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Reframing Thoughts

Highway, Traffic, Buildings, Freeway
Three Lanes
Which one and when?

When do you speak up? When do you weigh in? Part of that answer has to do with our personalities. Certain personalities are more inclined to speak up in any situation, and some hesitate in every situation. How do we know when to speak up and when to resist the urge when it comes to our input at work? 

Especially with newer employees, (including those who are younger and those who are transitioning from one company or industry to another) there are two desires – one is to participate and bring their new or fresh insights to the team, but there's also the temptation to hold back. Newer employees don't always have confidence that they know the culture, the expectations, or exactly how their input might be received. Meanwhile, the level of input from experienced employees varies too. With more experienced employees, their company knowledge and years of experience may falsely convince them that they belong in every conversation. Others have experienced prior disagreements or had their input repeatedly ignored, and that persuades them to avoid the emotional risk of sharing their ideas at all.

“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-brake on.” – Maxwell Maltz

Let's consider three lanes to navigate from when it comes to work. Think of every highway as a project or a responsibility, and then drive it from one of three lanes.

Responsibility Lane - this is the passing lane on the far left and it is defined by our position and our authority. We are expected to lead here. We are encouraged to use our gifts and talents to move things forward and have an impact. Others may see our Responsibility lane from their place in the Contribution lane (see next paragraph), but the final decisions here belong to us. 

Contribution Lane - this is the cruising lane in the middle. It's collaborative. Maybe we don't have complete authority on the project in this lane, but our influence can make a difference. We're being invited to participate. Recognizing there are other people who are driving in the Responsibility lane is critical, but learning to share input constructively, honestly and without the illusion that we are driving in the Responsibility lane is important.

Outside - this is the far right lane. It is Outside the Responsibility lane and Outside the Contribution lane. People who belong in this lane are frustrating when they are unaware of their lane. No one likes the driver who recklessly crosses from the far right lane to the far left lane! Just because they speak up with confidence, skepticism, or complaints doesn't mean they should expect access to the decision making process. 

Learning how to change lanes is important. The best way to change lanes is to signal first and move carefully. My dad used to say that when you change lanes, keep your head on a swivel. It's true here as well. Our move into a new lane is often due to a promotion or an invitation to participate. It's extra important to pay attention to your blind spots when you try to change lanes.

People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

The toll road sets its fees, and open road tolling is reserved for those with the strongest leadership skills. They go faster and reach their destinations first. Those that pay little attention to leadership and communication skills will be manually paying for their trip all the way along the route.  

The good news is that your car belongs on the road as much as the next one. Know which lane you belong in, depending on the project or responsibility. Here are a few more notes before you hit the road:
  • Wear your seatbelt and drive safe - the weather and other drivers can be unpredictable.
  • Avoid road rage - you're better than that.
  • Don't drive all night - you'll still get there in plenty of time.
  • Read the signs - there's a lot of information out there if you pay attention.
  • Have fun - you can get anywhere from here.

Trudy Menke - Reframing Leadership 

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