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Dear Work Therapist - We are lacking direction for our teams.

Employees look to managers/leadership for direction. If senior and middle management isn’t providing direction, vision, and values, employees will follow suit. Even worse, employees may begin to distrust leadership for not providing clear direction and authority will be discredited.  This can cause divisions between teams, employees, and leadership.  

What is the best way to help leaders establish vision, direction, and values that employees and teams can embrace and rally behind?


Dear @Brant Schroeder 

The fact that you're posing this question tells me that you're invested in company direction and culture, regardless if that's your charge. So if many other team members are like you, I think your company has the ability to shape and evolve more easily than the next. That's great!

From our proprietary Open research we learned that companies around the world often have managers/leadership and individual contributors with huge gaps in perception. Which means that what a manager might see as the state of things could look very different from the way someone reporting to that person might see things. In fact, we learned that things like "how transparent" or "how inclusive management is with regards to decision-making" often have different perceptions based on where you sit. Recently, Microsoft conducted an internal study that says pretty much the same thing. We've also noticed nods to this in other company whitepapers.

All that^ said, gaps are something that can be fixed...with data! Through surveys, internal blogs that allow for comments, or for more vulnerable workplace cultures, open live discussions can uncover how people really feel. This input, once shared, may be the key to shining a light on things that need to be changed, particularly because leadership simply may not know that those issues exist. 

If a workplace culture is not set up to solicit survey responses freely or isn't open enough to do Q&A without fear of retaliation, you may want to try something like a Health Monitor, but change the attributes so that the "project" is something like company culture. Something structured like a Health Monitor sometimes help staff feel like they have permission to feedback on how things are going. 

Once opportunity areas are identified, it's important that workers vocalize that they're willing to help with change. It is more common for leadership to embrace team members willing to pitch in than to ignore such "free" support. And if workers are willing to be a part of the process, they can help inform and balance the direction of changes in the long run. Because as I bet you know, it takes a whole company to embrace and mold culture and rally behind a vision, and participation from multiple levels isn't something most leadership teams turn down.

If you have a specific journey that your company is on regarding your question, I'd be interested to hear how it's going! Or if you have wisdom to share, feel free to drop that here as well :)

Like Brant Schroeder likes this

I think this is a really important topic - thanks for raising it @Brant Schroeder and thanks for such a full answer @Christine P_ Dela Rosa 

Like # people like this
Svenja Rising Star Aug 05, 2021

Super interested in incoming answers. Thanks for bringing this up @Brant Schroeder!

Like Brant Schroeder likes this

It all starts at the top. This doesn't mean that those at the top have to do everything or even be the main voice. But they must:

  1. set the tone
  2. support the initiatives
  3. continually communicate the messages to convey the importance
Like # people like this
nina_schmidt Community Leader Aug 12, 2021

Thanks for bringing that up @Brant Schroeder and your input @Christine P_ Dela Rosa - fortunately I am not in such a situation at the moment but I really know what you are talking about from my past work life! 

Like # people like this

I agree that this might cause confusion and loss in productivity. However, I also know it happens at some point, especially in startups, where it's not easy to decide directions easily. 

I'd say in that case, it is useful to set a tone and make it clear that at some point the team needs to increase its ambiguity intolerance for some time, informing the team about the situation.


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