No movie review, no book report, just a lot of grey. Leaders dance in the grey area a lot and
this issue has come up in three client discussions just this week. From “we want employees to be excellent” to “that’s not really measurable”, leaders are struggling with more than 50 shades of choices when coaching, directing and creating a culture for employee’s that’s truly clear. Whatever your assumptions about the blockbuster movie 50 Shades of Grey, these guidelines will help new and experienced leaders to
see the many shades of grey they create, which may be getting in the way of effective leadership.
Define and Clarify Every Word
New leaders find it hard to be in the know, when they don’t know the rules. Though you may have written them down, created a mission statement and framed them nicely on the wall, chances are your office and workplace rules are as clear as mud to more than 50% of your workforce. For example, if your values (rules you live by) at the office say something like these, consider the assumptions you’re making:
Example 1: “Be Innovative”
- Does this mean be creative, take initiative, solve problems on your own and don’t come to me, figure out your own issues, make customers happy at all costs? What are the parameters here? Have you stated them?
Example 2: “Customers are our top priority”
- Really? Does this mean I can stay late and incur overtime to help them? Does this mean if I comp something to make one happy, there’s a budget for that? Does this mean you want me to be on the floor even if my reports are late and performance appraisals aren’t done?
Specificity is key and grey will create conflict. Spell out what you want and define it in terms a five year old could understand. Then coach team members and leaders to have good judgment, not to use common sense.
Get Clear About Common Sense
Someone once told me “if common sense were common, everyone would have some”. I wish I remembered who so I could thank them, because I’m reminded of that phrase nearly daily. Common sense does not exist. If it did, Clorox would not need to warn consumers not to drink the bleach. The only way to have common sense is to have common backgrounds, experiences, skill levels and personalities. Now, if you have a team of people who are all alike, and it’s a big IF, you may find some common sense, but then you won’t have high levels of performance and people will get bored. So, let’s all let go of the need to say and expect common sense and strive instead to “get” each other. The leader needs to work as hard on getting what his or her employees need from their leader, as much as those employees need to understand how their leader leads. Lots of grey and not a lot in common is normal.
Decide on Your Desired Range of Grey
A CPA of mine once told me “before you answer that question, realize that it will depend on just how much you want to play in the grey”. Even with volumes of tax code, apparently there is still grey. Given that, one employee manual, one code of conduct, one set of ethics guidelines or values statement posted on the break room wall, isn’t going to make your office black and white. These documents very often lead to more questions and the question you have to ask yourself is how willing am I to play in the grey. In what area is it okay to have variations of outcomes, differing paths to the same result, and unique resolutions to problems? What shade of grey will cost you your bonus? What shade of gray will cost you a customer? What shade of grey will cost you or them their job?
To address the multiple shades of grey in policies, performance, procedures, and projects in your workplace, follow these three guidelines:
- Define and Clarify Every Word
- Avoid the Expectation of Common Sense
- Determine Your Desired Range of Grey
Following these guidelines will make you a more effective leader. While they won’t make a completely black and white workplace, they’ll minimize your frustration with conflict and drama, created usually from a myriad of simple misunderstandings. Help them get you and work to get them and the many shades of grey in your office will dissipate.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!