Tag: versatility

6/27/11 “Commitment”

Good day, team.

The subject of commitment keeps coming up in my coaching sessions lately, so I thought I would offer some thoughts on the topic this week.

Many years ago, I participated in a management training called “Situational Leadership.” The course introduced me to the idea that a person’s work life is really made up of two things: commitment and competency. At any given time, in any situation, you can diagnose how well team members are doing based on how committed they are to the work and how competent they are in performing that work. This idea makes sense to me. In coaching others, I can plainly see that, in some cases, people love the work they do and need little or no motivation from their manager to continue doing it.

However, there are some tasks that people don’t enjoy at all, and they often need an extra push from their manager to get them done. When faced with these tasks, people frequently get stuck and their competency decreases. But when doing what they love, the same people sail right through an assignment and even ask for more of that work when they are done.

Consequently, managers need to provide different styles of management depending on what their team members are doing. If a person’s commitment level decreases, he or she probably needs more emotional support. If his or her competency flags, he or she most likely needs more direct instruction.

Through my coaching experience, I have seen how important it is for managers to be versatile in their management styles. The most successful managers first observe how their team members are doing and then use the style that gets the best results for each individual team member in each particular situation. Managers who fail tend to use the same style over and over again and aren’t observant or versatile enough to change how they manage others.

The worst managers judge their team members based on only one or two situations and then label them as being either uncommitted or having low competence, if not both. These managers have difficulty seeing their team members in any other light, and the individual is then doomed to fail. I have heard some managers make comments like, “He’s always so slow in getting stuff done,” or “Why doesn’t he communicate more effectively with others? No matter how many times I try to help him, he just doesn’t get it!” These comments are red flags to me.

I have learned that in the areas of commitment and competency, it’s fairly easy to direct someone to be more competent. If you want someone to use a computer more effectively, you can sit down with them and direct them through step-by-step instructions. But getting a team member to want to learn how to use the computer — or increase their commitment level — is a different matter. Management by support is much more difficult.

Lack of versatility in an individual manager’s style extends to the teams they manage. Most teams tend to take on the personality and behavior characteristics of the person who leads them, so when a manager lacks versatility, the team does also. Eventually, these teams are unable to commit, and ultimately, people disengage. Without an emotional connection to the project or the manager, people lose the energy it takes to get results.

In “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni gives excellent descriptions of teams that fail to commit and those that commit. Here’s what he says:

A team that fails to commit …


Creates ambiguity among the team about direction and priorities

Watches windows of opportunity close because of excessive analysis and unnecessary delay

Breeds lack of confidence and fear of failure

Revisits discussions and decisions again and again

Encourages second-guessing among team members

A team that commits …


Creates clarity around direction and priorities

Aligns the entire team around common objectives

Develops an ability to learn from mistakes

Takes advantage of opportunities before competitors do

Moves forward without hesitation

Changes direction without hesitation or guilt

This week, if you manage others, ask yourself if you’re versatile in your management style. Do you direct people when they need it? Or do you offer them more emotional support when their commitment wanes? Do you know how to diagnose how your people are doing in any given situation? Do you see what’s really challenging them? Do you know when to let them do what they love with only an occasional check in to make sure they’re on track?

Read through what Lencioni says about committed teams and ask yourself in which category your team falls into. If you’ve never taken a management course that gives you more tools for dealing with your team members, sign up for one. We don’t automatically have these skills — we need to learn them.

If you’re not a manager but work for one who continues to use the same style over and over again, try being more clear about what you actually need from him or her. Do you need more clear instruction or do you need some extra encouragement by being told you’re doing a good job once in awhile?

As Lencioni points out, successful managers ensure team commitment by taking steps to maximize clarity and achieve buy-in. Ask yourself this week how committed you are to what you’re doing. If you’re into it, then keep going. If you’re not, find out what you need to do to reconnect to the work within yourself. And if you’re managing others, be versatile enough to see what the team needs to succeed.

Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

4/12/10 “Different Leadership Styles”

Good day, team,

This week, David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, reminded me again how different leadership styles can be successful in his editorial “The Humble Hound.”

We all know typical maverick leaders who aggressively hit for the home run each time: They are aggressive, charismatic and super-confident. But we also know how risky that kind of leadership can be. If you go for the home run every time, you’ll more often strike out; these kinds of leaders often produce volatile corporate results.

In his editorial, Brooks refers to Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great” and “How the Mighty Fall.” In researching his books, Collins found that many of the reliably successful leaders combine “extreme personal humility with intense professional will.”

Brooks calls this kind of leader the humble hound (I appreciate that Brooks refers to the leader as she rather than he in the article).

“She thinks less about her mental strengths than about her weaknesses. She knows her performance slips when she has to handle more than one problem at a time, so she turns off her phone and e-mail while making decisions. She knows she has a bias for caution, so she writes a memo advocating the more daring option before writing another advocating the most safe. She knows she is bad at prediction, so she follows Peter Drucker’s old advice: After each decision, she writes a memo about what she expects to happen. Nine months later, she’ll read it to discover how far off she was.

“In short, she spends a lot of time on metacognition—thinking about her thinking—and then building external scaffolding devices to compensate for her weaknesses.

“She knows the world is too complex and irregular to be known, so life is about navigating uncertainty. She understands she is too quick to grasp at pseudo-objective models and confident projections that give the illusion of control.

“She spends more time seeing than analyzing. Analytic skills differ modestly from person to person, but perceptual skills vary enormously. Anybody can analyze, but the valuable people can pick out the impermanent but crucial elements of a moment or effectively grasp a context. This sort of perception takes modesty; strong personalities distort the information field around them.

“Because of her limitations, she tries to construct thinking teams. In one study, groups and individuals were given a complicated card game. Seventy-five percent of the groups solved it, but only 14 percent of individuals did.

“She tries not to fall for the seductions that Collins says make failing organizations: the belief that one magic move will change everything; the faith in perpetual restructuring; the tendency to replace questions with statements at meetings.”

Brooks refers to the “ethos of stagehands who work behind the scenes. Being out when the applause is ringing doesn’t feel important to them. The important things are the communal work, the contribution to the whole production and the esprit de corps.”

This week, take a look at your leadership style. Are you acting like a lion or a humble hound? Are you quick to change things and expect your team members to always be on their toes by responding with a sense of urgency? Do you pride yourself on having the reputation of being aggressive, daring and self-assured? Are you being overly analytical by challenging everyone’s thinking, including your own, and missing what’s right in front of you in the moment? Would people describe you as humble and patient or as being bullish in your thoughts and actions? When was the last time you said to a subordinate, “I really need your help”?

Whatever type of leader, manager or supervisor you are, try to see the value in being versatile in your leadership style. This week, experiment with different styles. If you usually lead meetings and are often vocal in them, try letting someone else lead the meeting and staying quiet so you can listen. Take Drucker’s suggestion and write down your decisions, reviewing them months later to see how good they turned out to be. Maybe you experiment by being more active and aggressive if you normally are not. It might be a good surprise for people around you to see you behave differently. They will be less apt to make assumptions about who you are if you don’t fit the same picture they’ve already painted of you.

Good leadership requires authenticity and consistency as much as it benefits from versatility in thought and behavior. Try exercising that versatility this week and see what the results turn out to be.

Have a good week.


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.

* The coach will be out of town the weekend of 4/17/10. The next challenge will be sent out 4/27/10.