Knowing when to step in
Knowing when to step in
Managers should embrace 'Situational Leadership' in their interaction with the workforce to develop motivated employees
Editor's Note: Casino Journal would like to congratulate Marilyn Winn on her promotion to senior vice president of Las Vegas operations for Harrah's Entertainment. Unfortunately, since Marilyn's new duties no longer fall under the purview of human resources, she has decided it would not be right to produce a column on the subject, and this will be her last submission. Casino Journal is currently searching for a replacement columnist, and hopes to have someone in place soon.
In last month's article, we looked at the importance of discussing career aspirations with your employees, particularly during annual performance appraisals.
Reviewing career paths can be a powerful motivator to your employees. Employees genuinely appreciate your time and perspective and will want to continue doing a great job for you when you invest this time in them.
But this is just one method for motivating your employees. This month, we'll take a look at a motivational method you can use every day in the workplace.
It's called "Situational Leadership," a concept first outlined by author Ken Blanchard. Situational leadership is matching your leadership style to your employee's development need. In other words, you customize your leadership style to each employee's unique needs for direction and support.
The idea is to make your employees self-motivated and self-directed. But it isn't easy-situational leadership will require commitment on your part, and will take some practice to master.
Positive interactionLet's start with a brand-new employee, or an employee trying to learn a new task. At this stage, your employee will naturally need a higher degree of direction. In fact, she will welcome it, since she will be focused on doing a good job during her first days.
Suppose you've just brought a new front desk clerk on board. During her first days, you should provide her with very specific directions about her role and goals. You should closely track her performance and provide frequent, direct feedback so she can improve and grow more confident in her job.
As the front desk clerk progresses in her new position and develops needed skills, such as adequately checking guests in and out, you should change your leadership
methods. At this stage, you should approach the employee as a coach.
As a coach, you'll provide less detailed feedback; you'll be telling the employee whether they did something right or wrong, rather than providing step-by-step instructions on how to do each task. Now that she knows how to do something, explain why certain actions are required. Solicit her suggestions on how the job could be done better, and praise her when she does something right.
As the employee continues to develop on the job, she will become able to complete the job on her own without direct supervision. That means you should change your management style yet again. Instead of being directive, be supportive.
At this stage, you should engage the employee in making joint decisions. Focus on facilitating, listening, and supporting. Worry about giving evaluation later. You shouldn't stop giving feedback altogether, but you should offer it less frequently.
In summary, you should gradually move out of the way as your employee's mastery of the job grows. Once she's learned the job and the necessary skills, your role as a manager is to make sure the employee has all the necessary resources needed to get her job done, and to delegate tasks. You're there to provide minimal direction and support when necessary.
Choose methods wiselyOne of the biggest mistakes managers make is using the wrong management style for an employee's development level. The right management style at the right time will strongly motivate your employees. The wrong management style at the wrong time can destroy motivation just as quickly.
As a manager, it is crucial that you learn how to diagnose each employee's level of skill and commitment and use the appropriate leadership style. Flexibility is a must. Each employee is in a unique situation, and each will require a different leadership style.
Let's look at a common error: Taking a hands-off approach at the wrong time.
If you're not highly directive with new employees, they won't know what to do, and you'll probably get a poor performance. The result will be low motivation, and potentially high turnover.
Similarly, if you don't give feedback at critical times, your employees won't know when they've met expectations, or how they could do their jobs better. As a result, they won't develop confidence in her abilities. Even worse, your employees will feel like you don't care about them. Not exactly a formula for motivated employees.
It's equally bad to be too hands-on at the wrong time.
If you give too much feedback to employees after they've learned their jobs, you'll hurt their motivation and erode their confidence. You'll be sending a dangerous message to your employees that you don't trust them to do their jobs correctly. In that kind of environment, you'll have a very difficult time achieving goals and satisfying customers.
These are general guidelines, but remember, there's always going to be an exception to the rule. There are certain occasions when you should be directive, even if the employee clearly knows what they're doing.
An example is a crisis. If there's a fire, you should give explicit orders to even your most experienced employees. In this extreme situation, your employees will be looking to you as the leader. If the building is on fire, safety-not motivation-is your primary concern.
If there's a crisis, your employees will expect explicit marching orders. But if you try giving your employees that kind of detailed direction every day, you'll end up being ignored, and your employees won't be very motivated to excel.
Striking the balance between how much direction and support to offer each employee will take time and practice. Situational leadership takes a lot of work, but it will pay back many times over with employees that feel confident, trusting and satisfied. Highly motivated employees will be the result. As their manager, you'll be the winner. CJ