What could Helen have
done differently to get started on the right foot with her new team?
To go beyond management and enter
the leadership role, one must not make some of the novice mistakes, Helen, a
recent Masters of Public Administration (MPA) graduate made in the case study.
Although Helen used the technical knowledge acquired throughout her schooling,
as the new leader, she was not prepared to be a person in authority.
months after receiving her degree, Helen came into her new position at the
state department of parks and recreation, she did not have the adequate
experience, nor did she possess the communication or people skills that are
necessary to become a leader. Due to
Helen’s lack of leadership skills, she approached her position as a manager and
not a leader. Thus, this obstructed her efforts with her colleague, and she fell
into what McCorkle and Witt define as “The Dark Side of Positional Authority”
Helen knew she
would be running the meeting, and her inexperience, inabilities, insufficient
and poor communication skills were demonstrated during the event; it did not go
well. For instance, during the encounter
with her staff members, she read directly from her notes, avoid eye contact,
and pushed her own agenda. Maintaining eye contact with those you are speaking
to is a good communication technique. According to the Marine Corps University,
eye contact is one of, “the four mannerisms that can affect your instructions,”
(7-12). Additionally, she did not take
into consideration the effects that her abrupt concepts and ideas would have on
Moreover, she did not
take the time to pay attention to any of her employee’s reactions or body
language. She failed to communicate effectively with her staff, and she had the
notion that they understood what was presented to them without checking if she
had articulated her points well enough. By ending the meeting abruptly, she did
give her staff time reflect on her suggestion and they were left come up with
their own assumptions. Due to this, Helen created tension in an already uncomfortable
situation. These are all concepts of McCorkle and Witt
(2014, p. 21) stages: self-focus, counterproductive
communication habits, premature change, anemic expectation management.
New leadership positions turn over naturally creates a great
level of anxiety and apprehension and Helen’s hasty dictates only affirmed her
employee’s fears (McCorkle & Witt, 2014, p. 25). Prior to concluding her
meeting, she should have taken this opportunity to listen to and become better
acquainted with her staff, and she should have allowed her staff the
opportunity to be heard by opening the floor for feedback and questions. As reported
by Berman et al. “Such detailed feedback is useful for managers, of course, and
it is sometimes quite serious when the area of feedback is also the subject of
ongoing employee concerns” (p. 233).
Helen should have taken advantage of the apprenticeship and
workshop programs that her graduate program offered to hone her skills and get
the much-needed exposure to become a knowledgeable leader. Having not given
herself the chance to grow into her new position, she thought commanding her
new employees to perform would be enough, focusing on giving them orders rather
than understanding the issues. Because of this, Helen
entered the apprentice stage of the Positional Authority of McCorkle
& Witt (2014, p. 21),
Helen’s lack of leadership experience led her to make novice
mistakes that could have easily been prevented. Skipping leadership, acting as
a manager and not a leader and her inexperience, insufficient and poor
communication skills, ineffectively with staff lead Helen into the pitfalls of the
“The Dark Side of Positional Authority.” All of which will present her with a
new set of challenges moving forward.
steps can Helen take to improve the situation with the team?
Although Helen started off on the wrong foot, there are
several avenues she could participate in to improve her situation. Except for her formal MPA education, Helen
has no practical experience. Therefore,
she should consider reviewing leadership documentation such as the state and
federal standards. Also, she could
search for varies philosophies on how to lead her team. For instance, the U.S. Office of Personnel
Management (as cited in McCorkle and Witt, 2014, p.9) which contains 28
competencies that can assist in guiding her in the right direction.
She should also devise strategies that will assist her to
convey a clear and concise message in an efficient manner to her staff. Effective leaders require good communication
and interpersonal skills. O’Hara (2014) states, the first step a leader should
accomplish when taking over a team is getting to know your staff. The case studies in the article also
mentioned communication is an essential skill to be an effective leader.
“Leaders seek information before acting, listen, use consistent communication
to build trust, and include other in change processes when feasible.” McCorkle
and Witt (p. 24).
Trust is a collaborate effort and Helen should focus on
building a trusting relationship with her employees. As stated in an article by Beslin, Reddin, et
al. (2004), one of the most difficult battles a leader has is to gain and
sustain an efficacious trusting relationship with their associates. “Trust is a powerful force that builds
loyalty, increases credibility and supports effective communications.” Although
communication does not make some trustworthy, it does assist in building the
foundation where trust can be developed.
Therefore, it is vital for Helen and her colleagues to be on
the same page and create a unified front.
Because if subordinates do not have trust in their leadership, they will
go elsewhere for guidance and assistance. McCorkle and Witt underline this
point by stating that, “managers who focus on rule infractions, hound staff to
stay on task or closet themselves in their offices may meet the technical
requirements of a job, but rarely will be viewed as leaders” (p. 20).
Helen should take the opportunity to connect with each of her
staff members in a team environment, as well as and on an individual
level. In doing so, she needs to listen
and ask questions, this will permit her to develop a connection, create a
stronger and cohesive working relationship, increase morale, productivity, and
loyalty. Additionally, her colleagues would
feel more comfortable when they interact with her (Kennedy, 2013). This can be
creating team building exercises or
activities that could be completed on a semi-regular basis.
“The more you
facilitate team building activities with your employees and co-workers, the
more comfortable you will become leading and organizing sessions for success” (Heathfield,
2017). As reported by Schamore (2016),
teambuilding allows employees to “build trust, mitigates conflict, encourages
communication, and increases collaboration.”
Furthermore, Helen would benefit from shadowing each member of
the team to acquire a better understanding of her employee’s duties. She would also be able to ascertain the
processes, goals, objectives, and efficacies (Evans, 2014). Although
prior to executing any changes, Helen should permit her employees to have some input,
and provide them with some time to reflect and comprehend
any modification she plans to implement. Although Helen should not make any changes until
she has gained the trust and received the necessary tools and knowledge needed to
be a leader. Any modification should be performed
in small increments.