Of the many titles and nicknames I have had over the years, “The Rookie” or (cornier) “Newbie” got my back up the most. For you, it may have been: “The New Guy” or “Greenhorn,” “The Boot” or “Last In.” For many of us, those are not terms of endearment. “Come on! I was hired knowing something about this job! I have potential and capability, built on quality schooling, valuable internships and relevant job experience.”
In the Situational Leadership® Model, a person is R1 when the leader doesn’t see ability (consistently demonstrated skill) for that task and has doubts about task-specific willingness (either confidence or commitment and motivation). We qualify R1 as “Unable and Insecure or Unwilling.”
Now, no person is ever “R1.” Let’s be clear: Every person—even a new person—will almost certainly find tasks and behaviors required in their job for which they are R2 (Unable but Confident or Willing). If they quickly demonstrate a “sustained, acceptable level” of ability, they will have some tasks for which they are R3 (Able but perhaps working through some Insecurity about performing without a supervised safety net) or even R4 (Able and Confident and Willing).
So why is being R1 for a task such a “negative?!” Dare I say, even seen as a “curse?!”
This isn’t judgement—it’s assessment.
Well, let’s first acknowledge that most of us want to do what we do at a high level. “I want to be known as not only proficient at my tasks, but excellent! I want high marks and ratings on performance reviews, which bring recognition and rewards and raises.” Of course.
However, for whatever reason, when we find ourselves at R1, we frequently do our best to keep that a secret (especially when we lack trust in our leader). The risk we incessantly spin in our heads goes something like this:
“If I let on that I am an R1 for this (and other) tasks, I will be out the door before long!”
“What?! Really?!” Yes, friend. It’s not just you. We have all had those thoughts at some point.
The truth about R1: If you are new to the task, confidence is your strongest-felt need. We build our confidence initially “off the backs of others” as we work with our manager, peers and teammates to develop skills under their tutelage. Wouldn’t it be better to simply own your readiness to perform and “raise your hand for help” rather than hoping nobody “catches on” and everything “just sort of works out some way?”
More truth: Some come to R1 for this task from R2. We came in with great confidence and willingness, then suddenly realized, “This is more difficult than I thought. It’s taking longer than I expected to build competency and skill. My confidence is now waning, and I’m feeling a bit insecure about this task. To mask that, though, I’ll procrastinate, or avoid or see if someone else will do it.”
Greater truth: Some of us come to R1 for this task from R3 or R4. “I do know how to do this; I have knowledge, experience and skill. But when the new boss came in and refused to trust me with this task, even after I proved myself … When it came down ‘from the top’ that we must now complete this task with new software, under new protocols, in half the time we used to … When I did it at R4 for so long and got so little recognition for it … Then I began to withhold performance, basically delivering what I perceived they wanted, or deserved, from me.”
Ouch. If that hits close to home, be encouraged by these couple of steps you can take. Let’s earn ourselves a new nickname or two: “Go-Getter,” “Trend Setter,” “High Potential,” “Transparent Apprentice!”
- Take a reality check. Are you at R1 for any of your key tasks or behaviors? What issue might you address that could unlock your insecurity and/or unwillingness for those tasks to accelerate your performance to R3 and R4?
- Commit to one adjustment you can make—something to stop or something to start—that will give you a powerful focus for increased Performance Readiness®.
- In performance review conversations ahead, contract with your manager for the best leadership style to match your Performance Readiness® for specific key tasks.