Situational Leadership®: Strong Management and the Employee Experience

Full disclosure: I am not a good golfer. As a matter of fact, some insensitive people I golf with routinely experience self-centered joy by casting dispersion on the quality of my game with anyone that happens to be within earshot. Ironically, perhaps, I have a son who by any objective measurement available is a very good golfer.

I remember years ago when he was trying to figure out where he was going to go to college. This is a challenging decision for most 17- to 18-year-old kids that I believe is made more difficult if the kid in question aspires to play a sport professionally. Academics and geography aside, I remember the primary criteria he established:

  1. Schedule: He wanted to represent a university that competed against the best teams with the best players on the toughest courses (i.e., the same courses that professional golfers played on the PGA Tour).
  2. Coach: He wanted to play for a coach with a proven track record for developing talent that could compete at the highest level (i.e., someone who he felt would help him realize his full potential).

And, if you are at the point in your perusal of this blog where you are wondering what any of this has to do with Situational Leadership® and/or the employee experience, my abbreviated response would be—plenty! Stay with me here, please!

The first blog in this series referenced The Josh Bersin Company’s detailed research report HR Predictions for 2022. In general, that research identified how a vast cross-section of employees characterized the employee experience by identifying the ideal organization.

In brief review, the traits of that ideal organization include meaningful work, strong management, a positive workplace, a focus on health and well-being, growth opportunity and an organizational culture defined by trust.

The second blog in this series explored connections between Situational Leadership® and meaningful work.

I would suggest that the essence of an employee’s search for meaningful work is strikingly similar to my son’s search for a school that valued golf. Employees with talent and potential aspire to work for organizations that are serious about making contributions of significance on a landscape defined by competitive excellence.

As the Bersin Report reveals, right alongside meaningful work, the employee experience is defined by strong management. I would suggest that teenage golfers bear striking resemblance to employees in the workforce once again. Those with talent, aspirations and unrealized potential seek managers that have demonstrated the ability to transform potential into reality. In the ongoing war for talent, a culture defined by effective leadership and coaching has a distinct competitive advantage.

Here is how the Bersin Report defines strong management and how we at The Center for Leadership Studies believe Situational Leadership® supports each component of that definition:

Clear Goals With Stretch Opportunities

The first thing Situational Leaders align with followers around is the task that needs to be accomplished. What needs to be done, by when and why? A key determining factor a strong performance coach will take into objective consideration is the transferable skill and related experience the person they are influencing has demonstrated for the task in question. The more that individual has relevant grounding and has mastered the fundamentals of performance, the more opportunity they get to stretch, grow, reach and realize.

Regular Coaching and Feedback

Situational Leadership® is a language of performance management. Always has been! Our model provides coaches in any setting with a template of consideration for both planned and unplanned feedback and coaching opportunities:

  1. What is the task?
  2. What is the Performance Readiness® (i.e., ability and willingness) of the person relative to the task/subject under consideration?
    1. With ever-increasing regularity, those tasks are defined by how people treat each other, manage conflict and contribute to an inclusive team culture.
  3. What is the style with the highest probability of success?
    1. Answers to the first two questions identify the most appropriate approach for the manager/coach to employ when it comes time to provide feedback (i.e., Direction? Empowerment? Or collaboration?).

A Focus on Management Development

Organizations that have a reputation for strong management align with the foundational competencies of Situational Leadership® as they identify, cultivate and sustain management excellence.

  • They typically have rigorous and highly competitive Management Development programs. These programs ensure candidates are fully aware of, and prepared for, a career transition into people management and have demonstrated the potential to be successful
  • Newly promoted managers receive a focused orientation as well as targeted, ongoing training. This training is sequenced at a pace that prioritizes internalization and emphasizes mastery of diagnosis, adaptation and communication

Bottom line? By our very nature, we seek to align our passion and our potential with organizations or teams that provide the opportunity to develop and achieve. And, when we show up to initiate that process, we want strong managers and coaches with proven track records of turning those dreams into reality.