Situational leadership was first developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey over 25 years ago. This article emphasizes helping managers recognize employees who are at different stages of development, for their efforts and achievements. Situational leadership II advocates that the best managers provide the amount and kind of direction and support which best fits the developmental level of the employee.
Here is an overview of the four development styles that make up Situational Leadership II and the corresponding type of recognition that would be most effective at each level.
Enthusiastic Beginner (D). This is where everyone starts a new job. Already motivated, enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity to do something new, this person needs little support from a manager. However, what the person does need is information about the job – what exactly is needed, how best to approach the task, what a good job looks like, etc. How to recognize: The manager can recognize the enthusiastic beginner by providing specific answers to get them back on track. These novice employees need attention, specific direction and redirection.
Disillusioned Learner (D2). This stage of a job occurs when “the honeymoon is over”. The initial excitement of the job has worn off and some aspects of the job have proven more difficult than originally anticipated. Since the employee is still learning, the difficulties are especially frustrating since they have not yet performed satisfactorily and have little to show for their effort to date. How to recognize: Because they are still learning the job, the manager needs to “catch them doing things right”. Praisings that are sincere and specific as well as time acknowledgements of progress towards the desired goal, reinforce desired performance. The best praisings are done personally, face-to-face with the employee, but written praisings are also effective. And don’t forget to redirect. Get them back on track toward the desired end result.
Capable but Cautious Contributor (D3). Having successfully complete the task only once, has not given the employee enough time to gain confidence in his or her ability. As a result, employees tend to be overly cautious. How to recognize: A manager of an employee in this stage of development needs to provide clear, specific positive recognition to the employee for the achievement of the desired performance. The best methods are often things that have little or no cost (see list).
No-cost ways to recognize employees
- Personal thank you for doing a good job
- Written thanks for doing a good job
- Public praise at staff, department or company meeting
- Reference in company, industry or community publication
- Photo on a “Wall of Fame”
- Designated parking spot
- Time off
- Certificate of appreciation
- Special celebration or lunch
- Appreciation day The manager needs to encourage the individual to repeat the performance and must continue to be available when needed. At the D3 level, recognition for achieving a goal or task is the best form of reinforcement.
Self-reliant achiever (D4). At this stage of development an employee has demonstrated competence and commitment in doing the job and has essentially become self-managed on the given task. How to recognise: High performers need recognition too, or else they may come to feel taken advantaged of, that is, not valued for the contribution they consistently make to the organization. Their needs have shifted so that although they may still appreciate a sincere thank you for a job well done, they are apt to feel even more appreciated if you used a “higher order” incentive. Asking the person to train others on the job they have learned to do so well, granting them more autonomy in their job, providing a chance to select future assignments, involving them in decisions that affect their jobs or increasing their visibility in the organization are all appropriate.
Remember too that the recognition you give a high performer serves a second purpose as well: It sends a message to others in the organization that “this is the type of performance that gets noticed around here.” It also provides an opportunity for high performers to thank others in the organization.
“All behaviour is a function of its consequences.” Managers can harness the power of this statement by providing recognition and rewards to positively reinforce desired behaviour and performance.