Sunday, March 24, 2013

it's all situational

Just last week I was certified in Ken Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model (II), which basically helps leaders determine where their direct reports fall on an intersecting continuum of commitment and competence.  Then, depending on where those followers fall, the leader flexes his or her style to meet the followers where they are.

The picture below helps describe this.  The D1-D4 section at the bottom relates to the follower's commitment ("will do") and competence ("can do") and the four-box at the top relates to how the leader should interact with the follower based on his or her "D" status.  You can see that if the person is a D1, the leader should use Style S1, which involves a lot of telling, directing, and "high-directive, low-supportive behavior."

It's a great model, and what I've given you is a two paragraph overview of something much more complex (and if you'd like to know more about it, email me, I'm happy to discuss) but it got me thinking:  isn't every successful interaction situational?  Aren't we always flexing ourselves to try and meet someone else where he or she is in the moment, or at least where we think he or she is at the moment?  (And if not, should we be?)

For an easy example, think about trying to figure out the best way to convince someone to see things your way.  You know you're short on time and you want to be most effective, so your two axes this time become "interaction preference" and "time":
If you're trying to convince an introvert with no time, you'd probably be more successful writing bullet points for him/her to read over than if you try to sit down and talk things through.  Similarly, if you've got an extravert with plenty of time, do it over lunch and chit chat about all the reasons it's a good idea.  An introvert with plenty of time could be given something to read or have a one-on-one discussion with time to process.  An extravert with no time might need a quick conversation outlining the major benefits.

I'm not saying this model (which I just invented) is backed with the kind of research Blanchard's is.  It's not.  And, hell, I'm willing to be wrong about what I've suggested would be successful.  But you can see my point:  how taking someone else's preferences into account can help you be more successful in whatever it is you're trying to accomplish.  However, it's making a pretty big assumption you know what the other person's preferences are.

Another example could be trying to teach adults -- do they want to absorb or do?  Do they have great knowledge or little?
Again, if I've got visual/auditory learners who know a lot, I can show them pictures and have a dialogue with them, whereas if I've got kinesthetic learners who don't know much, I need to give them an experience with whatever it is I want them to learn.

But again, I'm assuming I know what the other person's preferences are.  Where this starts to get a little wonky -- and yet, it still holds true that we flex ourselves in these situations -- is in dating.  The four-box in dating would be on the continuum of how much "he likes me" and "I like him."

If you're in the red box (he doesn't like me, I like him), you're going to behave very differently and treat him very differently than you would if you were in the orange box (he likes me, I don't like him).  The same thing is true if you're in the green box vs. the blue one.

The question here, though, is which box yields the most authentic behavior, and which one is the most "successful"?  Sadly, I have no suggestions for how to behave in each box of this "date-uational model."  I'm simply pointing out the fact that when there is something we want from another person, we're well-served to look for signs of where that person might be and try to meet him or her there.

So what can you do to try to meet someone where he or she is?  First observe their behavior and try to meet them where they are.  And, if you need to, ask questions.  (Though you may get mixed results with this one if you ask your date "where on the continuum from 'he doesn't like me' to 'he likes me' do you think you fall right now?")  Pay attention to the other person.  And be willing to admit that your approach is not the only one that works.

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