The Power of Connection – Part 1

During this COVID-19 “stay at home” directive our oldest daughter has been doing jigsaw puzzles. She’s done 3 or 4 1,000 piece puzzles. She gets the hard ones and dives right in. Pieces spread out over the dining room table she starts by hunting down the edge pieces and connects the border. Then she color coordinates piles of pieces and compares them to the picture on the box to find out where they belong. If you’ve ever done a puzzle like that, you know the thrill of finding where that piece belongs and connecting it.

The thrill of making connections is in more than just puzzles. It’s also there in relationships. You’ve heard someone say, “I think we made a real connection,” when talking about someone they’ve met, right? That comment is usually made with some positive emotion, isn’t it? Connection is an emotional level bond. The word “Connect” comes from Latin con – “with” and nectere – “to bind” leading to many definitions. One of those `is “to form a relationship or feel an affinity”

During this month I’d like to discuss connecting with people as an important part of our ability to lead. Communication is very important. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time is critical to getting things done. Bu there’s more to it.

I was at a senior leader meeting in Jackson Hole Wyoming several years ago. It was an annual event set up by the CEO of that company designed for strategic planning. At one of the sessions during this particular event, the CEO let the team know some people had been talking to him about buying the company. He shared from his heart about what the company meant to him personally (he had founded it) and why he wasn’t interested in selling.

That level of communication was a little out of character for him but he really connected with us in that moment. After that session I told the CEO that when he connected with us like that, we would walk through walls for him. There was a very different atmosphere on the team from that session on. We found more synergy and purpose and accomplished far more than had been expected for that retreat.

Principles of Connection

We are emotional beings at the core so sharing a common mind (which is what happens in communication) is more likely when we make a heart connection with people. You’ve heard the quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt,

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

That’s true. And that leads to the first principle of connection. Connection begins with others. It begins with having the maturity to see and act on behalf of others. Immaturity is seeing and acting on behalf of myself alone. But, in the words of John Holmes, “It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.” It’s foolish then, isn’t it, to think that the universe should revolve around me.

When people meet with you they have the same questions of you that you have of them, namely:

  1. Do you care for me? (or, What do you think of me?)
  2. Can you help me?
  3. Can I trust you?

That first one may seem a bit odd. But question #5 on the Gallup Organization’s Employee Engagement survey asks, “Does your supervisor, or someone at work seem to care about you as a person?” The very presence of that question on a 12 question survey signals how important this is. When people feel valued, they connect. When they don’t feel valued they remain disengaged.

So, the first principle of connection is to value others and to let them know you value them. What can you do today to let someone know you value them?

How to Develop Leaders – Empower Them

Have you ever been asked to be responsible or been held accountable for something you didn’t have the authority to change? It happens all the time. Leaders will delegate a task to an employee with clear expectations of outcome and timeline but will retain the decision making authority. Usually, whatever that leader hoped to gain by delegating that task is lost because it winds up back on their plate for decisions. On top of that, the leader has created a frustrated employee. On the other hand, when leaders empower others, when they give both responsibility and authority, the reverse is true. That leader has actually streamlined their operation and are developing leaders around them.

Practice the law of empowerment

If you want to be a successful leader, you must know how to empower others.Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”So, if you want to empower others:

  1. Turn people loose. Find strong leaders to empower. Build them up, give them resources, authority, and responsibility. Turn them loose to achieve.
  2. Help them to reach their potential. Be on their side, encourage them, give them power, and help them to succeed.
  3. Raise them up. To keep people down, you have to stay down with them. The more you raise people up, the more you go up too.
  4. Be willing to change. Effective leaders are not only willing to change; they become change agents.
  5. Develop a strong sense of self-worth. If you don’t believe in yourself, you will be threatened by the success of others, and you will eventually look for ways to undermine them. Believe in yourself, your mission, and your people.

If you take these steps you will be well on your way to developing leaders around you thus multiplying your influence.

