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Swimming in your lane. How well do you know your role?

We all have a role to play in the workplace, as we do in life. Due to the complexities of many projects in medium and large corporations, many adopt a swim lane diagram that demonstrates the role of each individual or team, along with who and when they should liaise with those in other lanes along the way. Challenges occur when people from other lanes come across interfere with your role, when others expect you to come across and help fulfill their role as well as your own, or when you cannot let go of obstacles that are not yours to overcome.

I recently discussed the organisation and synchronisation formula one pitstop crew. (Do your employees work like a well-oiled machine?)  To summarise, each crew member needs to be doing the right thing, in the right place at the right time, and while they need to be aware of what everyone else is doing they must solely focus on their own role. It would be a wonderful world if the same organisational skills could be said for the corporate world but unfortunately it is rarely the case. Afterall there is more room for error with a timeline much longer than 16 seconds!

So… How do we stop someone from swimming in our lane? And if someone repetitively interferes in our role how do we resolve it?

The best way to keep people out of your lane is to know your job and preform it well. Take pride in what you do, work hard, and be professional. Demonstrate confidence and let your strengths shine through. This does not mean be unapproachable or closed minded, it is important to be open to new ideas but recognise that you are the expert and ultimately it is your role to make decisions, ensure quality is applied to outputs and get the outcomes as soon as possible – safely.

To keep people out of your swim lane it is equally important to stay out of other people’s lanes. The more focus you give to the activities of others, the more momentum you will lose, (making it difficult to work hard and do your job well as mentioned above). If you believe someone to be underdelivering, it only becomes your concern if you are their manager, or if it directly impacts your work. No one enjoys being micromanaged, so it is important to trust others, give them space to fulfill their role, and even learn from their own mistakes.

However, occasionally you will encounter a co-worker that will come into your swim lane regardless of how well you’re a preforming which can be frustrating and an uncomfortable thing to overcome. So, let’s discuss some strategies to resolve this problem politely but effectively.

The best approach is to speak up. As obvious as this sounds to some, these conversations are often avoided as they can be uncomfortable. Some co-workers may genuinely believe they are being helpful, as for the others, politely reminding them of their place is important. Using respectful but confident communication and body language will be an asset. Demonstrate this by speaking slowly, keeping your shoulders and chin up, keeping your hands still or making only deliberate gestures and engaging with eye contact so they feel as though you are hearing them. There is no need for a long conversation, a quick reminder of your role with a direct factual response about what you are doing and why, and how your and management are confident in the roadmap you have set out.

For example:
“Thanks for reaching out with your ideas. Right now I am having success with (insert practice) which (managers name) has been satisfied with. I will reach out for suggestions if I need assistance in the future. .” Another successful approach is as follows, but only do so if you heartfelt believe in it or it will come across as false. “I really value the insights and experience you bring to the obstacles I am facing, how about if we set up a regular 1:1 every few weeks to toss around ideas of what to do differently and opportunities” If someone has the energy to help – cautious not to say no at the first encounter.

In most cases speaking up will get your co-worker back into their swim lane. In the rare event that it doesn’t achieve this outcome, don’t feel hesitant about calling on a superior for assistance. A concern of this nature needs to be handled promptly and if you are unsuccessful at managing it yourself this is the next logical step. If you present your next step to your co-worker in a respectful way they may be more willing to agree on a arrangement between the two of you.

Try saying:
“I don’t feel like we are coming to a resolution. To get us in agreement sooner rather than later, how would you feel about sitting down to a meeting and asking (a member of management or HR) to join us to mediate?”

The bottom line is if you demonstrate confidence in the way you preform your job people will be less likely to interfere in your swim lane. So keep your head down, take initiative, continue to improve your skills and practices and do your job well, while listening out for those gems of advice you will get along the way. Look for the balance of interference vs insights that ad value.

Love Life Love YOUR Life

Ferne Eliz King

Curious about Actions for Your Tomorrow

Let’s have a 30 min free conversation and leave this call with a greater degree of curiosity and options. If you are an inspired individual or are in an inspiring business I’d love to listen to your journey, your challenges and your aspirations. I want to know about your superpower, everyone has one! I want to turn up your curiosity dial and create options that transition to actions OR rejig your current actions to achieve your tomorrow. I want you to leave this call with inspiration for your tomorrow

About Ferne

My superpower is to ignite change and inspire actions to achieve the imaginable future of individuals and businesses. The first step is facilitating you to unlock your curiosity.


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