luck!

Business results & collaboration

Collaboration is a funny word, and ironically many of us are not to good at it.

Think about it – when someone cooks dinner at your place, who does it, do you share the duties? Often one person will do all the cooking and another all the washing up. Often one person becomes great at one of these two things. In business you often have a similar occurrence.

John is great at the Project Management schedule but never gets it together around creating solid relationships. So his assistant becomes great at doing it, and does it so well John never gets out to see his people when part of his role was to be out on the work front. So how could you use collaboration in a way that it would absolutely revolutionise a team’s results in your business? Being able to identify and management your talent in such a way that the transfer of “What they know & do” starts to occur organically within your organisation.

  1. Look at how often you setup specific learning tasks for the people in your team who are not at the top?
  2. When you have meetings with the team what are the expectations you set?
  3. Do you have a selection of your team sharing the things that made the biggest difference to them across the past month, censored by you
  4. Do all team members leave the meeting with structured things to improve on based on where they are at?

How do you then meaningfully sit with all these people in order to ensure the skills, behaviours and attributes that matter are being learned? By consistently considering these factors organisational change can occur faster.

If some of the above is ringing bells also consider the %age greater sales or production & productivity your best people create against those struggling, and consider what changes could you make to your own style of leadership around knowledge transfer and collaboration.