There are four steps to Situational Leadership®, but the first one (Identify the specific task) is undeniably the most critical. In fact, oftentimes, when I am facilitating a workshop, I tell participants if they can figure out a way to master Step 1, they can sleep through the rest of the class and still become better leaders!
Net- net when specific expectations for performance are clear and specific criteria for evaluating the impact of that performance is equally explicit, the probability of task-related success is exponentially increased.
Consider that assertion in the context of a Sales Manager preparing to spend a day in the field with an Account Manager on their team. That manager could establish objectives for the upcoming observations that focused upon:
- Overall: Job Title or Role (“Let’s see where you are in terms of your overall development as an Account Manager compared to the last time I saw you in action.”)
- Major: Performance Area (“Let’s focus on your ability to articulate relevant data about our products.”)
- Detailed: Task or Activity (“Let’s focus our attention on the manner in which you leverage our approved sales aids in discussions with qualified prospects who are currently using competitive products.”)
Unambiguous, detailed, crystal clear, “same-page status” between leader and follower on the task at hand is the first key to effective influence!
Combine the importance of specificity with an intentional coaching strategy of limiting the number of tasks you attempt to address at one time or in one setting. Many leaders have a tendency to try to maximize efficiency by coaching to a number of different areas for improvement all at once (e.g., use of the sales aid, listening skills, closing skills, pre-call planning and post-call administration).
In the book, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals,” Sean Covey, Chris McChesney and Jim Huling detail the importance of focusing on tasks which are deemed to be “wildly important.” In general, their message suggests that less is more and that leaders should consider applying increased energy against fewer objectives because, when it comes to managing performance, “the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity.”
Their research suggests that if you focus your progressive coaching efforts on two to three goals (max) you will have a high probability of success. Conversely, if you focus on four to 10 goals, you will drive desired performance on only one or two of them. Beyond that, if you focus on 11 to 20 goals, you will see limited (if any) meaningful results.
So, it strikes me as I pass along considerations for your future coaching opportunities, that less is more and “same-page status” rules the day!
Identify a person you have been attempting to coach to close performance gaps and determine:
- Have you done a masterful job of breaking the task down into its details and clearly set your expectations for performance?
- What are the “wildly important” performance gaps that demand your focus?