It was another late night returning home from a business trip this week. Spring weather in Denver has been rainy for a week straight. We need the moisture (not as badly as other parts of the country), so no complaints.
The overcast was heavy with a light sprinkle as I left the airport on the hour’s drive to our mountain neighborhood. There was little traffic at midnight. When I got within 2 miles of our home, a heavy fog stopped me cold.
Visibility was less than 10 feet (!). I could barely see the center line, much less the outer edges of our paved two-lane highway. The rest of my drive home was at less than 5 mph, sometimes dead stopped, creeping along to ensure I was on the road, not heading off of it!
It was an unsettling end to an otherwise boring drive home. I simply couldn’t see. The fog caused me to slow way down, to discount my years of experience (driving on this road), and to increase my frustration and anxiety.
That same fog — a figurative overcast — inhibits effective decision-making by people close to your customers. Workplace fog has the same impact: We slow way down, we discount our experience, and we feel greater frustration and anxiety.
What causes workplace “fog”? It might come from unclear expectations. If front-line leaders or team members do not understand the company’s purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals, they won’t know what an “aligned response” is; so, they rarely deliver one.
It might come from distrust of the team leader or distrust expressed by the team leader.
It might come from a dysfunctional team culture, where peers challenge any proactive attempts to serve well, to fix bent or broken processes, to cooperate rather than compete, etc.
To boost productivity, engagement, and service, leaders must clear the fog from their workplace. A proven way to do so is to define your desired team culture, then align all plans, decisions, and actions to those “liberating rules.”
A perfect structure for these “liberating rules” is an organizational constitution, a formal statement which specifies the team’s purpose, behaviorally defined values, strategies, and goals.
Once those elements are shared and agreed to, the leader’s job shifts to alignment, ensuring these rules are demonstrated in every interaction, every day. The leader must live the team’s purpose, valued behaviors, strategies, and goals. As credibility for the desired culture grows, team members will begin to embrace those elements.
Leaders must then consistently celebrate aligned behaviors (both performance and values) and redirect misaligned behaviors, promptly and kindly. They delegate authority and responsibility to engaged, talented team members, who ACT in alignment with those liberating rules.
With the fog lifted, aligned decisions happen nimbly and consistently. Clear the fog.
What do you think? Do talented, engaged players in your organization have the authority to act, in the moment? To what extent are your values and behaviors formalized and embraced? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.
Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter. Subscribers enjoy free resources and insights plus details on upcoming events and books.
My latest book, The Culture Engine, helps leaders create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution.
Podcast – Listen to this post now by clicking the podcast link at left. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes. The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.