No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Leader as Ambassador, Part Two

Just as you represent your organization to your team, you must also fulfill the second responsibility of an ambassador: represent your team to management.

Keep in mind that, while some managers came up through the ranks, many came on board as managers, or maybe came up through a different department than yours. Even the ones with some background in your area are a few years removed, and their brains are full of different issues now.

It's up to you to point out things like the heat and humidity in the plant or the lack of raw materials. You may have to explain that the reason the no-smoking policy isn't working is because employees see customers smoking. Unless you tell executives, they're not going to realize that day care agencies don't open until an hour after your shift starts. 

If you don't become the voice of your people, you risk at least two bad outcomes:

- Management will routinely abuse your team with difficult  or onerous requirements. They won't do this because they're mean; they'll simply assume if there was a reason not to this thing (which they see as good for the organization) someone would have told them. That someone should have been you.

- Your team will fail. Something won't get made, a client won't get served, an executive will get bad data in a report, a regulatory deadline will be missed. Something will happen that will make your higher-ups frustrated with your people, who likely did their best in a bad situation.

It takes courage to tell your boss that your group can't do what he wants. It takes even more to say that they could, but they shouldn't have to. But if you don't look out for your people, no one will. And pretty soon they'll look for a new boss.

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