You won the job over dozens, if not hundreds of applicants! Or you were promoted over a handful of strong colleagues! Your resume speaks for itself regarding your previous experience, accomplishments and acclaim! You are eager, engaged and exuberant as you consider the next step in your professional journey …
On the flip side of that coin, you by no means have proven your ability to perform in this fresh capacity. You certainly have the potential or capability to fulfill all expectations, but still have quite a bit to learn. So, you submit and actively engage with a regimen of training and coaching designed to help you develop.
In the Situational Leadership® Model, a person is R2 for a task when the leader doesn’t see ability (all three of knowledge, experience and skill), but the follower’s confidence and willingness are shining through in their attitude and approach to the work. We qualify R2 as “Unable but Confident or Willing.”
It’s important to remember, though—no person is ever “R2.” Your new boss likely presumes that you will be R2 for most tasks right from the start. A person is not “able” for any task unless the leader deems he or she is “currently performing (insert task here) at a sustained, acceptable level.” That is the first question in assessing Performance Readiness®. If you quickly demonstrate a “sustained, acceptable level” of ability for several tasks, you will be R3 (Able but probably showing some Insecurity at now “being on your own”) or even R4 (Able and Confident and Willing).
This begs the question: How do you develop from R2 to R3 for specific tasks?
That’s simple: Master your tasks. Complete the training and secure frequent check-ins with leaders and colleagues to demonstrate your burgeoning knowledge, experience and skill. Ask deeper questions about context and the impact of this task on other departments or parts of the process. Create a list of specific competencies and behaviors that can act as checkpoints on the way to mastery. Set attainable deadlines for proficiency in crucial task areas. When all three elements of ability are demonstrated consistently, and at the required level of excellence, the leader can entrust you with this task. He or she can begin to deliver S3 leadership, which involves tapering directive behavior while providing high consultative support that aligns and affirms, rather than tells or instructs.
But what about the other question—how do you prevent slipping from R2 to R1?
This is where the second question of assessing Performance Readiness® comes into play, “Are you confident, committed and/or motivated?” These three factors of willingness are completely determined by you. Regression (“slipping” in performance) will happen if your ability doesn’t emerge and your willingness diminishes. It was William James of Harvard who uncovered that if motivation is low, an employee’s performance will suffer as much as if ability were low.”1
Perhaps these tasks are more difficult than you expected when you took the job. Maybe they just aren’t as enjoyable as they were when they were new, and reality has lowered your hope and optimism regarding your abilities. Or you just can’t understand why this task needs to be done this way and you’re rather grumpy about it. Worse yet: You see a “better” way to do it, and no one is giving you the time of day to hear (and implement) your solution! Your attitudes, that only you control, will impact your ability and affect your performance.
Now you have two choices: You can embrace an optimistic R2 status for this task and follow our earlier guidance, or you can continue to spiral downward with decreasing confidence, commitment and motivation, which will result in more structure from your leader in combination (quite possibly) with him or her asking themselves questions like, “Did we make a good decision when we filled this role?”
Don’t miss the obvious, that the R2 assessment also indicates how your leader can most effectively lead you for this task: High direction with high support (Style S2). This now adds “the why” to the who-what-when-where-and-with-whom (Style S1), for the purpose of gaining your buy-in and understanding for this task. It might be assumed you are R3 for new tasks simply because you “have been around awhile,” and you will need to politely set the record straight to get what you need.
Assess, own and communicate your Performance Readiness®. Most of us want to do what we do at a high level, and the “not just yet” of R2 for several tasks can be frustrating. Determine to be diligent in your work and patient with yourself, as well as ask your new leaders (and team) for the direction and support you need to increase your performance.
Let it be said of you, “The new person? There’s one to watch! I see them getting up to speed real fast.”
- Take stock of your ability (knowledge, experience and skill). Where are the lingering gaps that keep you on the right side of the model (leader directed), rather than on the left side (follower directed) for certain tasks?
- In 1-on-1 conversations with your manager, collaborate to set practical steps and realistic timelines to increase your ability, so you can be entrusted with an increasing number of tasks.
1Hersey P, Blanchard KH, Johnson DE. Management of Organizational Behavior. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.; 2008: 8.