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Leadership: A practical exercise for managers

Do you ever stop and ask yourself the simple question: “What are my responsibilities as a manager?”

Sounds obvious, right? But how often do you really give yourself a chance to reflect on your performance as a leader?

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The John Adair Action-centered leadership model

Over the years there have been countless models developed on this theme, and millions of books sold (and some of them even read! ).  Although it’s not the very latest of models, John Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership model is a simple and effective starting point when reflecting on your personal impact as a manager.  According to the model, the heart of your responsibilities as a manager are:

Leadership circles

  • to achieve the task
  • to develop your employees
  • to build an effective team

When you are performing at your best you are able to do all 3 of these things, and find the right balance. This balance means you and your team get the results you need and everyone benefits. This balance also makes your life easier, as synergies quickly build e.g. by achieving the task the team grows and individuals have a chance to develop. Likewise a strong team sharing ideas and supporting each other in difficult situations, naturally enables individuals to develop and therefore you achieve the task.



Learn more about the two basic approaches to influencing others



A simple reflective exercise for managers

This is a simple and practical exercise to help you reflect on your performance and focus your actions.  You’ll need an uninterrupted 10 minutes, pen and paper.

Step 1

As a manager you are responsible for achieving your department’s task, building the team and developing individuals.

  • Take a moment and think about how well you are performing in these three areas.
  • Now take a pen and draw the three circles in proportion to how satisfied you are with your performance in each area. (and not how much time you spend on each area).  For example, if you feel that you are doing a good job of achieving the task, but your employees aren’t really developing and there’s very little team building then you might have something like the example below:

LeadershipStep 2

Now look at your circles and consider these 3 questions:

  1. How satisfied are you with your situation?
  2. Can you identify  3 concrete actions you can take to improve your performance?
  3. What has been preventing you from doing this and how are you going to overcome this?

Step 3

Identify one concrete step you can take in the next days – and do it.

More on action-centered leadership

This activity is used in our Practical Toolbox for Managers seminar, and something I try and do every few months myself. Clients and participants have consistently found this activity hugely useful.  A little focus and some “time out” from the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day challenges can go a long way. Take a look at these links for more information:


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