You are getting to work and you realize you forgot to pick up the donuts for the morning staff meeting. UGH. You ALWAYS get the donuts. No one else even remotely volunteers to pick them up instead of you. Why in the world did the title of Production Manager land you the job of “donut getter”. You did it at first to be nice and now no one else in the entire group will pick up the slack and be the “donut getter”.
Do you know what this is? It’s role nausea. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired of the same old roles. I learned about role nausea during systems coach training by CRR Global. It truly is possible to try on some new roles and to break out of the rut of old roles. It’s just takes a little understanding about how systems work. You may not think you are in a system but everything is a system. Your department, your company, your marriage, your family, and your basketball team are all systems and they are full of inner roles (i.e. Peacemaker) and outer roles (i.e. Production Manager). Role nausea as written in my ORSC training, “Occurs when someone becomes heartily sick of the same role.”
So here are the ways to snap out of role nausea:
1. Define what kind of role this is. Roles can be outer (something outlined in your job description like setting up a production budget), they can be inner (something like nurturer hence the donut getter) or there can be ghost roles (this represents something that is not here anymore but still has an impact, like an ex-CEO who was a micromanager). So if it’s likely found in your job description then you are probably dealing with an outer role which from a systems standpoint is a little bit easier to deal with. The inner roles can be naturally baked into our personality. If you are the one who is always the peacemaker it doesn’t matter if you are the receptionist or Production Manager, you end up taking on that role regardless of the circumstances. The ghost role can float in from anywhere and represent something that doesn’t exist anymore like your ex-boss or the way things were before children. Define what role you want to work on.
2. Gather the troops to discuss the team roles. This is ideally done by an outside coach (Work with me!). Educate the group on the types of roles as defined above, and point out that roles are functions and not people. Make sure they are open to collaboration. The easiest to work on are the outer roles first. These are more apparent and identifiable as well. Find out what outer roles folks are sick of or where there might be some confusion. Role confusion is when it’s not clear who is responsible. Like I thought I was the agenda maker but sometimes when the meeting gets moved, Suzy is the agenda maker. Have everyone write down or bring up any roles that are at issue. Find the roles that are at issue, write them down and put them out in front of the group. This separates the “role” from the person.
3. Brainstorm ways to handle the roles differently. It’s important that if you are facilitating this and you happen to be the boss that you listen instead of direct. Try not to be attached to the outcome or pretty soon your direct reports will be just giving lip service and trying to anticipate what you want to hear. This is about new ways of doing things so be open and listen. Ask a few open ended questions and then shut up. Let the group do the talking and don’t shoot down any ideas. Make sure you write down the ideas that come up and validate every one of them if possible.
4. Come up with a plan and verify that everyone is aligned. One of the tenet’s of Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Behaviors of the Cohesive Team is that we have to be OK with conflict. You have to be open to hearing everyone’s view point because then they will buy in as long as they were “heard”. So if you are trying to nail down the action plan and someone’s body language is screaming that they aren’t on board (i.e. rolling of the eyes, deadly silence); be sure to go back to step 3 and probe some more. Consensus is not needed. Only alignment. We don’t have to agree on which way we are headed from Point A to Point B but I need to hear you out without punishment or judgement.
5. Verify next steps. Coaching always involves next steps. It is pointless to talk about what you want to do differently and then do nothing different. Who is going to be the donut getter now? Does Tommy need to verify that he can get his kids to day care earlier so he can get the donuts (cough, we all know this would probably be done by a woman but that might be my ghost talking). Always get to action. What are we going to do differently in the future?
6. Rinse and repeat. Follow up in the future to make sure it’s working. Or it’s not working. Hold folks accountable to ensure what they said they would do is what they did.
You may find out that the issues continue. This is likely because of ghost roles (woman always get the food for meetings) or inner roles (I am always the nurturer and I feel most comfortable nurturing regardless of the role nausea). This will require coaching on a deeper level. The main thing is to air the issue and put it in front of the team. Sometimes even just expressing the role nausea and other folks showing appreciation for their efforts is enough for someone to continue on. What role are you sick of?