Monday, August 11, 2014

The Carrots & Eggs of Leadership

Guest Blogger Cathy Carroll who is one of the speakers at our breakfast workshop, "Soft Skill Development for the Woman Business Leader" on August 27th.

What would you do in these two situations?  

A)  Jennifer is not living up to expectations on this project.  After a second try at delivering the results, she is late and the product is not useful.  Would you:

  1. Empathize with her situation and show her how to do the work?
  2. Emphasize how important this work is and set specific, measurable expectations for success the next time?
  3. Get someone else to do the work, and move her to a different role or terminate her employment?
  4. Get someone else to show her how to complete the task?
  5. It depends.
B)  You are the guide of a group of hikers and as you crest the first hill, a hiker halfway back suddenly yelps in pain.  He has stepped into a hole and felt a quick sharp pain in his ankle, convinced that a snake bit him.  Would you:
  1. Collaborate:  Gather the rest of the hikers, brainstorm options to pursue, then vote on each option?
  2. Encourage:  Tell the hiker he’ll be OK, and then encourage the other hikers to help the victim as best they can?
  3. Inspire:  Give a motivating speech to inspire the hikers to help?
  4. Command:  Instruct one hiker to call 911 on his cell phone, instruct another hiker (who happens to be an EMT) to administer medical action, instruct a third and fourth hiker to return to the camp to coordinate help?
  5. It depends.
These two scenarios are different, yet both demonstrate the value of having a broad set of leadership skills to achieve results.
In question A, if you ascribe to Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model, the right answer is 5.  It depends.    He recommends that you assess the employee on two spectra:  Skill and Will.  If she lacks the skill, then drowning her in empathy isn’t going to get the job done.  Conversely, if she lacks the will, then just showing her how to do the work probably won’t help.  Instead, he recommends using the following model:
This model can be very useful, but it is important to remember that this model is situation specific, not person specific.  For example, ask yourself which leadership approach you would take if you asked a Navy Seal to complete a military mission?  Next, ask yourself which approach you would take if you asked that same Navy Seal to teach kindergarten.

As for Question B above, I recommend answer 4. Command.  This is an emergency situation that requires quick, decisive leadership.  The "Command & Control" leadership style that was prevalent in the 1950s is unfashionable today, especially when used exclusively.  However, it remains an important tool in the leadership toolkit, as do authoritative, collaborative, encouraging, and inspirational styes, in certain situations.

The art of leadership is knowing which leadership style to use in which situation.  We all have a default style, but any style of leadership used exclusively, can derail us from getting the results we want.  Watch out for those blind spots and remember this:  the hot water that softens a carrot, will harden an egg.

Cathy Carroll is the founder of Legacy Onward, which provides business and executive coaching services for family businesses.  After growing up around her grandfather's business, Cathy enjoyed a 20-year corporate career before leading her father’s manufacturing business.  Following her coaching certification from Georgetown University, Cathy founded Legacy Onward to help family business leaders achieve greater profits through greater performance.

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