How To Develop Leaders – Add Value

Last month I focused on Leadership from the perspective of leading others with a series called “How to Become a Person of Influence.” This month the focus is still Leadership but from the perspective of developing leaders around you. John Maxwell has said, “If its lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right.” One of the important jobs of a leader is to work themselves out of a job by developing people around them to take over or to lead somewhere else.

I recently participated on the interview panel for a director level position in a healthcare environment. We interviewed several highly qualified candidates. The one who got the job was the one who had a demonstrated track record of developing leaders. Her previous employer had sent several high potential people to her for the purpose of being mentored by her. She said, “When they moved up and on, it was hard to see them leave, but it was gratifying to see them lead.”

Mind Shift

Many people have heard the leadership definition that says, “Leadership is getting things done through people.” Unfortunately, too many have interpreted that to mean “I get everything I can out of my people.” It sounds like “Value Extraction.” We define value extraction as the capturing of value from other stakeholders, either outside or inside the corporation, by manipulating … the competitive market or people for the company’s benefit.

Here’s another definition that sounds eerily similar – “an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense.” That’s the definition of a parasite! Do you know any parasite leaders?

Genuine, effective, transformational leadership is the opposite of that. The best leaders focus on adding value to people, not trying to extract value from them. Earlier I mentioned developing leaders. I love how the definition of “Develop” fits the leadership model so well. “Develop” – to grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate. From Latin dis – un, and envelop – to wrap, so to unfurl or unfold. I see a bud unfurling when the flower blossoms as a great analogy to the growth and development of people.

With a plant you cultivate the soil and add water and sunshine to promote growth and development. It’s the same with people. To promote growth and development you cultivate a growth climate and add value. Value is a measure of something’s worth or usefulness. When you add value to someone, you increase their worth and usefulness to the organization. What better way to get things done than to increase the worth and usefulness of your people? When you add value, you multiply your influence and create a legacy.

How Do You Do That?

How do you add value to another person? Here are three suggestions.

  1. Make yourself more valuable – During a pre-flight safety demonstration, the flight attendant will say, “In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure … put on your oxygen mask first, before helping the person next to you,” The principle is similar. You have to have value to add value. Do you have a personal development plan? Have you intentionally built into your schedule regular opportunities to learn and grow? Doing that will ensure you always have value to add and it will set an example for your people to follow.
  2. Find out what your people value – whenever I start working with a new group, I try to have a one-on-one meeting with every member of the team. I ask several questions. Some are designed to ascertain how things are going but I also ask questions to find out what the people care about and how they want to grow. This requires that you listen well (check out my “super-power listening” series). That information will help you develop a growth plan for them.
  3. Connect the dots – What knowledge or skills do you have or have access to that they value and need? Share. Some people think it makes them powerful to have knowledge or skills that others don’t have. I promise you, sharing your knowledge and skills with your people will make you more powerful because it will multiply your influence. If you don’t have the particular knowledge or skills your people need, make it available to them through educational opportunities, resources, and experiences.

I had the privilege of working with a large hospital system for over a year on their training program for front line supervisors in the Environmental Services (Hospital Housekeeping) Department. We broke the learning into three categories of acquisition: Education (classroom or online learning opportunities), Exposure (giving developing leaders the opportunity to experience something for the first time, maybe attend a higher level meeting, for example), and Experience (providing the chance to try something new, like lead a morning huddle or a process improvement team).

You may or may not be the source of your people’s “Education” piece. But, you certainly can give them “Exposure” and “Experience.” And those are the most powerful ways to learn.

What are three things you could do today to add value to someone?

Celebrating 100!

