However, it is often hard for leaders to perceive just how their own actions impact others, fostering or inhibiting innovation and thus how effective their leadership may or may not be. It can also be hard to assess what practices within our organisation are contributing positively (or negatively) to the culture and so to group performance. Helping individuals and organisations to accurately make those assessments is something we at Human Synergistics; have been doing for 40 years.
A facilitating approach versus an inhibiting approach
From research into thousands of global and local organisations, we have analysed the full range of leadership and management behaviours and practices and have observed that most leaders approach to managing tasks and people is a combination of what we call Facilitating and Inhibiting.
A facilitating approach focuses on eliminating barriers to responsiveness, creativity and higher performance. It includes broadening jobs, delegating responsibility and giving people the autonomy and resources needed to achieve agreed goals, whereas an inhibiting approach works in the opposite way. It puts barriers in people’s way by emphasising procedures, rules and restrictions as well as control and formal authority.
Our research at Human Synergistics demonstrates that managers and leaders who primarily rely on a facilitating approach will improve the cultures of their organisations and get superior results from their teams, whereas managers who emphasise the Inhibiting approach will drive others to think and behave more defensively.
Overall, an individual managing with a facilitating approach achieves 31 per cent greater task effectiveness, 39 per cent greater people effectiveness and 37 per cent more personal effectiveness.
Guide or control?
At the top of the organisation our research also shows that senior executive leaders who emphasise prescriptive (Guiding) strategies i.e. who set out to guide others towards goals, opportunities and methods will motivate those around them to think and behave in constructive ways. However, leaders who accentuate more Restrictive (Controlling) strategies, which prohibit, rather than allow, others to seize opportunities, will drive them to think and behave in more defensive ways.
Making these distinctions, we have drawn up a list of behaviours we recommend everyone in a leadership position avoids in order to maximise their positive impact on others.
• Avoid being overly critical of others; the more you can reduce this behaviour, the more effective your leadership will be - emphasising positive as opposed to negative feedback leads to 20 per cent higher impact on productivity.
• Minimise your attempts to control other people; don’t ‘require’ other people to do things or ‘drive’ them. Avoiding these more ‘inhibiting’ behaviours will drastically improve your ability to manage other people in a way that is encouraging and motivating.
• Do not use controlling restrictive strategies; i.e. do not attempt to constrain or prohibit behaviours in others, rather use prescriptive strategies to carefully outline, guide and direct activities and behaviours. Allow for shared two-way influence, stimulate creative thinking and create a setting that allows people to strive for excellence.
• Avoid an imbalance in your leadership between managing tasks and interpersonal facilitation.
• Don’t just think about the performance of others, think about how your leadership impacts on the way people behave.
It’s all about ‘balance’
In conclusion, our research clearly shows that, whilst all leaders occasionally have to use inhibiting restrictive behaviours, the key lies in the extent to which the leader also uses the more facilitating prescriptive behaviours that are known to create constructive behaviours in others.
Read more: Leadership is demonstrated, not measured
Surprisingly, it’s not just a 1 for 1 balance, but more a 3 to 1 ratio. The ability to show strong, clear and meaningful links between behaviour and performance owes much to the pioneering vision of Human Synergistics’ founder J. Clayton Lafferty and remains at the heart of what we do. It is rewarding to see just how thinking and behaviour impact effectiveness and how this in turn helps organisations achieve their potential.
Shaun McCarthy is the chairman of Human Synergistics in Australia and New Zealand. He is also a director of Human Synergistics International (USA) and the Human Synergistics Centre for Applied Research. He has worked with directors and CEOs from leading multinationals right through to operators on the factory floor, dealing with a broad range of organisational challenges.
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