Event 1: Increasing an Employee’s Maturity
The Event and Theory Description
A female employee in our organization is currently overseeing a team of seven people in the customer service department. Because of her excellent performance, I was willing to offer her a new position that involved handling and being responsible for the whole ladies department and a total of twenty-five workers. However, I took time to carefully consider the situation because of the risk involved in jumping from governing a department of seven to one having twenty-five people. The idea included dealing with some doubts, particularly about the employee’s readiness and ability to manage the increased responsibility.
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The leadership approach selected for the situation was Hersey’s and Blanchard’s Situational (Contingency) Theory, introduced in 1969 (“Hersey–Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory”). This view presents four leadership styles that depend on the leader’s maturity, skills and knowledge, and circumstances: telling, selling, participating, and delegating. Corresponding to these four styles are four levels of employee maturity: M1 (unable, not confident), M2 (unable, willing, confident), M3 (able, unwilling, not confident), and M4 (able, willing, confident).
Based on these definitions, our employee fell between the M3 and M4 maturity levels: she had the necessary skills to manage a small group of employees, but we were not sure whether she could handle a bigger team. Thus, the leadership styles to be employed in the case involved selling, participating, and delegating.
The employee was successful in her position, and her commitment level was high. She had an effective approach to management and produced good results. Nevertheless, I was worried about some aspects of her work; for example, I noticed that she was likely to become stressed when she had to cover for someone on personal leave. In addition, she sometimes panicked when something went wrong, a response that is unacceptable in a good leader.
Convinced that she needed to develop more maturity and self-confidence, I chose to employ a combination of Hersey’s and Blanchard’s selling, participation, and delegation styles of leadership. To start, I decided to sell that manager the new position. In other words, I prepared her for the idea of managing the whole department. In the interest of caution, we decided together to implement a three-month plan for her gradual movement to the new position.
The first alteration involved letting her manage a telesales department of five so that together with her department of seven, she would have twelve subordinates. However, she was not to have total management responsibility. Rather, she would shadow the existing team leader in order to understand how he tackled his day-to-day duties and how he solved the problems that appeared during work hours.
She was left alone at times in both departments so that we could see how she was coping. On such days, we were particularly attentive and cautious, always ready to come to the rescue. However, she maintained calm and tried to resolve any issues that arose without our involvement. Only once, when a serious software problem arose, did she ask for additional support since she could not deal with that case by herself. Allowing those several days of total management comprised the first case of delegating, which she handled well.
The second instance of delegation took place halfway through the three-month trial period. The employee was under my constant monitoring, and I noted consistent progress in her performance. As she had the ability to build strong relations with team members, I asked the existing team leader to delegate to her a new task and shadow her. The assignment was time-consuming, requiring her to stay longer hours, but she was not stressed. At that point, I realized that our plan was working, and she was a suitable candidate for the position.
Toward the end of the three-month period, I created another challenge for the employee, asking her to carry out a workflow analysis to link both teams so that I could be sure she was able to see the big picture. In addition, I wanted to know whether she could use resources between departments to compensate for any shortage of power or skills in the future. Once again, she coped with the task excellently, and I could see that I had no further reason for hesitation.
Outcome and Conclusion
In the beginning, the employee was able but not ready for the anticipated movement. Thus, I decided to solve the problem by increasing her participation and gradually delegating more responsibilities to her. It became clear after the three-month trial that the decision was wise and justified. Had she been given the new task directly, she might have lost control. Instead, the gradual movement in the form of delegating a series of additional responsibilities over time helped her to gain more confidence and understand the resources and skills available in her team. Within a couple of months, I could see that she was managing the department competently and exhibiting superior performance.
As a result, I decided to employ Hersey’s and Blanchard’s Situational (Contingency) Theory with other high-flyers in the company, moving them progressively to new responsibilities and giving them enough time to accommodate and cope with any uncertainty.
