5 Necessities to Navigate Your Team Through the Fog
It’s been quite foggy out the windshield for many teams and organizations lately.
The last years have been blurry with a fast-moving and often divided world. We’ve experienced differing modes of communication, the expansion of remote workers, a global pandemic, issues of racism, social injustice and equity, political and economic uncertainty, all while continuing the pursuit to maximize the experience, product or service that your organization is delivering to the marketplace. The view of the road ahead has been quite foggy for many teams.
The best leaders and organizations understand that cleaning off the proverbial windshield and making the view of the road ahead as clear as possible is a necessity for their teams’ success. They also understand that it’s a pro-active practice, rather than a reactionary one. The best team cultures feature a strong commitment day in and day out, month in and month out, year in and year out to removing obstacles from the view and aligning their people on the next actions needed for the road ahead.
Leaders often beckon their people to “Trust the Process” but then are surprised or frustrated when people don’t just magically fall in line. The idea of “Trusting the Process” is good in theory, but all too often the “process” is blurry due to a lack of clarity on the game plan or the inability of the messenger to communicate it in sufficient detail. Therefore, the “process” is unclear and “trust” puts more of an onus of interpretation on others. When considering larger teams of people who can have different interpretations of an unclear process, added confusion is sure to follow.
The best leaders on the planet understand their role is to help navigate their teams through the fog and to continue to advance the Mission. Here are five necessities to help your team navigate through the fog:
Re-Clarify the Mission, Vision & Values
Before marching ahead, it is important to periodically take a step back and make sure that everyone’s sight is clear on the Mission, Vision and Values of your team. The Mission is the WHY – the reason you are going on the journey you’re on. It is the heartbeat and soul to all your efforts.
The Vision is the WHERE – the direction and destination you are heading towards as a team or organization. It’s the dream of what is possible and what can be created together. Paint the picture of what you hope to create that doesn’t exist and what that future Vision looks like. Your Values are the HOW – as in how you are committed to traveling along the journey. The Values of the team or organization are the compass that helps you know that you are on track with HOW you’re committed to traveling. Values aren’t dictated to us, but are discovered, discerned and identified by participatory discussion. Ensuring that everyone is clear on the Mission, Vision and Values of the team or organization puts the team on the track towards the future, and allows managers to guide their direction more easily.
Don’t assume everyone sees or has been willing to be honest about the obstacles, challenges and threats you are facing as a team. Take time to step back as a team and identify the obstacles that lie ahead and assure the team that you will face them together with a solutions-focused mindset. Not all obstacles need an immediate solution, but getting everyone on the same page about which obstacles are present, and how they will impact progress will get everyone thinking about ways to overcome them and move forward more easily. When all team members are aware and on the same page with regards to obstacles and challenges, they will be able to direct their work more efficiently and support each other better to overcome them.
Communicate the Game Plan Clearly
It’s hard to “Trust the Process” if we aren’t fully sure what the actual game plan is or the process for moving forward. Take time to communicate the strategy moving forward clearly and in detail. Don’t stop at telling them what the new process is. Discuss with the team why you’ll approach it the way you are as a team. Be prepared to answer any questions team members may have so everyone can become crystal clear on why the process moving forward is the way it is. The strategy is WHAT you are going to do proactively to bring the Mission, Vision and Values to life. It’s the game plan that clarifies the priorities, people, and next actions to bring the dream into reality.
Deposit Trust as the Messenger
Trust does not magically exist between people or leaders and a team. It is bartered every single day by the deposits we make in the relationship over time. Do we do what we say we are going to do, when we say we’re going to do it? Do we hold ourselves and others accountable for holding up our end of the commitment? Leaders deposit trust by being transparent about the obstacles and what hasn’t been successful and by honoring their commitments. As the messenger who is communicating the way forward, they deposit trust by owning the next stretch of road ahead and jumping in with the team to seek solutions. Honesty, consistency, reliability and accountability are four key things that a leader must exhibit when guiding people through the fog in order to inspire trust from their team.
Consistently Reinforce the Message
As the strategy and game plan becomes clearer, it is important maintain that level of clarity as the team moves forward. Marketers remind us that it takes seven times for a consumer to hear a message before they take action, and the same thing is true for disseminating messages throughout your organization. Communicate the game plan over and over and over again, and then continue to update the progress being made along the way.
Every time you return to these discussions and seek clarity as a team, the fog doesn’t quite seem so thick. This allows the team to dive deeper into the obstacles and challenges previously identified to create a solution. It will also allow you and your team to identify new obstacles and challenges, determine what is working, and what isn’t, and make adjustments to the process. Your team still may not have all the answers, but they’ll have a compass with clear direction on where to head.
Clarity, Communication and Trust Equals Progress
The best work cultures proactively help their people navigate their way through the fog, together. These cultures are grown, developed, cultivated and led with intentionality. The process for developing high-performing and engaged teams never stops and the best leaders, teams and organizations are committed to setting the temperature in how they hire, onboard, do performance evaluations, develop emerging leaders, and recognize excellence. The best leaders invest in their teams and how they move forward, together.
If you’re experiencing fog, division, negativity, blame, blurry vision, disconnection or uncertainty, it may be time to clean off the windshield!
About the Author:
Jason V. Barger is the globally celebrated author of Thermostat Cultures, ReMember and Step Back from the Baggage Claim as well as the host of The Thermostat podcast. As Founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, he is a coveted keynote speaker, leadership coach and organizational consultant who is committed to engaging the minds and hearts of people and growing compelling cultures. Learn more at: JasonVBarger.com
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