Great teachers differentiate the learning experiences according to the needs of their students.
Great leaders differentiate their leadership strategy according to the needs of the people they lead.
Leaders need to be flexible and adapt their leadership style to the situation and the development needs of the people they are leading. Over supervising or under supervising – giving people too much or too little direction – has a negative impact on people’s development and limits our effectiveness as a leader.
Nobody likes to be micro-managed but staff don’t want to feel unsupported either. Getting the leadership approach right is important and impacts on our effectiveness as a leader and the impact of our staff.
It is important to match our leadership approach to the developmental level of the people we lead AND the task they are undertaking.
However, a word of caution! Be careful NOT to pigeon hole people. Just because they need us to take one approach with them in one area, doesn’t mean they need to be treated that way at all times.
Author of “Speed of Trust”, Stephen MR Covey says we judge ourselves according to our intent, however we judge other people according to their behavior and presume their intent. If we presume their intent is negative or have low expectations of the people we are leading, then this undermines our trust in them.
Once we judge people then we tend to notice behaviours that match our presumptions but don’t notice behaviours that contradict our presumptions.
Once in our “bad books” people have to do ten times as many good things to retrieve the situation. As difficult as it is, we have to be careful about our presumptions.
Leadership guru Ken Blanchard advocates differentiating our leadership using what he describes as Situational Leadership. Blanchard suggests that there are four approaches or strategies that we should utilise as leaders
Directing – where we are highly directive but low on supportive behaviours eg we tell them what they should do in that situation.
Coaching – engage in more two way conversations, we are more supportive by encouraging the person to consider and discuss a range of options but also highly directive as we tell the person which option is the best choice and explain why.
Supporting – Whilst this strategy is also highly supportive as we again ask the person to consider and discuss a range of options, it is less directive. Rather than telling the person which option they should implement, we empower them to make the choice of the option they believe is the most suitable.
Delegating – we get out of their way and let them get on with it. Ultimately that is the aim of leadership, to empower our people.
In deciding which strategy to utilise it is important to think of the situation or task that the person is expected to undertake. For that particular task we need to consider their competence and commitment to THAT task. It is NOT their competence and commitment OVERALL but their competence and commitment to that particular task. Whilst our opinion of them overall is likely to influence our assumptions, it is dangerous and not helpful to be too judgmental.
Having a repertoire of leadership approaches is important. Blanchard’s research indicated that 54% of leaders use ONE style only, 35% use TWO styles, 10% use THREE styles but only 1% use all FOUR styles. How many approaches do you use regularly? Which approach do you need to add to your repertoire?
Working through the following activity will help you understand and apply Blanchard’s model.
Think about one of your teachers. Not your Super Stars just a regular teacher or someone you are concerned about. Now consider their competence and commitment in each of the following aspects of their role.
- Effectively managing a class full of students
- Differentiating the learning experience to suit a range of learning needs
- Utilising IT in the classroom to engage students
- Building rapport and trust with parents
- Implementing change
Identify the individual’s Development level for each of the aspects of their role. Are they a D1, D2, D3 or D4?
D1 enthusiastic beginner – low competence but high commitment
D2 disillusioned learner – low to some competence, low commitment
D3 capable but cautious performer – moderate to high competence, variable commitment
D4 self-reliant achiever – high competence and high commitment
Our leadership approach should match their needs according to their developmental level based on their competence and commitment with that particular task or goal.
If they have a low level of competence in that particular activity but have a high level of commitment (D1) then we should take a Directing approach with them and tell them what is required and what they should do.
In situations where the person we are leading shows a level of commitment and low to some competence (D2) we should take Blanchard’s Coaching approach. Discuss with the person the options available to them and steer them towards the best choice.
If they have moderate to high competence in undertaking that aspect of their role and their commitment to it varies (D3) then we should take Blanchard’s Supportive approach by discussion the options with them but letting them choose the most appropriate course of action.
D4 situations where the person is highly competent in that aspect of the role and have a high level of commitment require us to take a Delegating approach. Entrust them in this area but touch base occasionally to check in with how they are progressing and if they need any assistance.
The same approach applies to your work with your leadership team. Work out the developmental level of each member of the leadership team, in each aspect of their role and then take the approach that matches their developmental need in that aspect.
For example, for each member of your leadership team consider developmental need in each aspect of their role by considering their competence and commitment eg
- Leading change
- Parent liaison
- Behaviour Management
Our aim is to select the leadership approach that is as empowering as possible.
If they are not successful with that level of support then we move back to the previous level eg if we were using a Delegating approach and problems arose, we would move back to a Supporting approach. It is important to resist the temptation to jump straight back to the DIRECTING level by telling them what to do.
Three skills are required for applying Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model.
Diagnosis – correctly determining the developmental level of the person, ON that task – based on their competence and commitment in that aspect of the role.
Flexibility to use the four styles as appropriate to the developmental needs of that person, on that task or aspect of their role.
Partnering For Performance – talking with the person about how you would support them. Sharing the model and talking about how you would work well together.
Just as great teachers get better outcomes by differentiating their teaching approach to match the needs of their students, great leaders increase their effectiveness by matching their leadership approach to the needs of the people they lead.
Professional Development From Steve Francis
We are all aware that PEOPLE make the difference in schools. Therefore investing in your people brings the best returns. Professional development sessions for your staff are available on a range of topics. These are ideal for student free days or twilight sessions. Email to check availability of your preferred date and book now.
Which topic does your team need most?
- 7 Secrets to Motivating and Engaging Students
- Building Trust – Essential Skills
- Thriving in Times of Change
- Effective Teamwork in School
- Feedback – Helping Teachers Be the Best They Can Be
- Boosting Morale and Increasing WORK-LIFE Satisfaction
Conferences and Work With Schools
This month I’m looking forward to working with:-
- Qld Secondary Principals’ Assn (QSPA) conference
- Qld Assn of Special Education Leaders’ (QASEL) conference
- Aust Institute of Managers’ (AIM) breakfast
- Wesley Hospital Nurse Leaders
- Cavendish Road SHS Leaders
- Harris Fields SS leadership team
- Highland Reserve SS staff
- Cronulla School Leaders’ cluster
- School Leaders’ breakfast series
- SBMAQ webinars
- QASSP webinars
I’d be happy to talk with you about the professional development needs of your leadership team or whole staff.
Survey My School
The fastest way to improve your school and boost staff, parent and student satisfaction is to identify and address the problems that annoy and frustrate people. Ensure that your plans for 2014 are informed with useful, accurate information. SurveyMySchool has been specifically designed to support the leadership team to IMPROVE schools. The interactive format of the surveys identifies specific issues and potential solutions.
SurveyMySchool is far more useful than school opinion surveys that only provide data. Whilst having data is a good start, data alone can be misinterpreted and isn’t helpful in addressing people’s specific concerns.
SurveyMySchool is interactive. Respondents who express dissatisfaction with an aspect of the school are asked clarifying questions to provide further detail about their specific concern and potential solutions. The survey report provides useful information to inform school planning, improve the school and increase the satisfaction of staff, parents and students.
Contact us to set up a survey of staff, parents and/or students: email@example.com
This Month’s Happy School articles include:
- Big Black Holes – Where does the time go?
- Making the Most of the Holidays – Part 1
- Making the Most of the Holidays – Part 2
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