Put It Into Practice
In the third grade my mother signed me up for a youth basketball league. I loved the game of basketball, but had a difficult time understanding the concept of defense. This frustrated just about everyone. However, there was always one person that never yelled at me when I was on the court. Coach Boyer knew exactly how to mentor me. After every practice and game, he talked with me for a few moments about how I was doing. I distinctly remember him saying, “Cole, our team can’t win unless you play defense. So, I need you to start defending the other team. But, you’re doing a great job on offense. Keep it up!” The small conversations that he had with me helped us form a personal relationship. I admired the way that he coached my defensive effort, but also managed to make me feel proud about my feats on offense. These conversations motivated me to work hard for Coach Boyer and my team. In turn, not only did I become a better defender on the basketball court, but I also began to understand the impact of great leadership.
Over 15 years later, I still think about Coach Boyer and try to implement the lessons that he taught me in my daily life. As a manager of a restaurant, I now have a platform to affect my coworkers the same way that he impacted me. Every day that I clock in, I try to focus on being an individualized leader like my coach.
Individualized leadership is the theory that everyone responds differently to different leadership styles. This makes sense because, as individuals, we all have different values, needs, motivators, goals, and preferences. The best leaders understand this and make an effort to create authentic relationships with their followers so that they can provide the kind of individualized consideration that will help them to be successful.
For me to be a more effective leader in my role, I need to get to know all the people that I am working with. That means more than just their names. Leadership is about relationships, and the theory of individualized leadership is grounded in that principle. Something as simple as asking how their weekend was helps me to connect with them personally. The more that I know about them, how they work best, and what they need, the better I can serve them.
For example, I know that Will can be unsure of himself when it comes to anything math related. So, I specifically choose him to help me count the drawers at the end of the night. I also know to ask how Matthew’s mother is because she just had surgery. Or remember that in high pressure situations Sara likes a little more support because she’s new to the team. It really is the little things that count. As a result, I’ve seen Will’s confidence grow, Matt knows that he can take time off to be with his family if he needs to, and Sara trusts that the team has her back.
The relationship between Coach Boyer and I allowed him to teach me an important lesson about defense and teamwork. The relationship that I try to have with all of my coworkers is one that helps our restaurant succeed and all of us grow a little bit more each and every day. Just like playing basketball, individualized leadership takes time, practice, care, and consideration. And even though I’m still learning, by continuing to put this theory into practice, I know that I am able to be a better manager, leader, team member, and person.
How can you implement individualized leadership with your own team? Get started with these suggestions:
- Get to Know Your Followers: Never underestimate the power of getting to know the members of your group or team. Take the time to form genuine and authentic relationships. Use activities to help facilitate the process.
- Give and Receive Effective Feedback: Coach Boyer’s feedback to me on my performance was integral to my ability to improve and contribute to the team. Effective feedback helps to correct an action while also preserving a relationship. Use feedback as a way to check in with your team more often than an annual performance review. Don’t forget to ask for feedback as well, it will be an important way for you to evaluate your own success.
- Don’t Train, Develop: When we train team members we conform the group to the status quo. When we develop team members we focus on their own personal transformational growth.
- Create Culture and Climate: Foster a positive and supportive culture and climate by establishing agreed upon groundrules, modeling the way, and following through with action.
*Meet the Author*
Cole Latham is currently a senior in the Argyros School of Business at Chapman University. When he isn’t working, you’ll most likely find him at the beach or chest deep in the snow; depending on the season.