Cleared for takeoff

When leaving the runway for a
first-ever solo flight, nervous and
excited flying students can only trust that their instructor provided all of
the skills and knowledge required to fly
the pattern. But even if you hired the best
candidates, if you’re not willing to be “in
the plane” with them, teaching them
everything they need to be successful,
there’s a good chance they’re going to be
in for a bumpy landing.

“When you hire peak performers, the
tendency is to share with them what they
need to do, and then leave them alone to
go do it,” says Dr. Victoria Halsey, vice
president, Applied Learning, The Ken
Blanchard Companies®. “This has an
incredibly negative impact on new hires.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Halsey to learn more about how to accelerate the productivity of new hires
through coaching, creating effective relationships, and understanding how they
best learn.

What early steps can help set up new hires
to succeed more quickly?

What people don’t realize is that new
hires may be very excited to be there, but
they are actually brand new at the bulk of
what they’re working on. In Situational
Leadership® II language, we call them
‘enthusiastic beginners.’ To ramp people
up more quickly, you need to rapidly
focus them on the most important things
they need to do and when, and then help
them get with others who are also going
to teach them how. They need a comprehensive on-boarding and action plan with
examples of what a good job looks like,
clear timelines and priorities. It’s also
important to help them develop the relationships that will accelerate their
growth and share ‘how we get things
done around here.’

How do supportive and directive behaviors
propel learners past the disillusioned learner phase?

New hires encounter a second wave a
few weeks after the initial ‘Bring it on,
I’m so excited’ phase. They hit the wall
thinking, ‘Wow, this is trickier than I
thought.’ Now they need someone there
to coach them through their flagging

When they are feeling discouraged, they
need to know ‘why’ what they are doing is
so important. They need praise for their
progress and either reteaching or redirection to build competence.

What are the benefits of teaching the
Situational Leadership
® II model’?

One of the benefits of teaching the
Situational Leadership® II model to new
hires is to have them see the stages of
development they’re going to go through
as they learn to be proficient in their
tasks and goals. They need to know that
when they first take on a task, they’re
going to be excited, though may not
know what to do — but then someone is
going to give them very meticulous direction. They also need to know that they’re
going to become a ‘disillusioned learner’
and receive coaching. They need to know
they’re going to reach a time when they
can do what it is they’re striving to do but
not feel fully confident about it, so someone is going to help them with a supporting leadership style to help them step
into their power.

Why should new hires learn to say, ‘I need’?

You should be teaching new hires to
come to you and ask for what they need.
The Ken Blanchard Companies’ research
shows that 54 percent of managers tend
to use just one style naturally before
training, while 34 percent use two styles,
11 percent use three styles, and only 1
percent of the population use all four
leadership styles. One reason new hires
aren’t brought up to speed as fast as people would like them to be is that leaders
aren’t giving them the specific direction
they may need because it isn’t the natural
style of the leader. New hires can help
managers to flex their leadership style to
both directive and supportive by learning
to say, ‘I need.’

How can leaders diagnose others to best
accelerate the development of new hires?

Developing optimal performance means
knowing your people. Great leaders
switch their attention from what they feel
like doing when their people say, ‘I need
help,’ to thinking about the person and
the specific task or goal. Great leaders
discover what people really need in terms
of direction and support to move to the
next stage, and then follow through by
giving it to them. Finally, great leaders
notice the good things people are doing,
find what’s unique in their people and call
it out with specific, descriptive praise.
What is their goal? To make people feel
brilliant and have early wins.

VICTORIA HALSEY, Ph.D., is vice president, Applied Learning, The Ken Blanchard Companies in Escondido. Reach her through The
Ken Blanchard Companies Web site at