When a person is in the earliest stage of learning a new task or working toward a new goal, even though they may be excited about starting the work, they typically lack knowledge on how and where to begin. An effective SLII® leader knows that this individual requires a Directive leadership style. One of the specific directive leadership behaviors for supporting someone at this stage of development is developing an action plan for the direct report to follow.
As I’ve suggested in previous posts, other directive SLII® micro skills include leadership behaviors such as setting SMART goals, showing and telling how, establishing timelines, identifying priorities, and clarifying roles. These are actions that shape and control what, how, and when things are done. SLII® leaders call on these directive skills when direct reports are in the first stages of learning a new task or working on a goal—when their competence is relatively low and they need specific direction.
Developing an action plan follows the assigning of a goal or a task. When a direct report is low or very low on competence regarding the goal or task, they need to know more than just how to do it—they also need to know that their leader will be there for them if they need help. To that end, as an SLII® leader, you will ensure the person understands the goal or task and what a good job looks like. You will then lay out a step-by-step plan showing how the work is to be accomplished. In other words, you will not only pass out the test, you will teach them the answers!
Without a clear plan, there is no real focus. And without focus, your direct report might be working hard—but not smart. It’s as if you are forcing them to move forward with a blindfold on. They won’t be able to see the big picture. Ultimately, this will create extra work in the long run for both of you.
To paraphrase a well-known adage, when you take the time to plan the work, your team member will be better able to work the plan. An effective action plan allows the direct report to be proactive at making continuous progress toward the end goal instead of being reactive when issues come up along the way that slow them down. They will save time, be more focused, and avoid many pitfalls along the way. Most important, they will feel supported by their leader. And after all, what is your goal as an SLII® leader? To help your people achieve their goals.
I’m not done with SLII® micro skills yet! Watch this space—there are more to come!