4 Steps To Fix Your Department

Here’s a great question from one of the #CLoTribe followers.

Wrench

Hi Chris,

I am part of a small department of five. We as a team do a good job in executing tasks quickly and efficiently. We do our jobs so well that we are often “forgotten” among the other departments.

For example, we have the slower computers compared to other departments, and rarely are we included in company meetings. The team members reflect this kind of mindset of complacency.

When problems arise, often there is internal griping and complaining within our own department, but no plan of action is taken. Our manager would only be in the picture if something is wrong. This kind of image irks me to the core.

I encourage my coworkers to act for change and to speak up, but they often respond as the “victim” and that nothing will change. On the other hand, I refuse to see it that way.

I seek improvement and betterment. There is a long track record that I have been proactive in implementing software/hardware upgrades, improving procedures, etc. for the long term benefit of the department.

I do see progress, but it’s been a long and hard battle by myself. I am not sure how much longer I can fight alone.

Questions I ask myself:

  • How long do I keep up with this battle?
  • Am I expecting too much from this department?
  • How will my coworkers consider my ideas especially if I, on average, am 10 years younger than they are?
  • Should I move into another department?

Signed, Lone Ranger

Unfortunately Lone Ranger, you’re not alone Kimosabe. (Sorry about that.) The truth is, this type of culture is all too common. It is my belief that the reason you are “forgotten”, is because you do things well enough that you don’t have fires to put out.

Which is such a bassackwards way of doing business. However, it is what it is. For the culture to change in your department, it has to start with your leadership.

In other words, what you could possibly accomplish if you had more resources? What if you had faster computers? What if…you finish it. For you to be able to convince leadership of the needs, you must be able to influence leadership. (Read that)

As for your questions, I would not look at this as a battle you have no choice but to fight. Instead, I would look at this as a challenge that will help YOUR future leadership.

Process every possible way that you can create the desired result that you and the team want.

  • How do you get leadership on board?
  • What CAN you expect from your departement, and what are they willing to give?
  • Instead of taking charge of the team, what if you rallied the troops and used their collective wisdom to solve this problem? It’s a crazy way of assuming leadership, without taking it.
  • When you have worked every possible angle and have tried to convince every leader connected of the needs, and no changes have been made, then it’s time for you to consider your next move. Whether it be a different department, or another company.

There is where I would start. On top of that, you’re about to get some crazy good advise from this tribe.

Question: What are your thoughts on Lone Ranger’s situation? 

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52 thoughts on “4 Steps To Fix Your Department”

  1. I’m going through the same thing in my military unit. I trying to motivate people of the same rank who have more experience than me. After a year of trying to convince them to begin a leadership initiative meeting, I succeeded. This weekend we will conduct the meeting addressing moral, and leadership issues within the ranks. How did I do it? I changed my pitch from “how” and “what” to “WHY”. Not until I articulated the “why”, did I get buy in. Still a long road ahead but, I’m optimistic.

    “People do not buy what you do they buy why you do them” – Simon Sinek.

    Thanks Chris and the rest of the Dave Ramsey team for bringing us entre leadership.

    Andy Fernandez

  2. This seems like a case for the QBQ patrol. I feel your pain, Lone Ranger. I think it’s very hard to fight the current. I’m sure the griping includes a lot of “why don’t we have better computers, why are we being ignored, why won’t anyone listen”. In the Question Behind the Question, John Miller explains it very clearly. Change your questions. Ask “how can I change this” or “what can I do”? The buck stops there. It’s up to each individual to take action, when leadership is absent. Rather, leadership is on you, even without the title, because your boss is being a manager, not a leader.

    If you’re plugged into EntreLeadership and Chris’ blog, you know how many of us have no title and can still have a great influence. It starts on the way you perform, how you relate to others and how you solve problems. It IS possible to influence your supervisors. It takes a lot of work, but it is definitely worth it. If you feel you’re losing the battle, it’s time to seek greener pastures. Life is too short to put up with a toxic culture.

    You can do it!

  3. I really enjoy your blog but I miss not being able to read the entire post on my reader. I often will skip over your blog because of this. Asking you to consider going back to showing the entire post.

