The key lesson when leading others

by | Jun 29, 2023

Following on from the previous blog about self-leadership, I’m continuing the theme and strategy by moving on to Leading Others.

For background – In April 2023 I gave a keynote presentation at The Residential and Home Care Show about Leadership Strategies To Create Great Culture. The talk focused on the two areas that need consideration before a leader can really start to shift company culture. They are Leading Yourself and Leading Others.


The most important lesson when leading others

One of the common mistakes we see when working with care leaders, particularly new care leaders, is that they lead based on their own preference.

It shouldn’t be about how you LIKE to lead – even though might feel more comfortable for you. It’s about leading others in the way that’s going to be right for them.

Too many leaders default to one style of leadership and one style for everyone. The mistake here, is that the style will not resonate with every member of the team, so you’ll never get the results you want.

Let me demonstrate this using the image below…

Communication styles explained

With managers and team leaders who are fairly new to the role, we often find that while they have a great skillset, they haven’t ever had any formal leadership training. They’re literally thrown in the deep end and given a team to manage and lead.

Some will adopt a style similar to the one on the left of the graphic. They will take control and lead by TELLING everyone what to do. They may even become a bit of a dictator! 

Perhaps you would love to adopt a style similar to the one on the right of the graphic. I describe this style as EMPOWER. 

Which style do you use the most? 

As much as you might like to say ’empower’, most will default to ‘tell’. Why? It’s easier and gets things done quickly. It minimises risk because you know things will get done in the way you want them to be done.

The problem with using the ‘tell’ style all the time is that it puts a lot of pressure on the leader to always give direction. It can also reduce confidence and motivation in the team because they may doubt their own ability to make decisions or resent being told what to do.

When I talk about this in workshops, people think I’m about to say “We should empower everyone!!” but that’s not always the right way either.

In order to understand how to lead others effectively, we need to first understand the different styles, the person or people we are leading, and the impact that style will have.

A model to help you lead others effectively

In the graphic above you can see a chart of sorts with four different communication styles underneath.

Tell, Sell, Discuss and Empower.

At the top are the considerations. When deciding what style to use when communicating with your team or an individual you need to consider their skill set, their knowledge and their motivation.

A typical scenario might be that you’re preparing your team for a mock inspection. Let’s say you decide to use the Tell style, so you gather the team and start saying “Right, Belinda, you do this, Catherine, you do that” etc.

If you have a team that is less experienced and nervous about the inspection, the Tell style might be the most effective way to communicate because everyone gets clear direction. There isn’t much room for error when the Tell style is used.

However, you’ll see from the middle section of the graphic that the team will have very little ownership and responsibility of the tasks they are being set.

So, if you try the Tell style with a team who are very experienced and have done many mock inspections in the past, they may feel patronised and feel like they have no ownership of the tasks and process.

An experienced and motivated team may really benefit from being Empowered. And isn’t that the dream? To be able to gather your team and say “Hey everyone, we have a mock inspection today, you all know what to do so let’s go for it!” The team will feel proud and responsible and I hope that you can see how this then impacts on the overall culture.


Empowerment is the goal

When you can start to move towards Empower as a communication style, you will see a positive shift in the culture.

But you can’t empower a team who are inexperienced or demotivated.

The most important lesson here is that you learn to have the ability to change your style as needed to get the best results. For some scenarios and for some people, you will simply have to Tell. For now!

But I can guarantee that no leader of a company with great culture will be leading through Tell.


Want to learn more about communication and leadership styles?

Please get in touch if you’d be interested in a workshop for your team focusing on the different communication and leadership styles. Especially if you’re interested in the two style I didn’t cover in the blog – Sell and Discuss!


Want to know the next leadership strategy? You can watch the full presentation below.

About the Author

Sophie Coulthard

Sophie primarily looks after the care company clients and previously hosted a popular care focused podcast called The Road To Outstanding. Sophie has a keen interest in Axiology; the science behind The Judgement Index, and joined the board of The Hartman Institute in 2020 to support its efforts to make Axiology better known in business and the world. Sophie is based in London and enjoys exploring the city with her dog and discovering new brunch venues.

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