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Anonymous Career Advice

Disconnected From My Department

In today’s anonymous career advice, we tackle a senior leader being disconnected from their teams and department and how to address their concerns.

Dear Focus, I lead a fifteen person department with four teams, I know I am disconnected from my department and it’s hindering performance. How do I reconnect?

In the world of work we operate in, there will be many department heads who have not thought about how connected they are or are not with their teams and department.

It is a positive sign you understand you have become disconnected or someone in your department has stepped forward and let you know.

You have a number of options that can help you and the teams make progress, the questions you need to answer are:

  1. Have the teams lost trust in you?
  2. Why did you lose contact?
  3. Are there internal influencers who can
  4. Has there been a hidden leader or a co-pilot who has stepped up and taken the rains?
  5. Has the department performance dropped?

Be A Leader

First things first, as a leader your job is to guide, shape and call out and address bad behaviours, as you know you are disconnected, you should call this out, whether this is on a call, a video call or in writing.
The more personal the better for you in your situation.

Secondly, you should connect with your managers but be completely aware that you should skip them and connect with all levels of your team and gain feedback, listening is far more important than talking here.

Take many notes, review and then evaluate where the team is and what type of leader they require currently, often a job of a leader is to get out of the way and allow those around them to flourish and step up.

Understand The Politics

In the workplace, we all experience politics at some level and many middle managers feel like they have to play the game. You should understand if there has been a move to help move you further away from your teams, this could have been a result of your stepping away or a powerplay, truly understand this and give the benefit of the doubt. Read your managers reviews is a great step to understand your manager’s abilities and how they have performed if you have disconnected from your management team.

Internal Influencers

Your secret weapon is likely the best person to connect with, they are typically an internal influencer and hold a lot of weight within the team and see if they are willing to support your move to reconnect. This cannot be fake and has to be for the best of the team.

Performance

Something you will need to ask yourself openly and honestly, has your department’s performance been impacted? Is yes is it positively or negatively? If positively, how will add to their momentum or add to the flywheel? If negatively how will you review, analyse and then inspire.

Be There & Be Present

From being disconnected you cannot then replace that with not being present and not being available in the future, it is important you are available and present in the meetings, in the standup and in planning sessions.

So in short: follow these actions to reconnect:

  • Do not fake your motives
  • Make the time to reconnect
  • Take the time to listen
  • Understand if you need to connect more deeply
  • Or understand if your management team have stepped up or overstepped
  • Encourage open comms and you will be available for coaching, mentoring and guiding those around and below you.

Here are some supporting Focus resources that will help you: