Spend a day at my house and you will most likely hear my wife, or I, exclaim the following to one of our young-adult children: “say what you mean and mean what you say.” We set the expectation with our kids that they need to be upfront, honest and intentional in their actions and communication. Obviously, kids will be kids and we celebrate who they are as individuals. At the same, we want them to minimize the drama and be straightforward about what they want and what they need.
I apply the same expectation to my team. I encourage honesty, open communication and collaboration. I want my team to be themselves and I celebrate the uniqueness and individual spirit of each of them. It’s the different perspectives and approaches to problem solving and tackling work that make for a great team.
That being said, doing what is best for the organization and the team is the gold standard. There is no room (or time) for personal agendas. I realize managing this can sometimes be a challenge. You will occasionally encounter colleagues (or individuals with whom you are working on a specific project) that are guided by their own agendas. Whether that is trying to position themselves for personal success or setting the table for a program or cause for which they have ownership, they are deploying a host of tactics to try and get what they want. It’s easy to get caught up in navigating through this behavior and wasting time and energy worrying about how to deal with them. But don’t. Instead, spend your time and energy collaborating with team members who are putting the organization first.
When working with colleagues and particularly with those whom you suspect to putting themselves first, sit down and ask yourself the following: “is their behavior or what they are promoting, good for the organization? Are they putting the team and the organization, ahead or what might be best for them?” If the answer is yes, great. You can move forward, engage, and collaborate. If the answer is no, take a step back and prepare for a different conversation.
Instead of engaging in office politics and getting caught up in figuring out ways to circumnavigate their behavior, come at them from a place of honesty and transparency. Explain clearly and calmly what you, and more importantly, what the organization is trying to accomplish, and how you believe, they, should they so choose, can play a role in that success. In doing this, you will set expectations for behavior, making it clear that you will not tolerate efforts to take the team off task. You will also signal that you are willing to have them be a part of the team.
This should be a quick conversation as you need to get back to those colleagues and team members who devote each day to thinking about how to propel the organization forward and like you, get up each day to drive mission and contribute in the best ways possible.