This is the 100th post for Engager Dynamics! Whoo Whoo … celebrate good times, c’mon!” I love that song! Anyway, it’s the 100th post since I’ve been numbering them like I currently do. I write my posts in Evernote then copy and paste them into my website engagerdynamics.com with wordpress. WordPress automatically posts them to LinkedIn and I paste the link into my facebook profile manually since facebook stopped allowing automatic postings awhile ago. I recently created a facebook business page for Engager Dynamics and am working on improving that. I said “at least since I’ve been numbering them the way I do” because WordPress tells me I’ve actually posted 107 times. That’s because I posted a few extras in the middle of the week that I numbered with an “a” after the main post number.

What’s It All About?

I’ve been providing contracted services to clients in multiple industries for over 20 years. In some of those engagements we provided staff who were supervised by the client’s leadership team. It was particularly clear in those situations how strongly lack of engagement negatively impacted the business. I’ve observed that same negative impact within organizations I’ve worked for as well as within partner organizations. Those who really engage are rare and that bothers me. So, I decided to add value by sharing some important truths I’ve learned along the way and that’s what got me started with this blog.

I normally post every Monday morning before 6 AM on the west coast. In my second post, nearly two years ago, I defined what I mean by Engager Dynamics. In short, this blog is about the things we can do to connect or engage with people at work in ways that improve relationships and organizational outcomes. The posts fall into four main categories;

  1. Engager Dynamics (the core actions that lead to engagement)
  2. Leadership (topics a little more broadly about leadership)
  3. Habit Formation (how to make a habit of doing the good stuff)
  4.  Listening (a skill so critical it deserves its own category)

You can find the last 15 posts in each category listed on my “Posts by Category” page. Some of them overlap and there is another category on that page called “Words.” I call myself a word nerd, and this category captures posts where I share a specific word definition or two regardless of the main topic.

What’s Next?

Over the last few years I’ve developed a training that has been well received by several clients. The training focuses on the specific actions leaders can take to engage with their people. I’ve been refining the training lately and recently did an informal poll of readers to see which title would be more interesting. I had two choices 1. “Best.Boss.Ever. – How to Be the Best Boss Your People Will Ever Have” or 2. “The 12 Transformational Laws of Engagement.” Just over 70% preferred number 2.

The next question is delivery method. In addition to offering the training in person, I’d like to make it available more widely. I wonder how people might prefer to receive it. I could present it in an e-book, or as an audio file series, or as a series of videos. What do you think? If you were interested in a teaching on “The 12 Transformational Laws of Engagement,” how would you prefer to receive it? Thanks in advance for letting me know.

How to Become a Person of Influence Part 3

Last week I continued a short series on becoming a person of influence. This is the final installment in that series. In the first post I wrote about Integrity, Nurture, and Faith in people as essential to increasing your influence. Last week we looked at Listening, Understanding and Enlarging people. This week we’re going to tackle the final four actions that will increase your influence.

Navigate

I have a lighthouse on the home page of my website. I like the symbolism of the lighthouse because lighthouses help ships safely navigate along the coast. They provide a reference point and identify potential dangers. The metaphor is great for leaders.

John Maxwell calls this the “Law of Navigation” in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The law states: “Anyone can steer a ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.” Leaders (influencers) are people who help others find a way through troubled waters. There are some who see problems ahead and avoid them, some who experience problems and fix them, and some who neither see nor fix them but are overwhelmed by them. If you can help people see problems and safely navigate through them, you will increase your influence.

Connect

This is about more than friends on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn. This is about personal connection which is becoming more and more rare, unfortunately. We’ve all seen the scene at the restaurant where several people (sometimes even families!) are sitting at the table. No two of them are talking to each other because they’re all on their phones. Or the scene where the child is sitting with a parent, trying to get their attention, but they can’t because Mom or Dad is focused on their phone. This is the most “connected” period in history with the most isolated people ever. We can be isolated in a crowd because we are losing the art of interpersonal connection.

If you want to increase your influence, learn to connect with people. How do you do that? First, find their agenda. Go to “their world.” Connection involves pursuit more than invitation. What are they interested in and/or working on. You will connect if you get interested in that. Second, communicate from the heart. In the words of writer Susanna Clarke, “You’ve got to love like you’ll never get hurt. You’ve got to dance like there’s nobody watching. You’ve got to come from the heart if you want it to work.” Finally, find the key to their life. Everybody has one. Once you find it, ask permission to turn it on. That’s connection.

