A Situational Approach to that Big Holiday Meal?

Christmas And New Year Holiday Table Setting. Celebration. PlaceWhen we teach Situational Leadership® II we often use non-business examples to help people understand the concept of employee development levels.

Hosting a big holiday meal is one of the examples we use to explain that people can be Enthusiastic Beginners, Disillusioned Learners, Capable But Cautious Performers, or Self-Reliant Achievers depending on their past experience.

Let’s have some fun with this example to see if we can deepen our own understanding on this popular leadership model by looking at tasks millions of family members will be facing as they work to create the best holiday meal ever.

Identifying the task or goal: There are so many tasks involved with hosting a holiday get-together. Planning the menu. Cooking the turkey. Buying the wine. Seating arrangement? Games? Activities? Cleanup? Your first step is to clearly identify the task and who it will be assigned to. That will help you determine how much direction and support you will have to provide based on their competence and commitment.

Diagnosing Development Level

For this example, let’s assume that a significant other has announced he would like to be in charge of cooking the turkey this year—and he thinks deep frying is the way to go. He’s excited about buying a propane tank, deep fryer, and five gallons of peanut oil.

Since he’s energized about the possibility but has little experience, he would be an Enthusiastic Beginner on this task. What does he need from a leader? The Situational Leadership® II model prescribes a High Direction—Low Support approach. Your goal as a leader or project manager would be to offer a lot of direction to avoid a deep fried turkey fail. You won’t have to supply much in the way of motivation, though—he is bringing plenty of that to the equation.

What if you have another person who you’d like to bring a side dish, but they don’t have much experience cooking and they don’t feel confident in their skills? Maybe they had a bad experience in the past—a dish that didn’t turn out or one that people didn’t seem to enjoy. This person would qualify as a Disillusioned Learner on this task using the Situational Leadership® II model. What does this person need? A combination of High Direction and High Support. Share with them your idea for a popular side dish, along with tips on how to make it, and encourage them to try again.

Someone who has the skills and knowledge for the task, but sometimes lacks confidence, is identified as being at the Capable, but Cautious Performer level. This might be a person who has a great knowledge for choosing the perfect wines with certain holiday entrees but is sometimes unsure or has questions about what to recommend this time. What does this person need? A Low Direction—High Support style. Give them a chance to ask questions and share concerns. They know what they are doing. Your job is to draw out and encourage what they already know.

Finally, a person with great cooking skills and a lot of experience preparing holiday meals would be identified as a Self-Reliant Achiever. This person has demonstrated repeatedly that they are an expert at creating a holiday meal. What does this person need? Not too much—they are relatively self sufficient. You can use a Low Direction—Low Support approach with this person and delegate tasks to them with good results. The big challenge for you as a leader with someone at this level? Keeping things fresh and providing opportunities for them to grow. Maybe they can help you brainstorm some backup strategies in case that deep-fried turkey doesn’t work out!

Practice Leadership in All Areas of Your Life

A situational approach to the holidays? No matter what kind of team or project you manage—including a holiday meal—setting clear goals, identifying development level, and providing the right amount of direction and support will always generate the best results.

3 thoughts on “A Situational Approach to that Big Holiday Meal?

  1. Most people don’t realize that studying leadership is studying life. We are all in charge of something at one time or another so it behooves us to be prepared. This was an excellent illustration of just that. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Morrease–thanks for calling out the connection between leadership and all of the different aspects of our lives. It is a much broader topic and includes so many more people than it seems on the surface. Thanks for joining in the conversation!

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