The ability for leaders and teams to clearly prescribe and articulate what good looks like is a critical ingredient to high performance, but often it can be the most restrictive performance shortfall. When we are challenged to describe the specifics of what we want to achieve and how we want to perform, to a team of people, we can fall into a trap of assuming too much, glossing over important details and at times, even sending the wrong message through our words, tones, or actions.

The evidence generated for leaders undertaking the Human Synergistics Leadership Impact tool provides valuable insights, which are often surprising and confronting, into the reality of individual leadership effectiveness.  It outlines whether we are prescriptive (constructive) or restrictive (non-constructive) in our approach to leadership.

Often, leaders that drive outcomes and expectations can be too internal in thinking. Personal biases can be overlaid on the team and the desired outcome and process to get there does not translate to collective ownership.  It is then hard for teams to understand expectations and align with what good looks like.

These leaders tend to shape behaviour based on mistakes made. We focus more on what we don’t like.  This falls into restrictive leadership where we point out flaws or things that are wrong rather than being clear on what we want to see more of.

The resulting impact is negative on individuals, translating into a sense of insecurity and a need for external validation for doing things well or doing the right things.   It also restricts our team culture holding back trust, performance, creativity, speed and ultimately innovation.

Unfortunately, most of the time, the leaders for whom we have uncovered these insights have not recognised they have been role modelling and endorsing a negative and restrictive leadership style.  It has often been subconscious behaviour ingrained for a long time and there is a lack of awareness of their restrictive impact on others.

Right now, I wonder if you thinking this cannot be you, you are different. Let me ask you a simple question; if you are a parent how often do you say ”don’t“ to shape the behaviour of your kids? Try to challenge yourself to not say “don’t” to your kids and try to explain more of what good looks like for your kids. It is really tough to do and very akin to the challenge leaders often face with their teams or people they work with.

As a leader of the team, it is critical we provide a strong statement of intent and understanding of what outcomes we are seeking and the type of behaviours and interactions we desire. How do we want our team to play the game and what results do we desire?

We tend to focus our communications on the target we aspire to achieve which may be the win. We will probably not win straight away, so we can’t create an environment where we always lose by not winning. The key is to focus more on the how, the process, the style, dare I say “The Vibe” that if executed and delivered will help us continue to improve, grow and ultimately deliver the aspired outcome.

Once we have a strong clear understanding of what good looks like it is then a matter of transitioning delivery and performance over to the team. The role of the leader now changes. Rather than designer and facilitator, the role becomes enabler, coach, teacher and supporter.  A process of highlighting strong examples of good, constructively shaping where things could have been done better and proactively asking questions about how we are going against what good looks like.

Initially when asking questions of the team, it may be met with silence. This is the team’s security needs at work.  We need to be patient. Resist the desire to tell and keep asking questions. Keep going down a level of questioning to invite response. This could be as simple as what are we doing well? What is working well? Any positive changes you are seeing or feeling?

In time conversation becomes self-diagnostic and self-fulfilling and the team takes ownership, you will find you no longer need to initiate questions but more offer observations and insights – you talk less and listen more. Once this occurs, you will find that the team is driving themselves and doing everything to achieve our collective good.


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