Empower

To empower is to make someone stronger and more confident. A sign at the Walmart headquarters says, “Through these doors pass ordinary people on their way to accomplishing extraordinary things.” That’s an empowering message. It encourages people to be strong and confident.

Empowerment means to see the potential in people. It means to say the words of encouragement and confidence in them that will inspire them to attempt what they thought they could not do. Empowerment means to share your knowledge and experience so they can grow faster and go further than you. It also means that you show others your faith in that person and the power you’ve given to them.

Reproduce

One of the most potent ways to be an influencer is to reproduce through others. It’s the principle of multiplication. John Craig said, “No matter how much work you can do, no matter how engaging your personality may be, you will not advance far in business if you cannot work through others.” One of the primary jobs of a leader is to produce more leaders. How do you do that?

  1. Model good leadership
  2. Provide leadership training
  3. Provide leadership resources
  4. Provide leadership experiences
  5. Create a growth environment

That wraps up our list of 10 essential qualities that will help you become a person of Influence. You may have noticed that the list is arranged into an acrostic. How do you become a person of influence? You

I ntegrity (have it with people)
N urture people
F aith (have it in people)
L isten to people
U nderstand people
E nlarge people
N avigate with people
C onnect with people
E mpower people
R eproduce through people

How to Become a Person of Influence Part 2

In last week’s post I started writing about how to become a person of influence. We are all already influencing up to 80,000 people over the course of an average lifetime. This is about being more than average. Not necessarily in the numbers (although that, too), but in the intent. I started a list of 10 things you can do to intentionally increase your influence. The first three areas of focus were to have Integrity, to Nurture people, and to have Faith in people. This week I have three more.

Listen

We’ve been endowed with two ears and on mouth. How often do you find people using those in reverse proportion? What might happen to relationships of all kinds, personal, professional, etc. if we listened twice as much as we talked? Christian Philosopher, Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

I have a series on listening in this blog called “The Superpower You Didn’t Know you Have.” Click here to see the first post and then you can scroll down. Or click here to view a list of posts under that category.

In his book Becoming a Person of Influence, Author and renown leadership trainer, John Maxwell, Writes about what he calls the “4 H questions to become a good listener.” I like these:

  1. What is their Heart?
  2. What is their Hope?
  3. What is their Hurt?
  4. How can I Help?

You have to ask questions and listen to discover a person’s heart, hope, hurt, and opportunity to be helped. When you do, I guarantee the person will feel heard. When we feel heard, we’re more open to the one who heard us. That’s influence.

Understand

This one can be tricky. But it’s a huge opportunity if we get it right. It takes time to understand people. The tricky thing about understanding is that we make snap judgments about someone when we first meet them. You’ve heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true. Some research shows we form an almost indelible first impression within a tenth of a second of meeting a person.

It’s a good thing those first impressions are not always right. Over thirty years ago, our oldest son needed to have a tumor removed from his brain. It was serious enough that the hospital where he was diagnosed wouldn’t perform the surgery. We were referred to Children’s Memorial in Chicago. The night before the surgery, his Brain Surgeon came into the hospital room to meet us and discuss the surgery. Right when he walked into the room he set his notebook down on the over bed table and knocked Josh’s water onto the floor. Not a good look for the guy who will be tinkering inside your 20 month old’s brain the next morning! Fortunately, he was an incredibly skilled surgeon. The surgery was successful and our son is now in his early thirties.

To really understand someone, you need to know a lot about them. In addition to the 4 H questions above, take time to find out about what they’re great at, what they cry about, sing about and dream about, and who have been the key influencers in their life so far.

