An issue I’m hearing from many of the senior leaders I work with is how some of their staff are just ‘turning up’ for work. They don’t really seem interested in their work; they walk around in a robotic fashion, and just seem to go through the motions until it’s time to go home. They appear de-motivated, lethargic and slightly distant from the team.
What I’m also hearing is the impact this has on the organisation. De-motivated team members don’t perform at their best. They often don’t deliver what is asked of them so the leaders find themselves re-doing some of their work. Sometimes the leaders find it easier to do the work themselves!
Obviously, this is not an ideal situation in any workplace, so we looked at how it could change.
I can certainly relate to this scenario; I remember being in jobs where I was totally disengaged from my work. It was as if I’d drive into work, park up and leave my brain at the gate! Then for the whole day, I’d go through an unthinking, robotic processing of whatever work was handed my way.
This might seem like a crazy way to behave, but if their leaders don’t require them to think, why should a person bother bringing their brain into work? Let’s dig a little deeper and discover how this unproductive behaviour can be linked to your leadership style.
In our discussions, the common thread running through the leaders’ experiences is one-way communication. They can be found giving instructions and advice to their team, who then follow the instructions and process what they’ve been told in a robotic fashion, before waiting for further instruction. Not one person shared an example of two-way communication, where team members were given a voice.
To encourage the leaders to start thinking about how they could turn it around, we looked at a different way. By exploring Myles Downey’s Coaching Spectrum, they soon realised what they were doing, and how it was impacting negatively on their team.
The Coaching Spectrum shows ways a leader might interact with their team. At one end, you have the directive style, sometimes known as ‘push’. This involves instructing, telling and giving people the answers; it might show up as leaders saying, “I’m the boss; I’m the expert; I know best”.
At the other end is the non-directive style, sometimes known as ‘pull’. In this case, the leader asks questions, listens, and helps people to find their own answers. A leader might say, “I’m curious to hear more; let me clarify what you mean; I’ll give you space to talk and I’ll listen”.
The leaders I spoke to could see how, by sticking to ‘push’-style interactions, they had caused their team to just ‘turn up’ and process what they were given, as there was no need for them to think for themselves. They could see how introducing some ‘pull’ interactions would encourage the team to share their opinions, be heard, and tap into their inner knowledge and resources. Ultimately, interactions at the ‘pull’ end of the Coaching Spectrum empower team members to take ownership and accountability, leading to them showing up (instead of just turning up), and bringing their brains into work.
However, there is still a place for ‘push’ interactions, especially in emergency situations, or when working with legislation. The key to success is to be aware of who you are interacting with, and adapt your style depending on the situation.
Adjusting your leadership style to include more ‘pull’ interactions can take your team from just turning up to showing up, and being engaged with their work.