This blog is the second in a three-part series on “How Managers Add Value.” The first focused on a manager’s role in helping others build task-specific competence.

“Net – Net” competence, operationally defined as task-specific knowledge, experience and skill, increases over time at what could be referred to as a methodical pace. All other things being equal, it takes time to develop performance-related competence. The good news? Once you have a high level of competence, it stays with you.

Conversely, willingness is operationally defined as task-specific confidence, commitment and motivation. And while all three subsets of willingness are important, we would suggest confidence is the most critical component a manager needs to consider when an individual is learning to perform a task for the first time.

It’s not that the person in question doesn’t value the outcome of the task or isn’t motivated and committed to the process. It is simply that when many of us are asked to do something we have never done before, our insecurity takes over.

By providing much-needed alignment (i.e., guidance or direction on what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, etc.), the manager gets development on track. As a result, the individual needs to follow the instructions that are being provided. Responsibility for outcomes achieved (or mistakes made) reside with the manager. Beyond that, the manager has set the stage for incremental progress and opportunities for reinforcement. The resultant effect of that dynamic is increased safety. Insecurity gives way to confidence and commitment/motivation to engage in performance of the task emerges as the strongest felt need.

Developing Task Specific Confidence

As the manager begins to transition from alignment to enhancement, their approach needs to be characterized more by discussion and positive reinforcement and less by structure and close supervision. As individuals approach the R2-to-R3* transition, as depicted above, they typically demonstrate a level of task-related proficiency that suggests they understand. It is not uncommon at this juncture for insecurity to re-emerge. The source of insecurity at this interval is a function of the level of comfort the individual has developed having the manager in close proximity. For those that have been there, it is the transition all pilots experience when it comes time for their first solo flight, or that facilitators face the first time they are scheduled to deliver a program without a more experienced master trainer in the back of the room.

Ironically, the internal voice for the R3 registers warning signals that bear drastic similarity to the R1:

• “There is no way I am ready for this”

• “I cannot believe my manager is seriously considering sending me out there on my own”

The truth of the matter is that listening to the individual passing through R3 on their way to R4 is every bit as important as providing direction and structure for the R1. Enhancing the development of others is characterized by open-ended questions, active listening, support and problem solving. When individuals complete a few “solo flights” and recognize their own comparative readiness to perform the task in question, the single biggest stroke they can receive is autonomy based on the fact that they have mastered the nuances of task performance.

Insecurity is a predictable dynamic most of us need to work our way through when we are learning something for the first time. The manager can accelerate that progress by providing structure during alignment and support during enhancement.

*R1 – R4 is descriptive terminology pertaining to the Situational Leadership® Model.  In particular, it is used to designate different levels of Performance Readiness® (i.e. levels of Ability and Willingness) to perform a specific task.

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