“Supervisory Basics – the Foundation for your Leadership” is a workshop designed to build a foundation that’s up to the challenges you face, because in the midst of everything else, the fundamentals still matter. These are important for new supervisors, and for existing supervisors that never got enough training to begin with:
- Collaboration Equation
- Personal and Group Style Assessment
- Can’t versus Won’t
- Performance Management
- Maslow’s Hierarchy
- Leadership Principles
- Problem Solving and Decision Making
- Addressing Trust/Risk
- Behavioral Interviewing
- Conflict Management
The Collaboration Equation is a five component approach to what we call “genuine collaboration” – the kind that shows up when it counts, not just when it’s easy.
- Shared Vision
- Knowing Self
- Understanding Others
- Effective Communication
Personal and Group Style Assessment
There are a lot of styles assessments out there, and many of them are good. In our experience, as long as you choose one that’s theoretically grounded, rigorously tested, easy to remember and doesn’t put people in boxes, you’re off to a strong start. It’s much more important to have the conversation about styles than to argue about which model to use. And, it’s important to be consistent across the organization, so everyone has a common language and understanding – since increasing understanding and facilitating effective communication is the whole point.
A helpful reminder – almost all of us are a mix of styles. When we complete a styles assessment, the results usually shows a preference for one style. (Many assessments use a forced-choice format that causes the results to be more extreme than may actually be the case in terms of behavior.) And our preferred style can shift depending on a variety of variables. While it’s important to know your own and others’ style preferences, it’s equally important to learn to flex your style to meet others part way and to address the needs of the moment.
If you’re using styles with a group, one way to effectively process the results is give an overview of the model to the group (this guarantees everyone is getting the same information from the beginning). Then everyone gets to see their own individual results and ask for whatever clarification they need. Then share the team profiles and begin exploring what they mean. We do this first in conversation and then experientially, actually working together so the dynamics are more easily observable. This way you can make obvious where and how the different styles are showing up and interacting, and you can experiment with alternatives, practicing doing things differently in a situation with low risk. (It’s important to be careful about asking individuals to share the details of their own results – since culture, group dynamics and individual sensitivities all make this potentially volatile. It is also very powerful when a group is ready and able to share at this level.)
Our preferred styles assessment is the PREP Personal Styles Assessment. Why? 1) we like the range of choice in answering (instead of forced choice), 2) we like that it’s focused on positive behaviors (strengths), 3) we find that participants remember it in a way that’s useful years later, and 4) we’ve had great results from using the Group Reporting options.
Can’t versus Won’t
Leaders frequently face performance issues – “How can I get this person to do what they ‘really oughta wanna do’ instead of what they’re currently doing?” Robert Mager developed a simple process to determine if the behavior is because they really can’t do what we want them to do (a training issue) or is it that they don’t choose to do what we want them to do (a motivation issue). He covers all this in a very entertaining and useful book – “Analyzing Performance Problems: Or, You Really Oughta Wanna – How to Figure out Why People Aren’t Doing What They Should Be, and What to do About It.”
Managing employee performance can be less troublesome when you set up clear expectations up front and the employee agrees to meet those expectations. If on observation the expectations are being met then the feedback is the reinforcing type (see feedback above) and if the expectations are not being met then the feedback is the redirection type (again see feedback above). Whichever is the case there can be no surprises so the feedback needs to be timely and based on observations and agreed upon expectations.
Giving valuable feedback is one of the most powerful communication tools we have and one of the most ignored or avoided by friends, family members, leaders and managers. Many people, viewing feedback as negative, are reluctant to give it. They hold back because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Here’s how we see it. Feedback is just information – neither good or bad. We have found that the words “reinforcing” (used to reinforce current behaviors) and “redirecting” (when a change in current behavior is desired) are more easily received and lead to better results than phrases such as “constructive criticism,” or “positive” and “negative” feedback, since those tend to trigger defensiveness right from the start.
Think of it this way: Imagine that you are in a rocketship heading to the moon. Of course you’d want to be be told if you were off course (redirecting feedback – do something different). And, wouldn’t you want to also be told if you’re on course (reinforcing feedback – keep doing what you’re doing) instead of hearing nothing and being left to wonder what the silence means? Our guess is you’d want both – and you’d assume both come from a desire to help you get to the moon, instead of shooting right past it and off into space.
The feedback we give each other can work this way, too, when it’s: 1) given objectively about behaviors and their impact, 2) with the intent of helping, 3) from a place of mutual respect and learning, and 4) allowing the recipient to do with it what they choose (including nothing). We also recommend “thank you” as an appropriate response to almost all feedback – since it’s just information, and you’re better off knowing what others think than not. You can always choose to not act on it. Using the five Leadership Principles will also help make the feedback process a win-win.
Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” helps explain why something does or doesn’t motivate people. Abraham Maslow believed that there are at least five levels of different conditions at play in all our interactions with other people. These needs form a hierarchy beginning with Basic Needs and ending with Self Actualization. In between are Social, Esteem, and Independence. (NOTE: The number of levels and the names of the levels have varied depending on who is writing about them. However, the main point still holds true that the issues at each level need to be addressed before the issues at the next level can be seen as motivators.)
It’s not trivial that they move from extrinsic to intrinsic. As Daniel H. Pink makes clear in his thought-provoking book “Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us,” it’s important to know the difference or we risk having our motivational attempts backfire.
This simple yet profound set of principles have survived the test of time:
- Focus on the situation, issue, or behavior – not on the person
- Maintain the self-confidence and self-esteem of others
- Maintain constructive relationships
- Take the initiative to make things better
- Lead by example (you can’t not – so be intentional about the example you are setting)
These principles were developed by Jack Zenger many years ago as part of his “Frontline Leadership” program. As a certified facilitator of the program, Don has taught these concepts to hundreds of leaders and found them to be as applicable today as they were 25 years ago.
Problem Solving and Decision Making
We believe that there is a continuum of problem solving/decision making styles – Autonomous – Consultative – Inclusive – Delegative. Each person will have their “favorites” depending on their personal style. The Autonomous style is very much “I’ll solve the problem, provide the solution and then everyone else will implement my solution the way I want it implemented.” At the other end of the continuum is the Delegative style – “This is the problem we need to solve, and these are the parameters you need to work within – go solve it as you see fit, let me know if you need my help, report back to me when you’re done.” Knowing your problem solving/decision making style preference, and the other options available, allows you best meet the needs of the moment.
The biggest challenge in decision making processes is that people aren’t clear about what style is being used. For example, I’m asked for my input but not told if it will just be considered, or actually be used in the final decision. Being clear up front about those expectations can make all the difference in final buy-in.
Trust is the foundation of group effectiveness. One way to define trust is as the assured reliance on someone’s character, ability, strength or honesty. Without trust, the free flow of ideas and opinions, which are essential to productivity and problem solving, can’t exist. In order to build high levels of trust, you have to take some risks. This is true whether you are the leader or a member of the team.
We all have a baseline level of trust we offer in a new situation. Some of us trust first and adjust if we’re wrong. Others are skeptical and wait for signs of trustworthiness. And others fall somewhere in the middle. All by themselves, these differences, if unnoticed, can trigger questions of trustworthiness from the beginning, simply because of how much they each mean we are willing to risk.
One of the most important skills for supervisors to have is the ability to select the right person for the job. Hiring the wrong person is expensive in terms of time, money and the morale of the new hire, as well as his or her team mates. Since it’s much easier to never have hired someone than to deal with a bad hire, it’s worth learning a few techniques that will help prevent it from happening in the first place.
The Behavioral Interviewing process relies on the use of open-ended job-related questions that require the candidate to share actual examples of the behaviors you are looking for. The idea is that if the person has demonstrated successful behaviors in the past, they will probably behavior the same way in the future. Remember to ask for examples of both successful and not-so-successful situations.
Transitions, the personal side of change
Successfully managing transitions is critical in today’s climate, where change has become one of the few constants and is amplified by VUCA the world we live in today. It’s often not the changes themselves that are difficult. Instead, it’s the feelings that the changes evoke that create the challenge. If people understand how change usually happens (which normalizes the transition experience), and feel that there is a place for their responses to the change to be considered, they experience less resistance, more resilience and higher productivity.
Effective supervisors create and keep a priority list that lets them work on those things that are most critical first, rather than getting bogged down doing things that might be easier, or more interesting, but that won’t make as much of an impact on getting results. Stephen Covey, one of the gurus of high performance, uses a four quadrant system for figuring out what your highest priorities should be based on how important – and how urgent – the task is. The four quadrants are:
- Urgent and Important – deadlines, pressing problems, etc.
- Non-Urgent but Important – planning, prevention, preparation, etc.
- Urgent but Non-Important – interruptions, some mail, some meeting, etc.
- and finally, Non-Urgent and Non-Important – trivia, busy work, mind-candy, etc.
Using Covey’s matrix to categorize your tasks helps you do the right work first!
Conflict is unavoidable. And, actually, we don’t want to avoid it. Differences, if handled with curiosity and respect, are an essential part of any team’s success. Especially in this VUCA world of ours – with the huge time pressures, unclear expectations, shifting parameters, etc. – conflict will be showing up at inconvenient times. If unresolved, or poorly resolved, conflict can take a large toll on productivity, motivation, engagement – i.e., success. So, rather than ignore it or fight against it, we are better off embracing it and using it to our advantage. Teach people how to engage with it effectively and you can benefit from all those different, and unique, experiences, mindset and viewpoints!