Operational Leadership: Better Conversations Are the Key

Good operational leadership is a consistent process of providing clear goals, coaching, and review to make sure people are clear about their tasks, have the direction and support they need to succeed, and get feedback on how they are doing along the way. But the results of a Blanchard survey suggest that leaders are falling short in this critical area.

A survey of 450 human resource and talent management professionals by Training magazine and The Ken Blanchard Companies found gaps of 24–39 percent between what employees wanted from their leaders and what they were experiencing in 10 key areas.

Performance management is a key leadership responsibility. This survey suggests that significant gaps exist between employee expectations and what they are experiencing at work. And research shows that left unaddressed, these gaps represent a drain on overall organizational vitality through lowered employee intentions to stay, endorse, and apply discretionary effort as needed.

Better Communication Is the Key

For leadership development professionals, these survey results point to the need for including workplace communication skills as a key part of any leadership curriculum. For example, in Blanchard’s First-time Manager program new leaders are taught four key conversations:

Goal Setting: All good performance begins with clear goals. New managers usually prefer to be seen as supportive and try to avoid appearing overly directive—but that approach can backfire as soon as the first project deadlines are in jeopardy or performance standards aren’t being met. Being skilled at goal setting helps people start off on the right foot.

Praising: Ask some people how they know they are doing a good job and they will say, “No one yelled at me today.” Don’t make the mistake of not noticing. Are managers taking the time to catch people doing things right by calling out a team member’s specific behavior and the positive impact it had when they do things right?

Redirecting: When managers are not skilled at redirecting, they tend to be either unduly critical or so vague that the direct report walks away not sure what to do next. Do managers know how to use open ended inquiry questions to get the other person to talk about what is happening and ways to get back on track? Redirecting conversations are best when the direct report is doing most of the talking.

Wrapping Up: Are managers providing feedback on a frequent and consistent basis? A wrapping up conversation allows managers to measure success, review performance, and keep things moving forward. This is not a once-a-year conversation—it has to happen after the completion of each task or project if you want good results.

ATD Operational Leadership Video Image

A renewed focus on improving workplace communication can have significant results on the performance of an organization. How’s the everyday leadership in your organization? Strong operational leadership with a focus on better communication is the key.

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