Are you in the right gear to lead?

What is the right gear to lead?

Conceptual image of businessteam working cohesively. Interaction

One of our licensed practitioners, David Ross, came up with the ‘Ross Special’ 4-Speed Gear Box analogy for Liberating Leadership. The beauty of it is that people can relate to it easily and it is meaningful across cultures. The analogy was based upon the 4 step process and helps us to choose the right gear to lead.

1. Directing: Gear 1 Tell style – ask no questions.

2. Coaching: Gear 2 These are the tasks.

3. Mentoring: Gear 3 “OK team, this is what we’ve got to do. How shall we do it?”

4. Delegating: Gear 4 Leader hands over task to team to run with – gets out of their way (no check-ins!).

The key thing here is that, as with a car, you have to start off in gear 1 and move up the gears smoothly at the right time and at the right revs to get the best performance. So it is with driving a team to greatness.

If you start off in gear 2 (coaching) the team will jerk and stall. Without explicit instructions they will lose momentum quickly and they could end up driving the wrong way! Using gears 3 or 4 will create strain and stress on the engine or indeed cause some damage. Using the wrong style of leadership will have a similar impact on your team.

So your mission is to start in gear 1 and get the team round to gear 4. Sometimes you will be working up through the gears but come to a junction – for instance, a new project or change to procedures – which means you have to drop down through the gears to get the team moving again.

Often managers get stuck in a gear, especially if it is their preferred style, and may have difficulty engaging the right gear to lead and deal with any sharp turns and uphill climbs that the team encounters. Valuable time and relationships can fall by the wayside if the right gear is unavailable.

Perhaps the most frustrating gear for managers and leaders is gear 1. This involves spending time with a team member, sharing your vision and getting them going with explicit instructions. The trouble here is that it can be considered patronising – this is only the case if the right mind set and intention are not engaged along with the right gear.

Another aspect that managers and leaders fail to recognise sometimes is that you can have different people in the team who might require different gears. Sometimes people will slip out of gear! Someone seemingly in gear 4 can suddenly come to a halt when they encounter something outside their comfort zone (the magic roundabout in Swindon, for instance, which is more like a crop circle than a roundabout!). The right gear to lead will be different for different people.

So you have to go back to gear 1 and explain the vision and then into gear 2 – giving explicit instructions on how to negotiate the new obstacle. You will need to diagnose the performance issue to see if it is caused by a lack of capability or a crisis of confidence and motivation.

So what happens when you reach your goal of having your team in gear 4?

It is very freeing for a leader to delegating effectively and have a team are at an advanced stage willing to take on extra responsibility. You do need the right attitude and mindset to want to develop your team in this way.

Why would I not want this?

Because being in gear 4 is all about letting go, having total trust in your people, gritting your teeth and believing in your team. You have to ignore the “what if’s” and let them go. You will still be there in mind, body and soul ready to catch them if they fall. And many people might not be comfortable being in this situation!

So have you got the bottle to get your team into gear 4? Let us know how you feel about being here in the comments below.

Thanks to David Ross for the inspiration.

Are you in the right gear to lead or do you need a change of gear?

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