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Using SLII® Style Conversations to Align Leaders and Employees

As discussed in our previous blogs, Situational Leadership® II is a widely-used leadership model that gives leaders a framework for adapting their leadership style to the needs of individual employees. The basic premise is that leaders shouldn’t use a single style of leadership and expect the best results. Every person on your team is an individual with different experiences, skills set and motivation, and they need individually tailored leadership in order to thrive.

That doesn’t mean that you need to be a completely different person with different employees. It means that to improve workplace leadership, you need to communicate with the members of your team on an individual basis to figure out which of your leadership behaviors will be most helpful to them with regard to specific goals.

According to one study of 400 companies with over 100,000 employees each, inadequate communication to and between employees costs each company an average of $62.4 million every year. SLII® works to correct this situation by integrating conversation into every aspect of the leadership process.

Alignment Conversations

This is where the process begins, with leader-led conversations aimed at setting SMART goals for the employee. These conversations should be leader-led to help ensure that the leader can set the business priorities he or she needs to, but they should still be conversations. That means that the employee should have a clear opportunity to ask questions and express any concerns or hesitations.

Style Conversations

These are the conversations that should occur once a task has been assigned and the employee’s development level has been determined by the leader.

Style 1 (S1) – Directing

An S1 conversation usually occurs with an employee who is an enthusiastic beginner. This employee is learning on the job, and is excited to grow in their career. Therefore, the intention of S1 conversations is to help the employee build their competence with regard to the task at hand. That could mean giving instruction, going over work together to address errors and confirm when things are done right, and making oneself available for frequent questions and support.

Style 2 (S2) – Coaching

The disillusioned learner may have some competency, but they’re motivation or enthusiasm may be diminished because the task or goal is more difficult than they anticipated or they’re confused with what they need to do. S2 conversations should involve a high level of direction and motivation. The goal of these conversations is both to teach new skills and re-energize the employee. The leader should make themselves available for problem solving and talk out any concerns or frustrations that the employee may have.

Style 3 (S3) – Supporting

A capable but cautious contributor may have completed a given task before or been properly trained on how to proceed, but they’re uncertain of their own skill. These employees need support more than anything else to show them that they can take charge and get things done. The goal of S3 conversations is to build confidence and competence by listening, asking open-ended questions, and asking for input about how the employee thinks the task should proceed.

Style 4 (S4) – Delegating

When working with a self-reliant achiever, the goal of the leader should be to get out of the way to avoid micro-managing the employee and, thus, demotivating them. S4 conversations should show that the leader values the contributions of the employee and believes in their abilities.

One on One Conversations

These conversations should be led by the employee. They are an opportunity for the leader to get feedback on how their leadership is working and what they could be doing better. Such a conversation might occur when a leader checks in with an employee about their current project.

For more suggestions on how to improve workplace communication, take a look at this article in Forbes about the costs of poor communication.

About Joy Ruhmann
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