I once had a job where I joked that my job description was “Coffee, Cookies, and Conversation.” I did spend a great deal of time getting to know and understand as many of the people I worked with as possible. My job was to help them thrive in a cross-cultural work environment. Understanding people is critical to positively influencing people.

Enlarge

To Enlarge is to make bigger. Another word for that is to Grow. One of the key intrinsic motivators for most people is called “Mastery.” People generally want to get better at things. You can see that, for example, in the person who practices playing an instrument they will never use professionally. They enjoy playing and just want to get better. If you help people grow, learn things, develop skills, improve the skills they have, you’ll be helping them get what they want and that’s influence. Zig Zigler is famous for saying, “You’ll always have everything in life that you want IF you help enough people get what they want.” Helping people grow, then, is a classic win/win.

We’ve covered 6 of the 10 ways to increase your influence. Next week we’ll finish up the list. Leave a comment about how you’re increasing your influence.

How to Become a Person of Influence

A few years ago I worked with a large Hospital System in California. They teach their staff a tool called the “10 – 5 Rule.” It instructs all staff that if they see a member or guest coming toward them in the corridor of one of their facilities, they should acknowledge that person with eye contact and a smile once they come within 10 feet of them. When they reach the 5 foot line, staff are taught to verbally greet the person. This practice is intended to help people feel welcome and generally better about being in a medical facility where most people are not having their best day. I put that rule into practice while working there as well. It was amazing to see the results. When you smile at people, they most often smile back. Sometimes, it was a little scary. The person walking toward me didn’t make eye contact and looked very serious. But over 90% of the time, when I said, “Hello,” their entire face changed. They smiled (sometimes looked surprised) and said, “Hello” back.

That’s Influence

Influence is defined as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something,” It can be in the moment like when you make someone smile in the hallway. Or it can be over a lifetime with your family, friends, co-workers or an even larger set of people. It can be formal. It can be informal. It can be a part of your position or just a part of who you are. The fact is, we are all people of influence on some level.

We are constantly influencing people. In fact, one study shows the average person will influence 80,000 people during their lifetime. That’s a lot of people. But, when we talk about becoming a person of influence, we’re not talking about the influence of the average person. That happens regardless of your intention or even your knowledge sometimes. A “Person of Influence” is someone who intentionally uses their influence to add value to others, to make their lives better.

World renown Leadership Teacher and Author, John Maxwell, says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” So, whether you are in a recognized leadership position of some kind or not, being a person of influence makes you a leader. Some of the most influential people I know are not “Leaders” in their job title. They’re Moms and Dads, Administrative Assistants, Teachers, Friends, etc. But, because of their influence, they are leaders.

How To Increase Your Influence

There are 10 things you can focus on to increase your intentional influence. Here are three of them.

Influence begins with Integrity. If you want to increase your influence, start there. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said,

“In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a sections gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.”

The next focus of Influence is Nurture. As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Authentically caring about others will increase your influence with them.

The third focus of Influence is Faith. One of the greatest gifts you can give a person is to express belief in them when they don’t believe in themselves. Can you imagine being on a team where the coach didn’t believe in you? Your influence with people will increase when you believe in them.

Let’s focus on these three for now and I’ll share a few more in the next post.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, or this is your first time, please give me some feedback on whether or not this is helpful to you. Thanks!

How Your Expectations Influence Your Team

In 1964 a psychologist named Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment in some elementary school classrooms. He told the teachers that a special test he’d administered to their students had the ability to predict which students were on the verge of great intellectual growth. He randomly selected some of their students as those who had been so identified by the test and told the teachers who they were. The teachers, who thought this was all legitimate, went on to teach the students based on the expectation set by the test outcomes.

As he followed the children over the next two years, Rosenthal discovered that the teachers’ expectations of these kids really did affect the students. “If teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ, then increasingly, those kids gained more IQ,” he says.

