I’m sure the title of this blog got you scratching your head wondering what on Earth WDYT is. Quite simply it is the acronym for What Do You Think, a technique that I’ve been using for a number of years now and with some very good results. You’re probably also wondering why I’m talking about confident colleagues and this will become clear.
The WDYT approach has a number of positive outcomes. It works as part of the democratic leadership style in which the leader and group members share the decision-making. For me, probably the greatest outcome of WDYT is seeing how it impacts on the individual and the growth of their confidence and self-belief.
So, how does it work? It’s a simple technique in which you, as the leader, quite simply throw the ball back in their court. When a team member asks you what he or she should do about something specific, you don’t give them the answer nor do you offer them any clues. You simply say “What do you think?” and let them work out a solution.
I use the WDYT approach often, especially with colleagues who lack confidence. When I joined my current school the administrator had very little confidence. She had worked at the school for many years as a Teaching Assistant and had started to work in the office in the afternoons. Within the first few days I knew that I had an outstanding administrator and within a couple of months she became the full time senior admin officer. Despite the promotion and the trust we placed in her, she had no faith in herself.
For the first half term I would help her when she asked me how to approach a task, whether the letter was sufficient to go out, whether she should send a text home and so on. When I first asked her “what do you think?” she was a little taken aback but she answered confidently and gave the answer that I would expect. I did this a few times and, before long, she stopped asking me.
The WDYT approach works very well with this type of colleague, and I call these the CAREFUL colleagues. CAREFUL colleagues are:-
But what about colleagues who are not confident but nor do they fit into the CAREFUL group of colleagues? This is when your WDYT approach needs to be adapted slightly or you may even need to adopt a different style.
If your colleague is unconfident but also not competent, approachable, reliable, efficient, friendly or likeable you are in a very difficult position and will probably need to start capability proceedings. If, however, they’re competent but not approachable or friendly you will probably need to use an element of the authoritarian leadership style and throw in the WDYT approach.
The situational leadership theory found by Hersey & Blanchard (http://www.leadership-central.com/situational-leadership-theory.html#axzz5FebAOPuJ) acknowledges that leaders need to adapt their style to suit the individual(s) that they are leading/managing. Whatever your leadership style, be it transformational, transactional, laissez-faire or authoritarian, it’s not going to be appropriate for each situation.
If you have a colleague that ticks most of the confident boxes but is not approachable or likeable, the way you manage him or her would be different to the way you would manage a confident colleague.
So, if you know of somebody in your school that is competent, approachable, reliable, efficient, friendly, unconfident and likeable, you have a great tool in WDYT to help them develop their confidence and grow within the school. If, however, your colleague is not confident but also unfriendly or unlikeable you will need to adapt how you approach the WDYT method with that person.
Whatever leadership style you choose to adopt (see https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_84.htm for more leadership styles), taking each person individually is a crucial part of leadership and if you can help them develop and grow confidence then you have succeeded as an inspirational leader.
By Caroline Collins - May 2018