Situational Leadership - Supporting

The third phase of Situational Leadership is Supporting. In this phase, the follower is competent to perform the task and yet, has learned enough to be concerned that perhaps she isn't as skilled as she thinks she is. In other words, there is a bit of a confidence gap.

Continuing with our example of a new trainer from the previous two phases, perhaps our newly minted trainer has co-trained with a lead instructor. The lead instructor believes the new trainer is ready to train solo. The new trainer is hesitant. What if this group of participants behaves very differently from the last group? What if they take significantly more or less time with activities?This new trainer who needs support may experience more stress than necessary if left to her own devices.

The alert lead trainers should at this point perhaps offer to sit in and observe, giving feedback and suggestions when asked. Smiling and nodding at the right moments can help too.Feedback during supporting need not be long and complicated. Simple, direct feedback that conveys, "You've got this." may be all that's needed.

If during this phase, the followers encounter a new problem, the best approach is to ask questions that help them formulate their own action plan to address the problem. This will almost always result in the proper course of action or at least a plausible one. If warranted, set follow up meetings as the solution is being implemented to be sure things are on course.

Situational Leadership Tips

  • Skipping Supporting can cause a crisis of confidence in the follower. While the followers may be competent they may start second guessing themselves and become stressed without the supportive feedback of the leader.
  • Some leaders enjoy the supporting role and are reluctant to move to the last phase - delegating. When the follower is ready, let go.The positive side of a leaders staying in the Supporting phase is usually a good work climate. The negative side is that there can be frustration on the part of the leader, who remains overworked and on the follower who feels competent and is ready to move on.
  • As always, the readiness of the follower dictates how much time the leader and follower stay in the supporting phase. Followers move at their own speed, so it's important to keep the lines of communication open and transparent.

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