The Pygmalion / Golem Effects

This psychological phenomenon identified by Robert Rosenthal is also known as the Pygmalion Effect. The name, interestingly, is based on an ancient Greek myth about Pygmalion who fell in love with one of his sculptures which, then, came to life. The psychological effect follows the mechanics diagrammed below:

In essence, people tend to become what we expect of them. That’s because our expectations influence how we behave toward people. They internalize the impact of our behavior and incorporate that into their beliefs about themselves which influence how they behave which reinforces our beliefs, expectations and behavior and around we go again. Pretty interesting and important. The higher our expectations, the better people perform.

The negative corollary to the Pygmalion effect is known as the Golem Effect. It simply says that low expectations have the same impact in the wrong direction. If we expect people to perform poorly, they will tend to live up to (or should I say down to) that expectation as well.

What Does This Mean for You?

I’ve written about setting expectations previously in this blog. This time, though, it’s not about letting people know what tasks and outcomes you expect from them. In this context, expectation is more about how successful you believe they will be at accomplishing those tasks or achieving those outcomes. It’s about your beliefs. Do you expect your team to win? Why or why not?

If you don’t expect your people to succeed, why don’t you? Do they need more training? Do they need better tools? Do you need different people? Or, do you need an adjustment to your beliefs, your expectations? This could be a challenging exercise, but, as John Maxwell says, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” Take some time to reflect on each person on your team. What do you believe about them? What about the team as a whole? Where do those beliefs come from? Are they fair? What’s your evidence? Are they accurate? Are you producing the Pygmalion effect or the Golam effect with your people?

As a leader, you’re influencing your people by your actions. Those actions are fueled by your beliefs about them. How are your people doing? What do you expect?

Trust Me!

Yikes! Would you trust him? I’m not sure I would. Although, she seems to be on the board of her own free will and there appear to be at least four successful attempts so far. Still, one wrong move and she’s a goner. The stakes are as high as they get in this relationship. Fortunately, the stakes aren’t nearly that high in most of our relationships. Yet, it seems there is less trust in many of our relationships, especially at work, than there is between these two.

I’ve written on Trust in previous posts. I wrote about the Engager Dynamic called Trust. Later I wrote about How to make a Habit of Trust. Trust is so critical to work that I’m compelled to write about it again. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says that the true equation for Results is (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results. In that equation low trust is like a tax that diminishes your results and high trust is like a dividend that increases your results. It’s that important.

Credibility Gap

Covey writes about Four Core elements of Self-Trust which he says is all about credibility. The elements are Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, and Results. In my experience the question of Intent seems crucial. The new COO of an organization recently distributed his written leadership philosophy. It contained the statement, “We judge ourselves by our intent. Others judge us by our behavior.”

Intent is someone’s planned or desired outcome. Behavior is the manifestation of one’s Agenda and Motive which, hopefully, fully and accurately represent their intent. The COO’s point is that all anyone has to go on when deciding on your credibility is your behavior. They can only discern your intent by what they see you do. Covey makes the great point that often trust is depleted simply because of a poorly executed good intent. The intentions were noble but the behavior failed to accurately reflect the intention. When that happens people interpret the intent by the poorly executed behavior. At best they are confused. At worst they become suspicious of your intent and trust evaporates.

Several weeks ago, I was on a conference call with some corporate leaders. In the room with me were 8 – 10 other team members on speaker phone. One of the corporate leaders congratulated me for a particular accomplishment. I had done none of the actual work to achieve the celebrated outcome so my intent was to give credit where credit was due and I quickly named off the people in the room who had actually achieved that result, except one. I still don’t know how I left that person’s name out but that was a poorly executed good intent.  Later, I apologized but I can never get that moment back.

Prevention

On Covey’s list of the core elements of credibility, intent is the least obvious to the observer. Integrity, capabilities, and results are much easier to see from the outside. It’s the questions about intent, especially for a boss, that cause so much energy to be wasted on suspicion and CYA when trust is low. If someone doesn’t trust their bosses intentions, they will be less productive because they’re wasting time and energy trying to figure out what s/he is up to and planning their next move like a chess player.

