Weekly Challenge: Increase Your Team’s Passion by Expanding Their Vision
Dan was a constant headache; I could never seem to make the right decisions, say the right things, or make him happy in any way. The “man” was always out to get him and somehow I was part of this scheme. Dan challenged me in every way imaginable for years. But Dan worked hard, did decent enough work, and we even had lengths of time when we got along.
Then suddenly Dan and I were in the conference room with Human Resources and my boss. Not good. Dan had called this meeting and while I was confident that I had done nothing wrong, I was not sure why we were there or where this was going. At HR’s invitation, Dan went into (what seemed to me at the time) the most incredibly incoherent ramble about all things ridiculous; how I was out to get him, how I intentionally gave him faulty equipment and then blamed him when it broke, how my boss would not commit funds to equip our shop, how the grounds staff was treated unfairly, etc. And then his complaints grew beyond the realm of our operation and into the way the entire university was run, including rants on Student Life, IT, the Business Office, the Board of Trustees, the President’s office, and even offices that didn’t exist.
The more Dan got worked up and the more ridiculous he sounded, the safer I felt about my follow-up conversations with HR and my boss. I also began to realize just how little Dan knew about what was going on around him. He was mistaken, for sure, but he was trying to make sense of what he knew. The HR specialist listened patiently (much more patiently than my boss) and when Dan finished, she explained to him, in the most gentle way, that he was reaching to see things beyond his vision. She touched her index finger to her thumb, held her hand to her eye as if she were looking through a telescope and explained, “Dan, you can only see this much of what’s going on here. Russell can see this much (separating her fingers to create a larger opening). Your director can see this much (opening her hand even larger).”
Light bulbs went off in my head (not so much Dan’s). I realized in Dan’s inability to see beyond the scope of his job, he began to make things up fill in the blanks. While I could not expand the scope of vision for Dan’s job (it’s important to stay focused on one area) I could better help him understand what was happening beyond the periphery. In that meeting I committed to myself to help expand my team’s vision as much as possible to help them better understand how their work supports the larger work of the university.
A couple of weeks ago, Geoff Van Berkel shared an incredible article on being a visionary leader. Take a moment and read it today. Geoff illustrates the shift in mind-set that can happen when your employees embrace their own vision for their work and for the future.
Today, I want you to consider expanding the vision of those around you – allowing others to see as much of the big picture as possible. When they do, they have a better understanding of how their work fits into the overall goals of the institution. Their sense of purpose increases, as well as pride in that purpose. Increased purpose and pride creates a passionate workforce.
So, how do we expand the vision of those around us:
- Review Mission and Vision Statements: If your institution has defined mission statements, read and discuss them. Share your leadership’s letters, emails, and other correspondence that touch on mission and vision for the institution and discuss how your team fits into those statements.
- Share as much as possible: Never share things you shouldn’t, but there’s no reason for your team to be left in the dark. Explain what’s happening, what conversations are being had at higher levels, the thought processes behind decisions, and what’s happening in other areas of the institution.
- Make Internal Connections: I have others within the organization come to our weekly meetings to share what’s going on in their department. This gives us perspective on what’s happening elsewhere, reduces rumors and guesswork (like Dan’s), and builds relationships.
- Encourage Upward Vision Expansion: This is not a top-down concept only, where upper management sheds light on lower-level employees. Last Friday I had two concerned employees in my office expanding my vision, allowing me to see a problem that I was missing. Help your boss see what they are missing. Expand their vision into what you are doing.
- Push Decision Making to Front-Line Employees: Once employees understand institutional and departmental mission and vision, create a framework in which they can make important decisions that impact the department and institution. We will explore this more tomorrow in a review of Dennis Bakke’s book, ‘Joy At Work’.
This week, your challenge is to:
- Commit to doing one or two things that can help expand the vision of those around you.
- Share what you’ve committed to, or what you already do that works, in the comments below. You’ll encourage others to do the same.
- Share a follow-up: What happened? How did people respond? By sharing, you can expand our vision of what’s possible.