LEADER’S FIELD GUIDE
We have a lot of different lanes: carpool lanes, ten items or less* lanes, and bag free security lanes. Usually, most people don’t fight it unless a little cheat would shave 2.34 seconds off their time. Obviously, specific lanes serve a purpose. We accommodate various needs and influence behavior by funneling cars, groceries, and people into specific lines. In the office, we see Swim Lane Diagrams also known as Functional Bands or Process Mapping, where roles, functions, and processes are represented in horizontal rows using shapes connected with arrows.
It doesn’t matter what else is going on. When you walk into your arena or your – whatever you excel at, you’re there to take care of the job that you have to do. ~Michael Phelps, American Swimmer
What do the experts say? Phelps, the most decorated Olympian (including 23 gold medals and 13 individual golds) suggests you identify your specialty and give it focus. Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots football team, holds the record for most NFL playoff wins (at 31). He says, “Do your job!” I coached a brilliant leader who held a PhD and JD. As we concluded our coaching, she said the most significant discovery and commitment she made was to “stay in her lane”.
What do these experts know?
- Boundaries: Ownership needs to rest with the right people. Additional training, direct communication, and patience may be necessary. But, if we are tempted into other lanes, then who’s taking responsibilities for our lane? Besides, other lanes may not even be any of our business. Boundaries of responsibility and focus must be drawn and honored.
- Empowerment: When we jump into other lanes, we cast a vote of no confidence. It’s totally different when we are asked for help or mentoring. Allowing others to learn by trial and error fosters innovation. Empowerment requires a belief that team members are fully capable of succeeding, not without mistakes, just fully able to achieve on their own.
- Excellence: When we stay in our own lane, we excel in our specialty more often. We simply perform our jobs better when we aren’t do everyone else’s. Plus, we avoid confusion by narrowing our contribution to what is expected. Not that “above and beyond” is discouraged, but no one wants to hear, “Oh, I thought you were doing that?!”
Specific lanes serve a purpose. Note that lanes seem pretty straight forward, either you have a carpool, 10 items or less (cringe)*, or a bag– or you don’t. If you don’t know your lane or your responsibilities are a bit fuzzy, then it’s time for a direct conversation about clarity. If you don’t like your lane or it’s outside of your specialty, then consider what needs tweaking or revamping. Regardless, do your job by adhering to boundaries, empowering others, and working with excellence.
*Note: Proper grammar insists on ten items or fewer because “items” is a countable noun, but less fits better on signage… (My apologies; it’s a pet peeve!)
— Join a Synergy Group where we will discuss what the
Bible says about Swim Lanes. —
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.
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