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James Heggs
James Heggs

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Technical Leadership Katas - 001 Your situational starting point


Situational leadership is a great tool for leading technical teams. Utilising situational leadership you can transform the progress of an individual and their own development.

To apply situational leadership I think you have to first start with yourself. Understanding your own take on the leadership approaches and where you naturally start.

Past experience and how it played out

In the past I was unaware of my natural starting point and the impact it had on my colleagues.

One of my teams were undertaking a new project to implement single sign on across our web application stack.

It was the first project for a brand new tech lead that had joined our team. Not only was it their first project it was also their first tech lead role EVER!

My natural starting point, although I was unaware at the time, is that of supporting. I tend to go straight to "Here's a project, I'm here if you need me".

It took me a number of weeks to realise for that given task, in the given context, I'd started at the wrong point whilst guiding the team.

Thankfully the tech lead in question had enough relationship confidence to bring this to my attention. I think the words they used were similar "Please can you just tell me exactly how to go about this". Seeing their fear of failure and realising they'd never faced a task this large or cross cutting I realised that I'd started at the wrong point for the tech lead (and subsequently their team).

If I'd been aware of understanding myself and then responding (ironically as the framework points out) to the situation then I could have saved the technical lead a few weeks anguish, fearing they would be unable to get the task done and internally questioning their skillset.

Kata instructions

Step 1

Gather an understanding of what situational leadership is by watching this video. If you've already come across it then jump on to step 2.

Step 2

Identify which quadrant you naturally fall on. At around the 2m20s mark on the video, it outlines the 4 different leadership styles. Review those styles and identify what is your most common "go to" approach.

Really important Do not think of one approach to be bad or good. Each of them have their own place and actually you'll want to leverage all of them depending on the situation. For this step just focus on identifying what YOUR most common approach is.

TIP If you find it hard to identify it yourself then ask a friend or colleague. Often people will share insight with you that you hadn't considered.

Step 3

Reflect on a time you have provided guidance on a task. Label it as either "Directing", "Coaching", "Supporting" or "Delegating".

Here's an example:

"In a recent discussion with an {role} on our team, they wanted a discussion about {task}. The supporting detail around the task was {task context}.

I approached the task is a {leadership style}."

Important In this step only make sure to record the approach taken. Label it but do not judge it just yet.

Step 4

You can't change the past but you can reflect on it.

Reflect on your notes from step 3.

Did you take what was the best situational approach?

Did you just go with your natural situational starting point and if so was that correct or would you change anything now?

If you had taken a different approach what might have been the outcome? Positive or negative.

Submission process

The following write-ups should be recorded in your GitHub repo.

1. Identify your natural situational starting point

Write up detail around your natural starting point. Why do you start there? What experiences from the past have had an impact on you and lead you to that starting point?

2. Share the story

Write up notes from your own personal story relating to step 3 above.

3. Iterate and improve

Write up the review notes relating to step 4 above. Reflect as much as possible on different situational approaches.

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