We use a little model with our clients and coachees, which I developed to manage the mayhem of growing The NRG Group from 6 people to 180 in 18 months during the Internet bubble.
These are the things that I (and everyone) need from a work environment (including the people around us):
- Support: The resources, authority, and external validation necessary to enable me to get the job done.
- Structure: Definition of what, when, who and how that constrain (and therefore guide) me in getting my job done.
- Challenge: Some amount of newness, unknowness, and audaciousness that makes this edgy for me.
A great manager will operate situationally to deliver the right mix of each of these as appropriate.
A successful person will learn to deliver these to him/herself, drawing on those around to do so as needed.
The key to figuring out what I need is to go inward. Am I feeling - lost? I need structure. Am I feeling - overwhelmed? Also structure. Am I feeling - bored? Challenge. Am I feeling - alone? Support.
A mistake that leaders often make is to manage to the middle - make sure that everyone is just supported, structured, and challenged enough that things are getting done, and nothing is on fire. Greatness doesn't come from that. The same mix is not right for different people, or for the same person at a different time.
Someone who is thriving is often ready for more challenge - although already moving mountains. Someone who is drowning often gets challenge, when he/she probably needs structure.
Like so many models, each of us tends to have our default, which is why we get smothering managers, micro-managers, and those who are seemingly unsatisfiable.