    Thanks

  4. I agree with Lily that QBQ hold a lot of answers for this kind of situation. Even if you are the only one exercising the personal accountability, others may be influenced by your actions and attitude and climb on board too. It’s hard to lead without a title, but it can be done – most of us here are proof of that.

    It’s hard when you are with a lot of Negative Nellies – but I would just keep repeating that we can improve this situation by doing that – and then do it. They will begin to see the incremental improvements and trust your advice. Hang in there!

  5. I would absolutely push you to read “Tribal Leadership” by Dave Logan. Why? It does an excellent job of summarizing the cultures of the work place into these categories:

    1. Life sucks
    2. MY life sucks
    3. My life is great (because yours is not)
    4. We are great
    5. We can change the world.

    The overwhelming majority of workplaces are in Stage 2 or 3, and frequently go back and forth between them. From the wording, it sounds like your department / company is in Stage 2 and you are in Stage 3 but dragged back down to 2. If you seriously want to go further, you have to bring your team along. The finer details of the book go over the ways to bring people along each stage, but they include more depth about two items Chris talked about:

    – Understanding what to expect from the tribe at each stage
    – Changing the language of the tribe to change the tribe (the collective wisdom part)

    Beyond that book, I would suggest that you are a leader whether you call yourself one or not, because it sounds like others may look to you when you stick your neck out and direct change. Leaders, even ones without titles, need to have mastery of both the facts and faith (something I learned from Rabbi Lapin). You seem to have a keen awareness of the sad facts, so I hope you can also embrace the present realities with faith of what the future may look like for your organization, with your contribution. Faith is contagious. If you spread your vision of the future through your faith, it is bound to spread.

    I say all this with absolute confidence because I’m pretty sure I could have wrote exactly what you (Lone Ranger) wrote. I run a marketing department of five. We do an awesome job. All of my team members are at least 10 years older than me and 3 are from other countries. We do such a good job, the company literally cast us all out to a second building across the street. We’re often forgotten, the other 30 people in our company often despise the culture we have, but we have stuck together and made a difference.

    So I feel like I can speak with authority that you absolutely must read the Tribal Leadership book. And good luck! The people here will always be glad to help, so you are definitely not alone.

    1. Wow Jon, that is quite a testimony. Good for you. And you’ve convinced me to read the book- I had it on my to read list and took it off for some reason – back on the list it goes and to the top!

    2. “Faith is contagious. If you spread your vision of the future through your faith, it is bound to spread.” Great lines, Jon. This is such a great reminder that we need to lead with passion and with values that we want to see in our team.

    3. Great story Jon!

      It’s very encouraging to here that you’ve created a micro-culture within your organization. That’s awesome and should provide hope for anyone feeling Kimosabe-esque.

  6. Before I get into what my thoughts on his situation are, I have to say… Chris, you used the phrase “bassackwards” and that’s awesome.
    It’s a tough thing to change the culture. Its like turning around an aircraft carrier, not a toyota prius. It takes alot of time and alot of effort. Is it possible? Ya, I definitely think so, but Chris is totally right, you’ll have to influence leadership to do it. If leadership has no desire to fix the culture (or increase influence, profits, success, etc) then there probably isn’t much you can do to change the entire culture.
    If that’s the case, you may be just best to begin looking for another opportunity. But I would certainly say it’s worth some serious effort in working to influence and affect change in the culture if you love what you do.
    Tough situation, I’ve been in bad cultures before, no fun!
    Hang in there, follow Chris’ posts and do all you can to apply them! There is light at the end of the tunnel!

  7. Hey Lone Ranger! Hang in there!!

    I’ve lived this exact situation for many, many years!!!! It can be extremely difficult at times. It might even be easier to give up or give in, but you are a leader so you know there are options!

    The way I’ve dealt with this is very similar to what Chris is saying; look at these challenges as helping you learn to lead in a difficult situation. Stand back and realize that you couldn’t find a better test of your character. You couldn’t find more of a leadership opportunity than this!!!

