In the previous blog post, I introduced you to DAC (Direction, Alignment, and Commitment), the leadership concept developed by The Center for Creative Leadership. You looked at how that can be useful for first-time managers (FTMs) to understand what they need to focus on from a leadership perspective. In fact, this does not only apply to FTMs. A lot of seasoned team managers could benefit from applying this thinking as well—but that is another story.
To recap, DAC stands for Direction, Alignment, and Commitment. This framework is not something that one person—the leader—tells everyone to do. On the contrary, establishing DAC is a process. It happens as a result of a two-way exchange with everyone on the team. It's co-created, so to speak, but often initiated by the leader.
That's the theory covered in the previous blog post. But if you're a newly appointed manager, you may well be thinking, "This makes sense but where do I begin?"
It's actually not as tricky as it may seem at first. There's a tool for this. If you can integrate it into your basic approach to leadership, you will go far, I promise.
The approach or tool is called the Drexler/Sibbet High-Performance Model, named after the two gentlemen who created it. The idea combines two schools of thought: behavioral psychology and process theory.
From behavioral psychology, you learn that whenever humans are put in a new situation, project or workgroup—or maybe just a new workday, they ask themselves four fundamental questions:
They ask them in exactly that sequence.
The first question is quite subconscious—a sensing question. The second question is more of a feeling one while the last two questions are more inclined to be thinking questions. But it's hard for you to move meaningfully forward to the next question if the previous question has not been answered clearly.
From process theory, you know that processes follow an oscillating pattern. They move in regular waves from one extreme point to its opposite end, then back again. Humans process the two extremes, which are often insecurity or uncertainty to security or certainty.
When you combine these two, you get the Drexler/Sibbet High-Performance Model, which looks like this:
The first step is all about orientation: Establish a clear purpose and meaning with whatever it is you're about to do.
Next, who is on this team? Do they know each other or not?
If not, you need to find a way to break the ice and let people get to know each other. Humans are wired in the brains to be slightly distrustful of people they don't know. It's a basic survival precaution that dates back to ancient times. If you're going to collaborate on a job or project, you need a minimum of trust. You start to build trust as you get to know others. It's that simple.
If you know each other on the team, you need to check-in—even just a quick round. How are you all feeling in general? What might be your expectations for this job, venture or day? This is all about what Ken Blanchard (of the situational leadership concept) would call your psychological readiness level.
Then, you need to agree on the goals and roles. What are you trying to achieve? What roles does each member have that will contribute to your team achieving your goal?
Finally, you need to have a discussion and establish an agreement. How are you going to approach this?
Once you have been through these first four fundamental steps, you arrive at the bottom of the V-model, a point where you have clarity and certainty about what you're about to embark on.
As the leader, you have now done 90% of your work. You have set direction, alignment, and commitment. Lean back and let your team members decide on the details of the tasks, time frame, among others. How are they going to do it? That will be quite easy if you have done the groundwork well.
Observe and offer guidance only if needed as they execute the tasks. Only when they are done do you step back in and facilitate a reflection: How did it go? What did you learn and what would you do differently next time?
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