Articles

Matching Leadership Action To Employee Contribution

August 15, 2016 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

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Implementing the Legitimate Leadership Model requires nothing less than an inversion of the line of service from “up” to “down” the line. It necessitates cultivating relationships which are subordinate centred, where the primary concern for those in authority is what they can “give” to their people, rather than what they can “get” out of them.

Practically speaking, there are seven “gives” that can be made by a leader at any point in time. What Legitimate Leadership calls the 7 Possibilities are shown below.

THE SEVEN POSSIBILITIES
1.     Care
  • Get to know.
  • Listen.
  • Concern for personal issues.
2.     Means
  • Provide tools/resources.
  • Provide enabling systems/processes.
  • Clarify expectations (goals and standards).
  • Balanced workload/utilisation.
  • Hand over decision-making authority.
  • Provide information on performance.
  • Spend time/give support.
3.     Ability
  • Train/develop (formal).
  • Coach.
  • Explain the “why”.
  • Development/future discussion.
  • Recast.
4.     Praise
5.     Reward
6.     Censure
7.     Discipline

But the question arises: which of the possibilities are appropriate? Most obviously, what the leader “gives” must be what the person needs, not necessarily what he/she wants. What the person needs, moreover, can only be ascertained by “watching the game”. In addition to the above guidelines, Legitimate Leadership has recently developed a simple template, The Employee Contribution Leadership Action Matrix, to assist leaders to determine what they should “give”.

The starting point is to ask the leader to assign each of his/her direct reports to one of the following four categories.

CATEGORY DEFINITION
1.     Disconnect Person is performing or contributing significantly below standard in the role either due to deliberate malevolence, lack of capability, or a mismatch in terms of what is important/motivating to him/her and what the role provides.
2.     Coachable/Rescuable Person is performing or contributing below standard. This is because he/she is “new” in the role or is no longer performing to the required standard due to a lack of means/ability/accountability.
3.     Solid Citizen Person is performing the role to the required standard. He/she is an average or acceptable contributor.
4.     Superstar Person is performing significantly above standard in the role. He/she is an excellent or exceptional contributor.

Admittedly, assigning employees to categories is not something that managers are not practised at doing. They typically do so as part of the annual performance review process although the scale may be different; 1-5, for example, with either a 1 or a 5 denoting exceptional performance.

The four categories (Disconnect/Growable or Rescuable/ Solid Citizen/Superstar) are different from an annual performance rating however in three critical ways.

  1. The assigning of an employee to a category is not an annual event. It can be done at any time and should definitely be done more frequently than once per year.
  2. The category in which the employee is placed is not fixed. A Superstar (4) can get a promotion and become a Coachable/Rescuable (2). Someone who is a Disconnect (1) can become a Solid Citizen (3) when he/she is moved into a role which better matches his/her capabilities or motives.
  3. The purpose of the four categories is different. Their purpose is not to fairly reward employees by means of an increment or bonus. Rather, the purpose of the categories is to grow leaders .In other words the four categories say more about the leader than they do about the leader’s direct reports because which categories employees are in are a reflection of the way in which they are being led.

 EMPLOYEE CONTRIBUTION / LEADERSHIP ACTION MATRIX

    CATEGORY     APPROPRIATE LEADERSHIP ACTION
    1. Disconnect
  • In the case of deliberate malevolence, confront the person with his/her malevolence or sanction/discipline him/her.
  • In the case of a lack of capability or person-role mismatch, remove from the role – re-deploy, recast or retrench.
    2. Coachable/Rescuable
  • In the case of the person “new” to the role, give the person the means and ability to reach the required standard.
  • In the case of the person who previously performed the role to the required standard, establish the “why?” Depending on whether the “why” is a means/ability/accountability reason(s), the appropriate remedial action needs to be taken.
    3. Solid Citizen
  • In the first instance, recognise/praise the person for his/her contribution.
  • Decide by “watching the game” what the person needs to maintain his/her current level of contribution or to raise his/her contribution to a higher level. What is needed could be one or more of the possible leadership actions in the categories of Care, Means and Ability.
    4. Superstar
  • Reward/give tangible positive consequences to demonstrate gratitude for the person consistently going the extra mile.
  •  Have a development discussion which is both motivating and empowering for the person. Encourage the person to take appropriate action based on their understanding of their motives and options open to them.

The four categories can be used to grow leaders in two ways, as follows:

  • They can provide leaders with a steer with respect to what the appropriate leadership action is with a direct report at a point in time.
  • The four categories can even more importantly provide the manager with a very useful coaching and accountability tool. The actual Employee Contribution Leadership Action Matrix can be used during a review discussion between a leader and a direct report who is himself/herself in a leadership role. It allows a manager of managers to go beyond asking “so how are you doing in terms of caring and growing your people?” to ask some very focused questions regarding the manager’s Legitimate Leadership role. Such as:
    • Three months ago you said that Person A needed to be recast into another role. Why is it that the person is still here?
    • What have you done to accelerate the progress of that young and inexperienced team member?
    • When did you last recognise Person B for his contribution?

It is true that any leader is dealt a pack of cards. But thereafter it is the leader’s job to change his/her people. In other words, it is fine for a leader to have the same people as a year ago but not to have the same people the same.

Wendy Lambourne
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