There are at least two things you can do to prevent misunderstanding about your intentions. First, declare your intentions. When you take an action or make a decision, let people know what your intentions are for that action. That way, when they recognize the outcome you intended, your credibility goes up.

The second thing you can do is to invite feedback. Don’t assume people will come to you and let you know they are confused about your intentions. Establish yourself as an open person by inviting and then graciously receiving feedback. Do that enough times and people will come to you voluntarily with their feedback. That’s how I found out I had left the person off the list on that conference call. They came to me after the call and told me. They only did that because they knew I was open to feedback.

Cure

By the way, those two steps are also helpful in repairing trust that has been broken. It most likely will have to be in the reverse order, though. Invite feedback when you believe trust is low. You may have to examine and adjust your intent, motive, or agenda to regain credibility. If so, say so. Otherwise explain your intent and make restitution for any harm poor execution may have caused.

Covey’s “Waves of Trust” are a ripple effect starting with one’s personal credibility, which impacts relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust, and finally societal trust. We have a crisis of trust all around us. Don’t let it prevail in your organization. Take steps to establish your credibility. As Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Stay In Your Lane

When I was in Junior High and High School, I ran track. Back then races were measured in yards and I did the 100, the 220, the 440 relay and the Long Jump. When you do sprints, you learn pretty quickly that you have to stay in your lane. In fact, if you veer out of your lane, you will be disqualified from the race because it’s very dangerous to be running as fast as you can and have someone bump into you or clip your heel.

Another place where it’s important to stay in your lane is traffic. In fact, you will often see road signs telling you to stay in your lane. There is road construction right now on the highway that goes through our town and they’ve painted solid white lane lines through part of it to remind drivers to stay in their lanes through that part. It involves a lane shift and accidents can happen if people change lanes through there.

What Are They Afraid Of?

I understand, in Track and Field and traffic, why people should stay in their lanes. But what about in organizations? I’ve heard the same admonishment given to people who voiced an idea about something that wasn’t necessarily in their “lane.” The phrase, “Stay in your lane,” is defined in the urban and in the slang dictionary as: “mind your own business, don’t veer over into my (personal) affairs.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says,”The phrase stay in your lane is used as a term of admonishment or advice against those who express thoughts or opinions on a subject about which they are viewed as having insufficient knowledge or ability.”

In organizations, we hire people to perform certain job functions. We need those functions done well so we hire people with related skills and experience. We expect them to focus their time and energy on those functions for which we hired them. When they get out of that “lane,” we fear their primary job function will suffer. We also fear their ideas or advice may be detrimental to the organization if it’s not their area of expertise.

Are You More Than Your Lane?

I guess I don’t want a mechanic giving me advice on taking care of my heart. But, wait, what if that mechanic had recently experienced a heart attack and was sharing with me some things they learned from their cardiologist, helpful changes they’ve made in their own life? Would that change your openness to their advice? It would mine.

I believe, when we require people to “stay in their lanes,” we short change the organization. Everyone who works there is far more, and brings far more to the table than just what is in their “lane.” Their past work experiences, their education, their life experience outside of work all bring potential value to the work at hand. Even their temperament type and their approach to work can add value across lanes.

In one organization that is trying to adopt a culture of freely collaborating across disciplines (lanes), a unique group recently formed on its own to solve a problem. The safety manager (a process guy), the compliance director (responsible for assuring the service meets all contractual and regulatory requirements), and the administrative assistant to the compliance director (a real project manager type), had an idea about how to fix a problem that had plagued the organization for 3 years.

After receiving the green light from the leadership, they went to work. Within a couple weeks this collaborative team took the organization from 35% validated performance to 100% validated performance. They were able to do it because they worked together, outside their lanes, and took an innovative approach to solving the problem.

So, in track and field and in traffic, definitely stay in your lane. In your organization, consider the value of allowing cross lane collaboration. You just might see amazing results.