Five Ways to Navigate an Imperfect Workplace

Many leaders find at different times that their work worlds are like an unbalanced seesaw. On one end of the seesaw there are often too many demands being placed on a leader so that the other end can’t possibly pull it down. A leader can feel there is no way to have enough time in the day or resources to create a significant deliverable within a tight deadline. Maybe a leader is trying to balance five meetings in one day and not sure how to fit in actually performing their work. Perhaps the high level of conflict among team members has risen to a high pitch and become overwhelming.If any of these scenarios seem familiar know that you are not alone navigating an imperfect workplace. Also know that leaders have a choice in how to deal more effectively with their daily routines.

Here are five ways to navigate an imperfect workplace:

1. Uncover The Truth

What we initially think may be happening in our workplaces may not be the case at all. Leaders need to begin to investigate their imperfect work situations by clearly understanding what is working or not working. Asking some important questions may help point us in the right direction.

  • In the problem a processes issue?
  • Is my attendance really necessary at all the meetings scheduled for today? Can I send a surrogate in my place?
  • What is the root cause of the team conflict?
  • Do I have all the skills and background to make a timely decision about the project derailment? If not, how can I get up to speed?

2. Ask For Help

A sign of a great leader is knowing when to reach out for help as well as identifying the best person to assist. Sitting with a challenge that we are unsure about how to resolve is a waste of time. Additionally not being confident to do “the ask” is equally unhelpful. When we are spinning our wheels not sure of how to move forward then it is always best to turn to a trusted mentor or colleague for support and ideas.

3. Devise A Plan Forward

After recognizing the truth and conferring with a trusted adviser about the real issues, it is time to come up with a plan of attack. A plan will provide the leader with the direction to leap ahead.

  • Clarify the goals and objectives that will resolve the imbalance.
  • Be specific in the steps you and your team need to take. Assign tasks for each person including yourself.
  • Divide up the responsibilities and give ownership to team members so there is a more balanced daily routine for everyone.

4. Build Check-Ins

Things don’t always flow the way leaders want them to so it is important to have check backs with each person who is part of the new direction. During these one-on-ones or small group connections, have each person come prepared with any of their concerns so no time is wasted. Be open to making adjustments when a new process is possibly falling short. Don’t judge. Don’t blame. Just focus on creating a more balanced workplace.

5. Share Your Lessons

One of the greatest gifts we can give our team members is knowledge we have gained in resolving a workplace challenge. No need to keep the lessons quiet but rather share them with confidence.

  • Explain to the team what strategies you took to lead through the imperfect work situation.
  • Share what specifically could work in the future if a similar issue occurs.
  • Ask the team what they learned as well and what didn’t work in overcoming the imbalance.
  • Thank everyone for their support and help. Don’t forget to keep the trusted adviser in the loop and express gratitude to them too.
  • How have you navigated an imperfect workplace?

Related: Understanding the People Piece of Change