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ATD Blog

Training Managers in “Situational Doing” Can Pay Big Dividends

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

In our last blog post, “Is There a Missing Piece in Your Leadership Development Program?,” we explained why more managers today are expected to continue to do a significant amount of professional work themselves while also managing their team. And we made the point that many of the hands-on managers we coach and train across a multitude of industries tell us they are frustrated with current leadership training, because the context of the training assumes that they should let go of the work they used to do and delegate. If they still spend time doing work themselves, they are accused of being unable to let go, of being poor delegators, or worse, of being ineffective managers.

What can we, as L&D professionals, do to help these hands-on managers master strategies that will enable them to do and delegate work in ways that further their leadership agenda and develop the capabilities and capacity their organization needs?

In our book, Becoming a Can-Do Leader: A Guide for the Busy Manager, we note that a very useful addition to traditional leadership programs is providing training in “situational doing,” which means helping managers who have responsibilities for both doing and leading learn how to use situationally appropriate strategies to address the following issues and concerns:

Caught in the Delegation Conundrum: Managers who are responsible for both leading and doing are often not sure when it is situationally appropriate to do work themselves instead of delegating. Does your leadership training provide managers with strategies for determining when it is best to delegate and when it makes sense for these managers to do work themselves in ways that will leverage their skills and provide on-the-job opportunities for developing their team? Hands-on managers often need what we call a “sit-do protocol” to help them make these decisions.

Too much on your plate having to be both a leader and a doer: Does your training help your managers learn how to engage in activities in ways that offer the promise of simultaneously achieving more than one desired objective? We ask hands-on managers to try a technique we call multi-impacting to help them discover creative ways to advance their leadership agenda when they are doing professional work with their team.


Not sure what to focus on when leading and doing? Do your managers know how to consider the task, people, and learning (TP&L) issues that might need to be addressed while they are engaged in situational doing? When managers are trained to take what we call a “power pause” and use the Think TP&L mantra, learning is moved to the forefront of their thinking.

Need a good strategy for encouraging on-the-job learning when working alongside the team? The secret to eliciting truly effective continuous improvement is making sure your managers know how to unleash their team members’ can-do spirit for learning. Do your managers know how to identify their team members’ key motivators by knowing how to assess their values, interests, talents, ambitions, longings, and style? Helping your managers learn a strategy for Checking Employees’ VITALS will help them discover ways to unleash the can-do spirit for continuous learning.


Add situational doing to your leadership development program. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and guilty when having to both manage people and do work themselves, your hands-on managers will embrace their hands-on manager role and become your best line-of-business partners for workforce development.

Coming up next: Want to learn more about how these situational doing strategies could be woven into your current leadership development program? Next month’s Can-Do Leader blog post will focus on just that.

Want to participate in an interactive session that will deepen your understanding of strategies you might use to fully integrate situational doing for hands-on managers into your current leadership development program? Please join us at the ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition for the session, “Hands-On Management: The Critical Missing Piece of Today’s Leadership Development.”

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About the Author

Dr. Frank Satterthwaite is a professor of organizational leadership and a past director of the MBA program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Frank, who has contributed numerous blogs to ATD’s Community of Practice, is co-author of Becoming a Can-Do Leader: A Guide for the Busy Manager (ATD Press). He is also the senior author of The Career Portfolio Workbook: Using the Newest Tool in Your Job-Hunting Arsenal to Impress Employers and Land a Great Job (McGraw-Hill), a bestselling career book that was selected as an “Editor’s Choice” at the Wall Street Journal. In addition to his cover story for TD Magazine, “The Delegation Conundrum,” his articles have appeared in national magazines, including Esquire. He has appeared on nationally broadcast radio and TV programs in the United States and Canada, and is currently doing webcasts for ATD. Frank also has a management consulting practice in which he helps managers become Can-Do Leaders. He studied psychology at Princeton and received his Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Yale. Earlier in his career Frank was a member of the U.S. national men’s squash team. Frank and his architect wife, Martha Werenfels, live in Rhode Island and are proud parents of their two sons, Peter and Toby.

About the Author

Jamie Millard is the executive partner and co-founder of Lexington Leadership Partners, a consulting and leadership development firm. He has been actively involved across the globe in developing leaders for more than 25 years as a business leader, executive coach, customized training designer, training facilitator, keynote presenter, and leadership consultant. He formerly led the national organization change management practice at CSC Consulting. Prior to that he was a partner at Harbridge House, where he led the continuous improvement and project management customized training and consulting practices. Jamie holds a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from the University of Rhode Island. He is a member of the Global Learning Resource Network with Duke Corporate Education, a professor at Hult International Business School, and an adjunct executive partner at Northeastern University.

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