I just read an article on the Creating We web site written by Judith Glaser and Nancy Snell titled, “How a “We” Culture Can Raise Your Organizational IQ.” It sparked a comparison to the “Me” focused culture fostered in the United States in the 1970s and bringing us to the “selfie” environment of today. An organization can truly thrive only if the culture is inclusive, transparent, and has an environment that focuses on the most important means of success: customers and team members.
The writers offer an outline for achieving an inclusive culture:
- Share power: give the lead to employees
- Seek feedback: ask employees for constructive input on your performance
- Focus everyone on pleasing the customer: ‘nuff said!
- Share a framework for change: set goals and get input on strategy and tactics
- Behave like a leader: don’t win by intimidation
- Break down silos: end turf wars and foster cooperation
- Be the change: shift how you interact with others. Show, don’t tell
- Be human: make your own mistakes learning moments
- Celebrate “We”: share the credit and use praise
This list is not all inclusive, but it does reinforce some valuable ideas on how to win over converts from “Me” thinking. They are all important, but my favorite way to implement change is to start with “breaking down silos.” A siloed environment sub–optimizes each department and person. It also fosters the “Me” environment. I don’t pretend that this shift will be an easy task, and as with any change, implementation and consistency are keys to success. Expect setbacks and the loss of some key employees who do not buy into the team concept. Sometimes you will have to hasten the movement of recalcitrant employees out of the organization to minimize backsliding.
Here are a few examples of how others have done it:
Get A New Leader
A mid-size technology company seeking ISO 9001 certification, was having trouble getting everyone on board. The problem was that the executive in charge of the effort viewed it as a “check list” project not something that needed to be woven into the fabric of each part of the company. A new leader of the quality area used a different approach and produced an almost overnight change that resulted in gaining ISO certification in record time.
Create a Rallying Cry
The Washington Nationals baseball team was struggling through the first half of the 2020 season, and then they created a rallying cry by using the “Baby Shark” song as their theme. Outfielder Geraldo Parra used it as walk up music to help him break out of a batting slump, then the entire team adopted it, and the rest is history. A World Series title. It sounds silly but little things do make a difference in creating an environment where everyone is focused on the overarching goal of the organization.
Make Leaders Truly Accountable
In The Generals written by Thomas Ricks, the author chronicles U.S. Army senior leadership from World War II up to present day and points out the positives and negatives of each era. He starts by describing Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall and how he created a culture of accountability with a fighting spirit before and during World War II. First, he fired or retired any General who he felt could not effectively lead in combat. When the war started, he gave Generals in the field 30 to 60 days to prove themselves. If they weren’t getting results, he relieved them and put someone else in charge. These actions created a culture where leaders and followers all knew that getting results with minimal casualties was the new norm. No one was rewarded who had not earned it in the field. The author credits Marshall’s foresight and courage as key elements to the Allied victory in WWII.
Creating a “We” environment with the next generation of employees presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Younger workers are largely independent and not necessarily company focused. Yet they also want to make a difference in the world and be recognized for their efforts. How you comingle the “We” and “Me” cultures will largely decide if you and your organization will thrive or not. Which one will your company be?
Send me an email, I’m interested in your thoughts.