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This is part three of my story of employee engagement at LifeSearch – an organisation that knows it’s why (see part 2) and uses situational leadership to enable people to do the what. This series of blogs are exploring what we can all learn to benefit from employee engagement. Quotes are from Anthony Andreoli, Adviser and Protection Specialist, Duncan McMillan, L&D Manager.

“Our job in L&D is to develop and manage people to know why and what they are doing.” (Duncan). To release the true potential in all people, we need to develop them, and recognise their competence to do the job, and their willingness to commit. Willingness encompasses our motivation and confidence.

I’ll let Anthony talk through his development from a new starter to now. This is a very special story. I have used my twist on Situational Leadership as that is what came to mind:

Quadrant 1 – Can’t and Won’t (the new starter) in Situational Leadership

Anthony talked of the clearest pathway he’d had in learning the job.

“There’s a huge amount to learn – the IT systems, the culture, the processes, relationship selling, the legal side of the work, what good means, what bad means etc.”, he said.

“The difference at LifeSearch was having a clear 6 month task and development plan. I was told what my targets were, how feedback would be given, what performance reviews are meant to achieve (a monthly meeting to ascertain each member of staff’s specific needs) and how I would be empowered to do the job ‘how’ I wanted to do it.”.

I asked ‘Empowered? What, straight away?’ and Anthony went on. “No. To begin with, you have a mixture of training and 1 to 1 coaching where each call is monitored to check you are doing things right. The immediate feedback is key to speeding up our performance”. Regular feedback on performance is key “Each new person knows exactly what the standard of doing it correctly is. I have never felt development as personally useful. We were told not to expect much for the first four months and they were right – it’s about relationships. It helps to know you are being managed by an expert who is working for experts.”

Quadrant 3 – Will but Can’t

Here, an individual’s willingness has increased, yet they still have a lot to learn to have high competence in a task. The Management style changes in situational leadership to training or coaching the individual to gain the knowledge, skills and experience to do the task.

Anthony described the change from being told to being asked – a coaching style of managing people.

“Yes, it was subtle, but there was a change early on.” Anthony goes on “For instance, I remember starting to use the same questions when I was attempting to close a sale and my coach, instead of telling me what to say, asked me ‘What would have been a good question to ask at this point?’.”

I asked Anthony what the effect of this was. “Well, my confidence was high, because the feedback was praise, and the questions were to make me think about the implications of what I was asking clients. It helped my understanding of the legal side of my work, and improved my sales techniques. I remember once being asked to say something different. It was weird, but I was actually set the goal to ask a question that wasn’t natural for me to ask. It really increased my results so my competence increased.”.

 Quadrant 4 – Can and Will

So now Anthony can and will. And he did. He talked of “smashing” his sales targets, gaining his place at the company convention because of being in the top 20 performers in the company, and being the first person to get 100% ‘Quality Street’ goals 3 times in a row.

He talked of feeling “in control of {my} own destiny, and that reflected in my pay packet. For someone who comes from a long line of self-employed family, it was as empowering as owning your own business.”

But then…

Quadrant 2 – Can but Won’t

Anthony was deeply affected by the death of his step father, Malcolm, who was like his real Dad. When Malcolm died, Anthony found his Willingness to commit had gone. “It was a fog…so much pain…incredible confusion. I couldn’t perform, yet I have a job.”.

Each month Anthony and his Boss discussed the slump in sales figures. The focus of the meeting was on feelings, although the reality of the business need was also discussed.

Anthony was tearful thinking about himself at this stage of his time in the company. He was in the early stages of loss, and the grief was huge. “Looking back now, my Boss was great – he gave me time to talk about feelings, and believe me, I had some VERY bad days.” Anthony continues “I remember him asking me ‘Would you prefer me to tell the others you’re having a bad day?’ and his caring questions, such as ‘How are you feeling today?’ – you, know – really wanting to hear my story?”.

“Life can be crap, we all know that” Anthony continues, and this was the time when LifeSearch was supportive. Often, I find people give their all, and their organisation will let down when their people most need support.

Anthony found the adult communication style – using the facts – helped him during this time. “It’s weird. You might be in emotional meltdown, yet you are still aware of the facts. I knew I wasn’t hitting targets and burying my head wasn’t an option. My Manager told me it straight – ‘You’re doing the same things, Anthony, but you’ve lost your edge. You do realise you’re in Performance Management territory, don’t you?’.”.

And this constant communication, feedback and performance plan has enabled Anthony to keep his job, match his targets and win conference places through excellent sales.

This is powerful. I hope you felt as moved as I did by Anthony’s story. Too many companies develop people in what to do, however we could focus people on why and the what follows. LifeSearch develops true leaders – people who know why they do what they do, and leaders who enable their people in what they do.

In part four I cover the Leading people– the LifeSearch way – the secret to employee engagement.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss how situational leadership can help your Managers coach, lead and Manage effectively.



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