“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu
Done well, performance management is a partnership where managers and direct reports work together to set goals, work through challenges, and celebrate accomplishments. A leader provides increased direction when a person is new to a task, extra support when they are learning, and gradual autonomy as they become skilled and experienced.
A short 3-minute video just released by The Ken Blanchard Companies shares that this idea is much easier in theory than it is in practice. Drawing on the Blanchard Companies’ experience of working with hundreds of thousands of leaders over a 30-year period, the video identifies that 54 percent of leaders use only one style with all members of their team—regardless of an individual’s demonstrated competence and commitment on a task.
As a result, these leaders are very visible to the impacted direct report, who either experiences a micromanaging leader who provides too much direction on tasks where the person is competent or an absentee leader who is never around when challenges come up on tasks where the person is inexperienced.
When asked how they feel as a result of being either oversupervised or undersupervised, people say they are angry, disappointed, frustrated, sometimes overwhelmed, confused, resentful — reactions that can get in the way of someone showing up as the best contributor they can be.
The Blanchard video makes the case that a good leader is able to accurately diagnose a team member’s needs for direction and support and then apply the right leadership style for that person, in that moment, on that specific goal or task.
It’s a good thing to be front and center in the minds of your employees during those times when they are unfamiliar with a task and need extra direction and support. But it’s also a good thing to be able to fade into the background and give people autonomy when they have earned it by showing competence at a task. It’s great way to help people grow and develop in a self-directed, satisfying, and enduring manner.
Know when your people need you to be in the spotlight with them—and when it’s best to take a step back and let them shine on their own.