Are You Managing in a Fog?

May 5th, 2015

Jill walks into her office and slumps into her chair. The fog, that horrible fog, has returned. She mentally goes through a checklist and deems herself a horrible manager because she can’t seem to get her team to act like one, let alone move in the same direction.

What feels like a turf war is breaking out amongst her amazingly gifted, hand-selected team. She wonders why. What happened? It was all working not so long ago.

Jill seeks out her mentor, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth sympathizes and smiles compassionately. Then she adds, “Well, my team does the quiet subterfuge, no one is talking…with each other. They just do what they need to do and avoid one another.” They both sigh.

They are stuck in that foggy bog all manager and leaders inevitably encounter. People are people; they will become territorial either vocally or passively one-way or the other. The most common denominators of these types of situations come down to people neither knowing what’s expected of them nor feeling safe in their roles. These insecurities are normal. Of course, there’s a way through the fog to the other side of the clouds where the sun shines brightly, and the team
actually works together again.

  1. Set Your Foundation Up – Get clear on your values. Values are more than integrity or honesty, which are both great, but there are roughly 144 different values you can incorporate into your leadership foundation. Kofi Annan says it perfectly: “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.” Not only do you need to know this, but so does your team.
  2. Tell Them What You Expect – Your team are a reflection of you. Therefore, it’s important that they are all in alignment with the values you may be instilling into your team. But the trick is, you have to tell them how you want them to action it. Meaning, if your value is innovation or curiosity, for example, you have to let them know that you value these attributes and you want them to consider completely out of the box options and offer at least one truly
    innovative solution up when they’re problem solving. You have now told them what you want, how you want it and given them permission to be innovative and/or curious. Remember, all expectations can be met if people know what they are.
  3. Tell Them What They’re Doing – One of the biggest management and leadership fails is not creating clear roles and responsibilities (R&R) for each team member. Sometimes an office can turn into a turf war. Other times it’s the hot potato way of working: “that’s not my job”. Be clear to everyone, in detail, what their role and responsibilities are both inside and outside of the team, as well as who they are to intersect with and engage as partners.
  4. Set Boundaries – Building on #3, explain that stepping outside of one’s territory is a violation of trust and will more times than not evoke a very negative reaction from the owner of the territory, or role, that you’re entering. To avoid this, boundaries of the R&R must be clear, but in the spirit of collaboration it’s important to ask others if they’d like your help, are open to an idea or opinion and more over, ask if they’d
    like to collaborate to find the solution/resolution. All of these opening questions give the territory/role owner the power to issue an invitation to the other party or grant permission. Don’t enter someone else’s territory without permission expecting that tea and biscuits will be waiting for you. But if one asks, chances are you may actually get that mochaccino from Starbucks at the next meeting.

We always have to remember that while the roles ultimately belong to the company and not the occupier of the role, they, however, are people. They will have a sense of ownership, which is tremendously important. However, without clarity of expectations and boundaries the fog will not lift.

We have a saying in my own home, which holds true at the office too:

All needs can be met, if I know what they are.

If you always consider this mantra each and every day, it will help you to not only lift the fog you’re watching, but also teach your team to embody this depth of engagement with everyone they work with too.

The manager and leader who take time to provide clarity will have a very focused team moving in the same direction: towards the end goal.

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