Situational Approach: What Role Do I Play in Matters?

by  Jon Mertz  |  Self Leadership

Sometimes, we just need to acknowledge a situation. We have those moments, but we pretend it is something that it isn’t. What I mean is, at times, we just want someone to do something without much discussion. However, in order to not hurt feelings, we pretend we want their input, but our expressions communicate frustration. And, the person you want to do something begins to get equally frustrated, and a cycle of frustration moves in quickly.

It is time to just be honest with each other! Not all times can we be team-based, but all times we can be respectful.

Knowing the difference is leadership.

Communicating the difference is leadership.

Using a two-by-two matrix has a way of simplifying things.

Let’s quickly step through each quadrant.

Small Matter, High Urgency:  We just need something done. The direction is clear. The tasks are well-defined. Just get it done. From a recipient viewpoint, we just need to acknowledge the situation, listen to what needs to be done, and do the work. From a leader’s viewpoint, we need to signal this is one of those moments and calmly and respectfully outline what needs to be done. No play-acting necessary. It is just a reality of some situations, so let’s acknowledge it and not try to turn it into something it isn’t.

Small Matter, Low Urgency: As a leader, we need to recognize when a task or activity just needs to be handed off to be done by someone better equipped. It is easy to get distracted by the small things, which lead us to miss the big things that really need our attention. Don’t believe you need to do everything. Know when to make the hand-off and trust others.

Large Matter, High Urgency: These are the crisis-type times. It is not being the “lone leader” and barking commands to solve the issue. “Command-and-control” may be an unproductive and risk-prone way. Having the right mix of perspectives and talent will likely lead to a better resolution. The approach is one of a more tightly composed team, where everyone knows they play a key role in a well-coordinated, well-communicated manner. Team trust will help carry the tune of a well-orchestrated outcome.

Large Matter, Low Urgency: Strategic initiatives or process improvement projects may fall into this category. Results need to happen over time, whether it is a quarter or two. Setting a framework, empowering a team to dig in and work it through, and then getting out of the way are great ways to instill leadership opportunities within an organization. Knowing when to get out of the way may be the essential leadership lesson to embrace.

The point is rather simple. It is one of honestly recognizing which quadrant the situation is in and communicating this fact to the participants and knowing it as a leader. It should become part of the organizational culture. Think about the difference. The roles become more clear. While the left half of the matrix is more leader centric, the right half is more team centric.

For recipients, what needs to be done can be accepted with the proper understanding and context.

For leaders, role clarity needs to be comprehended, knowing when to direct and when to let go.

Let’s be honest about the situation and apply the right approach. It is a win-win way.

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By jon-mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. At Thin Difference, Jon writes and facilitates a conversation on how to empower, challenge, and guide the next generation of leaders.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Elizabeth Basden  |  03 Apr 2012  |  Reply

I think as we train the people who work for and with us, it becomes necessary for your leadership to change as well. For instance, small matters of high urgency can’t wait for me, and as I try to be a better leader, I understand that my staff’s handling of these matters quickly and decisively grows them as leaders, and allows the firm to run more effectively. So–as people grow and begin to take on more responsibility, do the quadrants change?

Jon Mertz  |  03 Apr 2012  |  Reply

Great point, Elizabeth. I believe that as the right hand side is done, more leaders are created. It may or may not create a new matrix, but it does create new leaders who now may fill the role on the left hand side. The number of organizational leaders grow and, accordingly, the responsibility to address those urgent matters are solved in other levels of an organization.

Good point to think about some more…


Join The Conversation