In last week’s article I spoke about how digital transformation is a team sport, and to be successful leaders need to work together.

Easier said than done though, right?

Not everyone plays nicely, and some don’t even see the need. But there is a light! Or at least a cross.

This week I will share a framework I learned from a wise mentor and former boss. It is a creative coaching tool that I have found really helpful as a leader. I use it to address issues that team members may be having with peer relationships.

Introducing the Cross of Lorraine.

It is fair to say that the Cross of Lorraine does not come up when you google Leadership Development.

According to Wikipedia, It is an emblem of Lorraine in Eastern France, and during World War II was also the symbol of the Free French Forces. While all of that might be interesting, it is its shape of one vertical and two horizontal bars that makes it useful as a coaching tool, rather than its history (even though the history makes for an intriguing headline!).

I have been leading teams, and been part of teams for decades. I have had the privilege of working with and learning from some outstanding team players, but have also experienced the opposite.

It is not uncommon for otherwise very talented individuals to be exceptionally good at the parts of their roles that they see as their direct responsibility, but to ignore the collaboration and working with peers part of their roles.

Setting expectations is essential to get the best out of people. I have used the Cross of Lorraine framework as a tool to help clarify and explain the importance of peer relationships and to demonstrate how being a constructive team player is part of their role.

If you look at the cross symbol on the flag on the header for this newsletter, you will see that I have added a series of dots. The yellow dot represents you – or whoever it is that you are coaching.

The black dots represent the people that your role requires you to build constructive working relationships with. Your peers are to the left and right of you on the lower horizontal bar.

Your boss is above you on the higher horizontal bar, and your boss’ peers are on either side of him or her. And above your boss, is your boss’ boss.

Most people know that it rarely ends well when someone fails to build constructive relationships with their boss or their boss’ boss, so I’ve not had to do much coaching on the importance of this one! However it is quite common for people to be blinkered about the need to build positive relationships with their other colleagues, especially their immediate peers, and their boss’ peers.

Positive relationships are essential not optional.

Corporate environments are made up of many high performing and driven people. They thrive at the responsibilities that they’ve been given, yet often frame their roles only in terms of their direct leadership relationships and accountabilities.

It is not uncommon to see inadequate attention given to those areas of their roles (or even to not regard them as part of their roles) where indirect influence is needed and where there is a lot more ambiguity. This can lead to an unwillingness to invest in building positive relationships with those whom they may not work directly with on a day to day basis, or who they may see as competitors.

All leadership is about influence at some level.

Managing people and businesses also relies on influence, however it is influence with authority. Influencing when you don’t have direct authority is much more difficult and in my view depends on a foundation of strong relationships.

Since being introduced to it years ago, The Cross of Lorraine has become a favourite coaching tool. It has been useful to me many times in helping people understand that their roles and responsibilities include building strong peer relationships. Investing in these relationships is part of their role and a “must do”, not a “nice to have”.

The double horizontal symbol helps to set expectations on what it means to be a team player. It provides a framework to approach what can sometimes be a difficult conversation, by demonstrating key horizontal and vertical relationships that all successful leaders need to master.

Do you have team members who struggle to play nicely? Message me for a no obligation chat.