Event 2: Mitigating Groupthink
The Event and Theory Description
Our organization was established a year ago, and the task force team was formed at that time. In the beginning, team members performed well, formulating excellent ideas and solutions. However, as time passed, the employees became more friends than colleagues. They seemed to agree on every suggestion, and no one questioned the ideas proposed by the team leader. In short, they exhibited typical symptoms of groupthink, a concept introduced and described by Janis in 1972 (Cherry). At one group meeting I attended, I observed that one employee was dissatisfied with the final decision, but he did not say a word.
This was an example of the “self-censorship” problem, meaning that the man was afraid to utter his opinion because he was not sure how others would accept it (Cherry). I also saw that the leader of the group was noticeably self-assured. He did not realize the risks of some solutions because of “illusions of invulnerability” (Cherry). The situation was getting out of control; thus, I decided to employ Tuckman’s “forming, storming, norming, and performing” approach, presented in 1965 (“Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing”).
It appeared difficult to convince the task force team that their opinions were not the only right ones and that they were not invulnerable. I attended a few more of their meetings to observe the situation. Then, I followed up by making personal appointments with each member of the team. Talking tête-á-tête, the employees expressed different reactions. Some did not understand my concern and responded that their team was fantastic.
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Others, however, acknowledged that their fears had not been letting them express their real opinions for quite a long time. Two team members revealed that the leader had placed direct pressure on them when they had tried to pose questions or contradict his ideas. I realized that failure to take serious measures not only presented the risk of losing the team but had the potential to undermine the image of the whole organization.
My first step prior to implementing changes was to analyze the situation as a whole. I singled out the team’s symptoms of groupthink as follows: “illusions of invulnerability,” “stereotyping,” “illusions of unanimity,” “direct pressure,” “self-censorship,” and “unquestioned beliefs” (Cherry). In order to make the team more productive and to eliminate groupthink, I decided to employ Tuckman’s stages in the process of investigation.
It was clear that over the past months, the team had passed through the forming, storming, and norming stages (“Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing”). However, the performing phase had been neglected. Team members stopped producing unique ideas, and worse, they failed to notice the change. As a result of this analysis, I decided that the fifth stage, adjourning, should be put into action. A fifth item was later added to the classification: mourning (“Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing”).
At first, I did not suggest anything that could imply adjourning. My initial proposal was to add several new professionals to the team. This “fresh blood” would not conform to the unanimity principle and would present new ideas without fear of pressure from others. In addition, the newcomers played the role of “devil’s advocate” in the group. The second step was to add a few younger people to the team as youth lends itself to being more open-minded and willing to ask questions. The presence of young members in the group was intended to ignite everyone’s interest in discussion and seeking solutions.
Finally, the phase of adjourning was realized in transferring several passive employees who did not seem to express interest in the mission of the team. As Tuckman remarks, this stage may be painful for employees who easily become attached to people or who like routine (“Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing”). Some may even take significant changes in the work process personally. However, I saw danger in such attachments since they had already caused poor performance in the group. Therefore, I moved those people to other positions that did not require much creativity or making collaborative decisions.
Outcome and Conclusion
As a result of the implemented changes, the team’s productivity increased significantly. New members expressed fresh opinions and drew older members into animated discussions. We even won an important project due to the team’s innovative ideas. This situation taught me that even in the most successful teams, problems are possible. It is the duty of the leader to identify those problems and minimize their negative effect.
I do not think I would have done anything differently had I had another chance, and my decisions led to a positive resolution of the issue. I believe that every leader should evaluate performance from time to time to be able to identify adverse trends and stop their detrimental effect as soon as possible. With the help of suitable strategies, we were able to mitigate the risks that arose within our company.
Cherry, Kendra. “How to Recognize and Avoid Groupthink.” Verywell Mind. 2018. Web.
“Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing: Understanding the Stages of Team Formation.” Mind Tools, n.d. Web.
“Hersey―Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory.” Free Management Books, n.d. Web.