I didn’t know whether to laugh or elevate my intensity when my five-year-old son asked, “Why are you the boss of me?” 

“Well, let me give you a thousand reasons!” is what I wanted to say with a don’t-get-smart-with-me tone. But I caught myself, took a deep breath, then explained how the parent-child relationship works in our home.

He quickly understood (or got over it). And soon we were off to chase more imaginary dragons.

Gaining role clarity is not that simple in the workplace though. There’s no job-description police to monitor meetings and ensure everyone is staying in their lanes, doing what they’re supposed to and not encroaching on the responsibilities of others.

The fact that most professionals seek control infuses stress into any change initiative. Most of us are oriented towards acquiring the influence we need to succeed. There’s nothing wrong with that. The key is pursuing this influence in concert with others.

It’s worth remembering:

  • The larger the organization, the messier things can be when executing strategies or plans.
  • Change involves moments of ambiguity. To imagine that role clarity and decision-making authority will always be clear is a fool’s wish. (If these aspects are regularly clear, you likely work for an organization that is moving too slow and isn’t agile.)

It’s worth asking: What’s our default behavior when we lack clarity?

The collaborative teammate doesn’t stall or wait for every detail of a new initiative to be described to them. Nor do they go rogue and grab for power selfishly (leaving others to wonder “why are you the boss of me?”).

Instead, we seek and facilitate an understanding of where, how, when and why our work fits together. We take the initiative of filling the voids in understanding and clearing the clouds that block the clarity we all seek.

Collaborative leaders optimize the talent around them, not just those in their charge.

How will you optimize talent today by asking the questions that bring greater clarity?




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