You may have already heard me refer to the Goldilocks Principle (See Goldilocks and the Different Authority Levels). In this article, I apply the principle to your natural leadership style and your ability to access the many different parts of yourself. It’s those parts that make up your beautiful whole. Understanding and harnessing those parts make for flexible leaders who can play to both ends of the behavioural spectrum…
…And of course, work towards getting it ‘just right’.
Not too hot and not too cold.
Not too hard and not too soft.
Once upon a time, there was a man named Tom. Tom was just a wonderful human being full stop! Everybody loved him and Tom loved everybody, a real pleaser. He was a fundraiser for a major charity and always found enormous meaning in his work.
But Tom had a problem, a big problem.
Although he had a team, he was doing most of the heavy lifting. He was the one following up with calls, the only one going to events in his own time and the only one sending thankyous.
Now, don’t get me wrong he was also the highest revenue earner. But he was spent, he’d had it – buggered!
The organisation allocated him a coach to “toughen up”. And boy did he toughen up. Even to the point of telling people they were taking advantage of him, they were underperforming, and not committed.
And how did that work out for Tom?
He “pissed off” most of his team, felt inauthentic and was miserable all at the same time.
In a kingdom not too far away, worked Gerry. Gerry was one hell of a hard-nose. Took no prisoners. She was ruthless in her feedback and very quick to let people go. Gerry was a real pusher.
And that was the problem, people just kept coming and going. Her department needed a revolving door. Management loved her “strategic smarts” so they wanted to keep her but, with new hires costing almost 3 to 4 times their salary, at what cost?
So, what happened next?
Well, Gerry, also got a coach to (from her boss’ perspective) get better at the “touchy, feely stuff”.
And guess what? She did. Not only that, she also accessed some of the grief about her dad’s death which she had pushed down for years. It turns out, her dad was just as tough on her as she is on others.
So, was it happily ever after for Gerry? Not quite.
You see, Gerry became a bit of a pushover, and whether intentionally or not, people started taking advantage of her.
A Pattern Emerges
I see these patterns again and again in my coaching. Leaders feel that they must change their natural leadership style, so they go to extremes, from too soft to too tough. Or too tough to too soft. And back again.
Obviously, it’s important to be able to go to the extremes when necessary but all this ping-ponging will leave a team unsure how to deal with a leader.
What would Goldilocks do?
Goldilocks would learn how to walk the middle path. Not too hot, not too cold, not too soft, not too hard.
For Tom and Gerry, this would mean “tough love”. For Tom specifically, it might mean emphasising to some of his team that “you’re okay, your behaviour is not” and getting clear on expectations. For Gerry, it’s not about backing away from her high standards. It’s having the high standards AND remembering to access her love, kindness and compassion.
In the negotiation training from the bestselling book Getting to Yes by William Ury and Roger Fisher, they call it being hard on the issue and soft on the person.
I heard the best example of this recently. It came from Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee) the American entrepreneur and internet personality. He calls it “Kind Candour” and he believes it’s the one thing that was missing from his leadership. That once he practised Kind Candour, it put him into another orbit.
How can you get it just right with your people?
Your job as a leader is to create other leaders around you. It means leaving people, places, and projects better than when you found them. It means taking full responsibility for the next step and always be looking for possibilities.
On a side note, you can do all this from any chair in an organisation. Being a leader doesn’t just mean that you have direct reports.
So, how do you do this?
In our coaching, we encourage our clients to work towards simultaneously challenging and supporting their people. Adjusting towards that “just right” while still maintaining the strengths that come with their natural leadership style.
The matrix below highlights four different styles that come from varying levels of SUPPORT and CHALLENGE.
You can have HIGH SUPPORT and LOW CHALLENGE like Tom who, whether he liked it or not, was the “Protector” of his people.
Or you can go to the other extreme, HIGH CHALLENGE and LOW SUPPORT and be a “Dominator” just like Gerry.
And of course, you can cop out altogether, with LOW SUPPORT and LOW CHALLENGE, becoming the “Abdicator” and renouncing your leaders’ responsibilities.
And of course, best of all, you can have the capacity to offer tough love: both HIGH SUPPORT and HIGH CHALLENGE. This way you become a “Liberator” of your people’s talent and potential.
So, for Tom, it’s not about diminishing his supportive and caring nature. He just needs to ADD more CHALLENGE.
For Gerry, coaching the CHALLENGE out of her is the last thing she needs! She just needs coaching on how to ADD more SUPPORT to her managerial mix.
How about you?
Have a think about:
- What’s your natural leadership style? Which quadrant are you currently operating from?
- What about the leaders that may report to you?
But a Model is Nothing without Behavioural Change
One of the most effective ways we’ve found to get leaders operating as “Liberators” with their people, is through coaching them on the “Aware Ego Process”.
Raising their awareness of the many parts of their personalities and therefore their leadership.
There’s a tough part.
There’s a loving part.
There are, in fact, literally 100’s of parts.
The ability to be aware of these parts and call on them when needed is vital. Calling on them at will, at different levels of intensity for whatever the situation requires, is often a breakthrough for clients.
This “Aware Ego Process” allows you to make conscious choices, rather than unconsciously reacting with the same old patterns.
Your relationships with everyone will improve. At home, with your boss, your team, and your peers.
You’ll feel lighter, you’ll have more energy, saving you emotional drama, heartache, time, and even money.
And often your result will undergo a massive improvement as well.
Here’s some feedback from Stuart Grainger, a leader I greatly admire. At the time of coaching, Stuart was heading up Don KRC, a division of George Weston Foods. He then went on to become CEO of George Weston Foods. After steering the ship for over six years, he will soon pass the baton on. Stuart knows the real job of the leader is to develop other leaders around them and he has done this brilliantly.
Transformational Leadership Coaching
If you want to be a more inspirational leader, who can access all parts of yourself, coaching with the human enterprise will get you to “just right”.
Until Next time…
Find the passion.
Develop the skills.
Make the numbers.
Make a difference.
Paul Mitchell (@Paul_S_Mitchell) is a speaker, author, transformational leadership coach and founder of the human enterprise. Through leadership coaching, leadership development programmes, keynotes and facilitation, Paul works with organisations to build cultures where everybody leads.
PS. Not sure what sort of coach you’re looking for? Download the 7 Different Types of Coaches Guide to gain clarity on what type of coach is right for you.