Book Review: Helping People Win at Work (Blanchard and Ridge, 2009)

Image result for helping people win at work
I love the one minute manager series by Ken Blanchard. But this book deviates from his tried and true formula of encapsulating lessons in a story. Instead, he reverts to a normal book format which instantly loses its charm. Even the content is not very new, but a compilation of his other earlier works. However, I will discuss one gem that stands out: Situational Leadership.

Main Beliefs of Situational Leadership 

  1. People can and want to develop
  2. There is no best leadership style to encourage that development.

People develop through 4 stages (D1-4), based on their competence and commitment levels. For each Developmental stage, it requires a different Leadership Style (S1-4).

  • D1 – Enthusiastic Beginner
  • D2 – Disillusioned Learner
  • D3 – Capable but cautious performer
  • D4 – Self-reliant Achiever

Image result for blanchard d1 d2 d3 d4

Let me explain the diagram. A D1 enthusiastic beginner (low competence, high commitment) requires S1 Directing style (high directive, low support). While a D4 self-reliant achiever (high competence, high commitment) requires a S4 Delegating Style (low directive, low support).

What does Directive and Supportive behaviour mean? For Directive, Blanchard says it is the “empty barrel” concept where the person needs to be filled up with knowledge and skills to perform. For Supportive, it is the “drawing out barrel” concept where the person has the skills but not the confidence. Thus, support is needed to draw out their best result.

A person has to develop progressively from D1 to D4. As leaders, we need to diagnose the person’s level first then select the appropriate leadership style. We cannot move from Directing (S1) to Delegating (S4) immediately. If a problem occurs, the person usually moves back one stage not to all the way to the start (i.e. D4 to D3).  Take note that this development stage applies to tasks also. A person might be at different stages with different tasks and need the proper leadership style. For example, a person’s listening skills might be at D2, speaking skill at D3 and administrative skill at D1. Each skill must be viewed and handled separately. A D2 skill must be dealt with S2 Coaching style.

Let me give an example. There is a youth in your church who 1) plays on your worship team and 2) leads a cell group. He is a relatively seasoned guitarist but hasn’t played in front of a congregation before. He has the skills but lacks the confidence. So I would label him as D3, which requires me to have a Supporting leadership style. I just talk to him to find out his worries and shower him with lots of encouragement and praise on his guitar skills. I won’t be going back to a D1 style and show him how to play the guitar chords again! However, he’s not very good at leading cell groups. He’s new and unsure what to do. So he’s probably a D1. As an “empty barrel”, he needs a lot of directive (S1). I give him material and books on cell group ministry, tell him exactly how to structure and execute a meeting and hold his hand until he reaches D2. Then I switch to a coaching mode (S2).


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