    Here’s a list of practical ideas I’ve seen be effective in this kind of stagnant culture:

    1.) Teach others with your own actions. Words only go so far.
    2.) Don’t give in to gossip.
    3.) Encourage others to listen to the Entreleadership podcast.
    4.) Start a Thank You Revolution (a la @mattmcwilliams)
    5.) Don’t be scared of sharing great leadership content with individuals much, much higher than you.
    6.) Focus on helping people dream, believe, and accomplish their goals and you will be shocked at the ripple effect!

    Because of my own struggles with this, I am personally dedicated to helping people in your situation. If there is anything I can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to reach out!!

    You are a warrior my friend!!! Good luck and God bless!!!

  8. This can be a real challenge. I always say that it starts with me. How is my attitude towards a situation? Am I providing suggestions AND action towards positive change? Until I can answer these questions positively, I’m challenged to think that my team will change.

    As a manager, it’s important to listen to our team, but there are times where we may not always hear what needs to be heard in the rumblings of a department. I would encourage the Lone Ranger to speak up. Talk to the manager of the department. If this doesn’t work, take it a step higher.

    1. Exactly Jon! People can get intimidated by higher ups, so they often don’t get the real truth (which is actually what they want).

      Just don’t turn into a complainer. Make your points and focus back on yourself. It’s easy to let things turn into bitterness if you don’t see change quickly.

  9. You know, getting involved with the CLo Blog Tribe; being surrounded by the intelligent, can-do, go-getters… can sometimes make one forget that the environment Lone Ranger describes is extremely common. Forgetting that can make it easier to think the grass is greener. But, not to “rain on your parade”, most every business has downsides. I’ve been is similar situat

      1. I’ve been in similar situations, and its not fun. It can be pretty discouraging. But when I look at my work experience history, I realize the times I learned the most, and grew the most as a person was during those times. So I wouldn’t trade them for the world! At the same time, I LOVE being plugged into the CLo Blog Tribe because those people are a constant reminder of what I’m working toward and how much I have already grown! And they help me to continue growing — thanks guys 🙂

        1. I’ve even learned to use the frustration to make me work harder at pursuing my dreams and goals. When I get tired and feel like letting up a little, the frustration can remind me what I want to accomplish and motivate me to keep going.

  10. I am going to be so profound it will blow your mind…

    1. Read what Chris said.

    2. Read what everyone else said.

    3. Pick one thing and do it. Do it well.

    4. Pick another thing and do it.

    I have nothing to add to what anyone else said. I am as shocked as anyone.

        1. 7. If Skropp fails to break something and then Matt fails to blame Skropp for failing to break something the he should’ve (or usually would’ve broke) Did anyone fail?
          #epicfail
          #epicconfusion

  11. Hey Lone Ranger! Times like these you should be really honest with yourself in the dark. I think you already know if your going to be able to change leadership. You already know if it’s time to transfer to another company. You already know how deep your feelings of being slighted are. Get quiet, dig deep, and then have the courage to execute what you know. Make the call to fight here or somewhere else and get at it!

  12. I just finished listening to the audio version of “The 3rd Alternative” by Steven Covey – I would definitely suggest picking it up and work on implementing the things he speaks about. The overall gist is that we usually view things as having two alternatives: we either do this or we do that. If there’s a compromise of the two, no one is satisfied.

    Come up with a 3rd alternative. Something that hasn’t even been thought of yet.

    Try to get the team together and really listen to each other. Let each person speak without interruptions. There is no blaming, criticizing, or making fun. Just everyone getting to really understand how everyone feels about it. This is emphatic listening (a step or two beyond active listening).

    Try to do the same thing with the management team. Bring the two sides together to come up with a solution that can benefit everyone. It’ll probably take some time to do all this, and it will be difficult because it goes against the social norm.

  13. Another good book recommendation on this topic would be the Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. What you need to do is become the CEO of your department and the company. The CEO is the Chief Energy Officer! There are some great ideas in the book, but one good one is the Thank You Note Thursday concept as mentioned by others and being lead by Matt! Generating the energy in your team could energize your team and the company! Good Luck, and most important continue to read this blog and listen to the EntreLeadership podcast.

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