"As a manager, you have relationships with every employee, but you also have a relationship with your team. And the relationship dynamics are very different. Your personal relationships are influenced by the employee's self-interest and your relationship with the team is influenced by shared interests. That's why you can have an engaged team of challenging individuals or successful individuals on a dysfunctional team.
When a sports team loses faith in their coach, the coach is said to have 'lost the locker room', and the same thing happens in business when teams lose faith in their boss. Now, both your individual and your team relationships are important, but in a recession, team outcomes are more important than individual outcomes.
So, managers lose the lock room based on four things they won't do.
- They won't listen,
- Won't face reality,
- Won't fix the problems, and
- Won't make tough decisions.
If you won't listen to the group then anything you say is closed-minded.
If you won't face reality, than anything you say is unrealistic.
If you won't fix problems then anything you say is an excuse.
And if you won't make tough decisions then what you say is meaningless.
When the boss says things that are closed-minded, unrealistic, excuses and meaningless, the team tunes them out and they've lost the locker.
Teams follow leaders that create shared vision, values, risks, plans, goals and accountability. And you can't do that if you won't listen, face reality, fix problems and make tough decisions.
- If you listen but don't face reality, the team questions your motives.
- If you face reality but won't fix problems, they question your abilities.
- And if you try to fix problems without making tough decisions, they question your character.
Remember, teams judge you differently than individuals do. And when you lead a team, you have to listen to the team, deal with team-based realities, solve team-based problems and make tough team-based decisions.
You may lose some individuals along the way, but you won't 'lose the locker room'. If you're worried about losing the locker room, encourage more team-based feedback, problem-solving, planning and decision-making. You're not always going to get valid feedback, but you can still consider their feedback. Their solutions won't always be feasible, but some of them will be. And a lot of decisions can't be made by the group because it's your decision to make. But they can still have a say in your decision.
When a team begins to question the boss, they begin to blame the boss.
So the more power, the more influence, and the more control you can share with your team, the better you lead the team. But you're also a part of the team. When a boss loses the locker room, there's two life rafts. The boss has one and the team has the other. And when that happens, you're toast.
So puncture your life raft and jump in theirs. Give everyone an oar and start rowing together and they'll start to see you differently. And that's how you get the locker room back."
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