Don’t let your style of management suffer from a one-size-fits-all approach. The purpose of your style goes far beyond mere self-expression. When you tailor your technique, it shows you care about the individual needs of your employees.

For a bespoke management style, tap into Dr. Paul Hersey’s Situational Leadership® Model. The concept is simple, although it takes Emotional Intelligence to achieve the best results. Situational Leadership® boils down to two factors regarding your employee and their assigned task. The four possible combinations then drive your behavior as the manager.

The first factor is willingness. How motivated or enthusiastic is your employee about the task at hand? They may not be excited per se, but do they at least seem interested in tackling the project? This is all about attitude. The better your employee’s attitude, the easier your job as a manager will be.

The second factor is ability. Do they know how to do this specific task? Have they done it before? Remember, this isn’t about your employee’s overall job or title. It is about the particular assignment. For example, maybe they’re great with Excel formulas but have no clue how to do a Pivot Table, or they’ve run print ad campaigns for years but never a digital one. These are ability problems.

When you combine the concepts of willingness and ability, there are four possible scenarios. Each warrants a unique management response. Let’s explore the tools you have at your disposal.

1 | Willing and Able

Your employee’s got this one! Your role as a manager is to let them run with it. Resist the urge to micromanage or tell them how to do their job. Be supportive as you observe and monitor their progress. Trust but verify. Then, recognize their achievement in a way that’s meaningful to the employee. Ensure that this high-performing employee remains challenged. Stretch goals and opportunities to learn new skills are two ways to help this employee thrive time and again.

2 | Willing but Unable

Your employee’s heart is in the right place, but they lack the skills to accomplish the assignment. Rather than let them spin their wheels on unproductive work, take the time to provide training. If possible, guide the employee yourself. Not only will they learn an important new skill, but you’ll deepen your relationship by working together. Employees may be embarrassed that they needed your help, so alleviate any anxiety by sharing a time you were in their shoes. Building trust means showing that no one is perfect. Even you.

3 | Unwilling but Able

Now things get a little trickier. Your employee has the necessary skills but lacks the right attitude and motivation. Approaches that involve encouragement, support, collaboration and problem-solving often turn the bad attitude around. Show that you’re willing to jump in to help get things moving and ensure they have the necessary resources. These behaviors are more likely to improve your employee’s attitude. Remember, you’re not expecting excitement and euphoria, just willingness.

4 | Unwilling and Unable

Double whammy! This situation poses two problems. It’s up to you to decide which problem is easier to tackle first—the motivation issue or the training issue. As before, try to provide training yourself. Then, you’ll need your best persuasive hat. Take the time to explain the bigger picture and the goals of the overall project. Why did you choose this employee as the best one for the task? What’s in it for them, short-term or long-term? Be genuine as you build their confidence and reinforce their value to you and the company.

You can also use this framework when you’re on the other side of the coin. Speak up! Let your boss know what you need to ensure the success of the project. Be honest and self-aware about your own motivation (or lack of). Don’t be afraid to admit when an assignment is new for you or that you’d benefit from learning more about the bigger picture. Remember, both can be productive forums for building a better relationship with your boss.

In addition to helping accomplish your team’s goals, these tailored approaches are a great way to infuse positivity into your workplace with elements such as empathy, respect, transparency and collaboration. Remember, the transformation can start with one. Champion these management principles and I’m confident you’ll have more empowered employees who can drive your company forward efficiently and effectively.

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Meg G. Anderson

Founder & Editorial Consultant, Luminary Works

Since the early 2000s, Meg has been passionate about helping brands spread their mission and market their expertise through a variety of career hats, including copywriting, web design, project management, and internal communications. She founded Luminary Works in 2016 to help small, medium, and family businesses create stories worth telling and messages worth sharing. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their dog, Howard.

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