Last Friday’s article discussed the importance of turning managers into good leaders to engage employees and create the conditions for high performance at work. Today’s article looks at how organisations can build such leadership competencies.

Modern organisations require effective leadership at every level. Traditional management skills, relating to the planning, organisation and delegation of work, now need to be supported by additional competencies.

The 3H Model of Leadership

This wider set of personal attributes — the behaviour and approach linked to superior performance — can be most easily described in terms of the “3H” Model.

This relates to the “Head”, which involves problem-solving, planning and monitoring of work, the “Heart”, which is the interpersonal skills required to develop individual and team capability (and influence others) and the “Hands”, which is about the focus and energy required to get results, including achievement motivation, and initiative when faced with setbacks.

Setting clear direction is vital and frequently involves use of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that contribute to objective measurement of performance, and also provide feedback on areas for improvement. The objective may be described as a standard — for example, “90 per cent of client enquiries resolved within three days” — or a percentage improvement over time.

It is also possible to apply KPIs to the soft skills, that is, the competencies that differentiate superior employee performance, viewed in the context of the role, from average or poor performance.

A clear understanding of relevant competencies and how these shape strengths and weaknesses will help managers review the employee’s effectiveness in handling different types of tasks, enhancing purposeful conversations by increasing insight and offering relevant feedback.

Two-way communication

Purposeful conversations play a key part in helping a manager become a leader, most notably by encouraging employees to display discretionary effort — and by developing a sense of shared purpose.

They are based on a dialogue, which focuses on issues affecting performance, and starts with the employee’s perspective. The skill is in building understanding and agreement about what needs to be achieved, the standards that are required, and the best way of meeting challenges.

The good news for managers is that the essential skills can be learned. At the heart of purposeful conversations is a four-step process that can be summarised as Leading With AIMS — Awareness, Insight, Meaning and Support.

This involves the manager raising his Awareness, by listening to the employee to find out how things are going, that is, the current situation and progress since the last meeting or discussion. This information gives the manager an opportunity to acknowledge what has been done, and also draws attention to new developments or changing priorities. This helps increase the employee’s Insight into the wider issues and helps strengthen alignment with business priorities.

It is also important to look for opportunities to explain why the work is relevant and has Meaning, helping to create a sense of shared purpose, and identify how Support can be provided, to help the person make further progress.

Leading With AIMS can be quite an informal process and helps build a relationship of trust, where the manager shows genuine interest, asks relevant questions, clarifies wider issues and offers appropriate support.

Encouraging managers to pay attention to the steps that build employee motivation and commitment is not always an easy task, especially if the underlying business culture is focused on sales and short-term financial indicators.

However, we know that employee engagement has a key role in contributing to the longer-term success of every organisation, and it is therefore vital for companies to identify how best to create a strong and enabling culture.

Next week: Developing a shared sense of purpose among team members.

Article by David Sharpley, an international management consultant and chartered psychologist. He runs masterclass workshops on competency assessment, leadership development and employee engagement profiling, and provides online resources through Pario Innovations. For more information, e-mail