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I recently participated in meetings with the senior leadership teams of three different companies, spread across the country and from diverse industries, They all had a common plea: “We are growing and need clarity regarding our organization structure, roles, policies, procedures…you name it related to people.”

During one of these conversations, a surprising comment emerged: “We do everything. Leadership is expected to jump in and help wherever needed.” I asked, “Do each of the members of the leadership team have a title and a role?” They answered, “Yes.” I followed up, “Do the leaders stay in their lane? ” They responded, “We don’t have a lane.

I could almost hear the sound of organizational chaos. It felt like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. I asked them to consider the positive and negative outcomes of this “jumping in” approach. One leader admitted, “Things get done, and we avoid situations.” Then I asked, “What are the negative consequences?” Another leader sighed, “It can feel like micromanaging, as though we don’t trust our team.”

I continued, “When a leader jumps in, do they have the expertise in that specific area of responsibility?” The room went quiet. “People jump in when we don’t have someone to assume a role. We’re all trying to fill that void, and we may not have the necessary skills,” one leader explained. I asked if they thought this was a good role model for their managers and employees. Initially, they said yes, but then one leader conceded, “Ultimately, no. We may not do a great job because we lack expertise. It sends the message to our teams that people can fail because we’ll jump in and rescue them.” This realization highlighted the need for a solution. Bingo. We have found the root of the problem.

Steps to Stay in Your Lane

1.Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities:
First things first: everyone needs a job description. Yes, it sounds as thrilling as watching paint dry, but trust me, it’s crucial. Job descriptions clarify expectations and define lanes. The leadership team, especially, needs this clarity to understand their roles and communicate them to the rest of the team.
2.Understand What You’re Not Supposed to Do:
It’s not just about knowing your role; it’s about knowing what’s not your role. We reviewed the micro-tasks leaders were getting involved in unnecessarily: the CEO checking social media posts, the CFO scrutinizing training schedules, and the head of operations giving dress code feedback. The managers should manage these tasks. Leaders should be steering the ship, not swabbing the deck.
3.Empower Managers to Take Ownership:
If you have managers for these tasks, let them do their jobs. Micromanaging is like taking the wheel from your Uber driver—it’s awkward, unnecessary, and nobody likes it. Trust your managers to handle their responsibilities. This builds their confidence and competence.
4.Communicate Expectations Clearly:
Define and communicate expectations clearly throughout the organization. When everyone understands their responsibilities and role boundaries, it fosters a more efficient and harmonious workplace. Clear roles ensure that tasks are managed by those best suited for them, minimizing overlap and confusion.
5.Review and Adjust Regularly:
Organizational needs evolve, and so should roles and responsibilities. Regularly review and update roles and responsibilities to ensure they align with current needs. This keeps everyone in their lane and avoids unnecessary accidents.

By implementing these steps, leaders can stay in their lanes, fostering a more productive and trusting work environment. Remember, staying in your lane isn’t about restricting your involvement; it’s about ensuring that everyone, including you, operates where they can be most effective. This approach not only boosts efficiency but also builds a stronger, more self-reliant team.

So, next time you’re tempted to jump in and save the day, ask yourself, “Is this really my lane? ” If it’s not, take a step back and let your team handle it. Trust them to do their job, and maybe take a moment to recharge and focus on your own responsibilities. You’ve earned it.

“Everybody has their own lane to maintain. There’s less traffic and no speed limit.”