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SYMLOG leadership assessment

Tita Talks Training

A COLLEAGUE of ours asked me to write about Great Leaders and Great Teams. What instrument can be used that could form the basis for improving leadership capability and launching great teams? He was looking for a tool that would provide insights to a leader that s/he can act on for coaching and mentoring sessions. Not just qualitative stuff but something evidence based and measurable. As an OD practitioner I still maintain an old fashioned library that my younger daughter says is “shockingly biodegradable”. But instead of referring him  to the many books written on leadership and teams, I shared with him my many years of experience working with SYMLOG, a research based assessment that sharply describes what may be happening to one’s leadership  work or situation.

I have always been fascinated with the topic of leadership. I have been under empowering, inspiring leaders. I have also endured leaders who are micro-managers (as one colleague remarked sometimes they even turn out to be nano managers) who call meetings that never seem to end.  When I took this particular assessment a decade ago, I thought I was a good leader since I rose quickly through corporate ranks. What amazed me was how the results of the 360 degree assessment made on me, sharply pinpointed the leadership behaviors that were effective, the behaviors I need to do more and the behaviors I can so sometimes but not all time.

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I am referring to the life work of Dr. Robert Bales that continue to challenge and excite me. He created SYMLOG, short for Systematic Observation of Groups. My first encounter with SYMLOG was as a professor at the Asian Institute of Management when a team from Harvard visited to test the concepts with my MBM class. After listening to the talk and going over the material I was hooked. I have not found an instrument that can match SYMLOG in terms of accuracy in reading the effectiveness of leadership, teams and culture. I was so driven with the treasure I discovered I took the trip to San Diego, California to get accreditation.

SYMLOG Analysis

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The life work of Dr. Bales, based on a survey globally of thousands of respondents pinpoint team work as the heart of leadership, the ability to connect with members of the team towards given tasks with a good balance in the use of power. This may sound simplistic but his analysis based on a 30 minute on line 360 degree survey is very sophisticated in analysis.

Dr. Bales focuses his tool on the three dimensions of leadership. One is friendly versus unfriendly behavior. Two is being supportive of task orientation of existing authority versus opposing task orientation of existing authority. Third is the level of dominance versus submissiveness. Based on his research he discovered that leadership behaviors can vary in terms of impact.

Recently, I met with a long time client whose HR team was composed of 12 people covering 2,000 employees.  They were delighted that the recent employee survey showed positive results in their views of the Human Resources Unit. What are some of the secrets of their success?  How did they handle their partnerships with line managers to optimize their small head count as a support? They partnered with line managers encouraging them to connect, communicate and consult with their staff.

Connect

One of the recent concerns of organizational leaders today is employee and team engagement.  They realize that dealing with young employees who have the proper education, skills and training is challenging. They have the tendency to be dedicated to the work but not to the company. If the company does not know how to engage then they are likely to look for other opportunities in other companies.

How does one connect to employees? Leaders have to demonstrate that they value people. When relationships with the immediate boss is unfriendly, strained or damaged, the employee is likely to disengage. And the opposite is true, if trust runs high and the employee feels the sincere authentic relations with the boss, the person is likely to stay. Connecting can also be done by providing clarity to the organization’s objectives, the employees work goals and the best means to achieve them.

This relates to the most effective point in the Symlog scattergram that clearly denotes that leader behavior has to be friendly but not overly friendly that it leads to familiarity.

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Communicate

How do we communicate as leaders? Do we link up with our team mates only when there is a project to undertake? Or do we also show concern   by proactively coaching and mentoring. One good practice that I learned from a friend is to keep a journal of direct reports, noting down areas of strengths but also of improvement areas. The journal is the guide for gently keeping close to the subordinate, also listing progress in terms of improvement. It is the source of the moments when congratulations are in order and when a person gets help through positive correction.

In the SYMLOG most effective point for supporting task orientation, the leader has to be very supportive but not to the point of almost compelling employees to pursue tasks that they can’t  question or suggest better means of getting things done.

Consult and empower

Most employees today treasure having control over the flow and pace of their work. As leaders we can encourage employees to take control. It means consulting with employees in the areas that affect them, getting them involved in making decisions and setting goals and milestones. Create an engaged team. In the SYMLOG framework this means, having a properly calibrated level of dominance that continue to empower people to act. To be too submissive as a leader can undermine one’s authority as extreme dominance can disempower people.

Get a  360 degree assessment

I know it may be difficult to relate to the tool until one tries it for real.  It is an excellent tool to start off coaching and mentoring of leaders who constantly balance the 3 dimensions of friendly behavior, supporting tasks and level of dominance.

(Tita Datu Puangco is the CEO and President of Ancilla Enterprise Development Consulting, a major training and organization development company in the Philippines with an Asian reach. It specializes in enterprise transformation, executive coaching, corporate leadership and functional training, human resource systems, corporate academies, learning events and management of business training centers.  Visit Tita’s Blog at http://titatalkstraining.blogspot.com. For additional information please email author at [email protected] or at [email protected])

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