Johnny! Run a LAP!
Somehow I was voluntold to become a soccer coach when my daughter was 5-years old. Mind you, I knew nothing about soccer having never played before. After going to the library and reading up a bit (yes, the library - Google had not yet been invented), I figured out the basics of the game and gave it a whirl.
As I blew the whistle for the first time in our practice scrimmage, I immediately knew there was going to be a problem. All 10 of the children, including the goalies, converged on that little white sphere in the middle of the field. Johnny kicked Sarah in the knee, Brendan knocked over Billy, Melissa pushed over Tommy from the back, and he fell on Joey. One word came to mind … after I stopped laughing, drying off the tears, and wiping off the dirt on their faces … discipline.
From that moment on we implemented a policy about staying in their lanes. We practiced over and over that we needed to maintain space between each other. One of our rules was, that if you were told to get back into your lane in practice, you had to run a lap around the field immediately.
A side note: During our first game the kids started great. Spaced out and doing well. Little Johnny (yes, there is always a little Johnny) became tired of that concept in the 2nd half. I yelled, “Johnny - get back in your lane!” And he immediately began running a lap. Celebrate small victories, at least he remembered something.
What does this have to do with your team?
As leaders, we strive for collaboration and input from all parts of the organization. We encourage cross-functional meetings. It is important to learn how a new policy will affect accounting, product development, or the marketing teams. We continually ask for opinions so they can be involved in this process. The goals is for everyone to buy-in and we can build a consensus.
When we convene these teams to discuss these strategies, it is very important to set the guidelines. It’s okay for marketing to say that the new form that accounting designed should have the logo in this area. If engineering informs the sales group that the most important question for them during prospecting process should be to ask what the temperature range of the application is, that is okay too. What is not okay is that these departments tell the other departments how to do their jobs.
So often in these meetings we don’t get collaboration, we hear critiques. When crafting a new policy why do salespeople think they can tell R&D exactly what to do, and what their priorities should be?
What makes people steal the ball from their own team? Why are they running into everyone else’s lanes and saying “You should be _____ ”.
STAY IN YOUR LANE
You as a leader get ready to repeat as often as necessary those 4-words!
“Stay In Your Lane”.
How do we create a culture that allows for innovative ideas coming from every part of the organization, but also stops unproductive criticism? Let’s go back to the soccer fields. How did we get Sarah to stop picking up the ball? We didn’t, we made her the goalie. When Johnny ran all over the field (and did 30 laps a during practice) we made him a defender and gave him more room to go side to side. We experimented in practice and put things that worked into the games.
Where do you ‘practice’ your business?
If you have a team that has great ideas and innovation is something you want to harness, there is a great place for that. In the beginning. Those are your brainstorming sessions. That is where everyone can say anything about a process, a product, service, or policy. What ifs are king, there are no bad ideas and you encourage the team to think outside the box and step out of their lane.
When the brainstorming sessions are over, something must be done about all those great ideas. It’s not practical to use them all. You need define a criteria on why you are selecting the ideas that you have. The team agrees and understands on the criteria and you simply circle the ones that will be put into place and cross out the ones that won’t. This is where consensus-building starts.
Let the games begin
At the end of the brainstorming sessions you have produced an; outline, rough draft, or an agenda. Now it is time for the game to begin. Practice is over.
Accounting goes to their corner and looks at this new idea and comes up with their part of the process. Sales, marketing, engineering, finance, and everyone else go into their lanes and do the same. These department leaders are the experts you have in place to define the initiatives and tactics necessary and possible to support your ideas.
Your expectations for for those experts to develop the most efficient process. We also realise, there could be conflicts and issues with other groups. They can not be married to this yet.
When you convene as a group to discuss everyone’s recommendations, as the leader your message must be clear “stay in your lane”. When engineering goes thru their process - sales can only point out where the conflicts are within their team. If someone suggests something that was ruled out during brainstorming - remind them. Be firm. If they continue - and it will because little Johnny never grows up - find your version of run a lap.
Trust and respect are key in the game
We see these conflicts everywhere. In companies, nonprofit groups, and volunteer organizations. All of us are part of one or more of these teams. Start with you … once you have been assigned to an area - stick to it. It’s your responsibility to deliver the best experience that you are responsible for. Your opinion matters only if it affects your lane. You have to have trust that the other groups will meet the expectations. The leader of the group put them there for a reason. Do you trust your leader? If not, we have more problems to tackle.
Leaders, in order to instill this it is important to build the respect and trust between the team members. What are you doing to make sure that the right people in the right seat? Your team knows who is and who isn’t in the right area or competent enough. Keep this in mind as you build your committees and project teams.
Leaders, make sure you are consistently voicing this through the entire process. From ideation through brainstorming, and especially once the game begins.
If you are having a tough time developing the trust, or respect among your team members, give Kole Performance Groupa call. This is not easy work today, but it will improve your tomorrow … and just maybe, Johnny won’t be tired from running laps!