Moving From Me to We Workplaces

The power of an organization is the capacity generated by relationships. Positive or negative organizational energy is determined by the quality of relationships. Those who relate through coercion, or in disregard of others, create negative energy. Those who are open to others and who see others in their fullness create positive energy.”    Margaret Wheatley, Leadership from the New Science

Do you work in a WE or a ME centered workplace?

For most of you the answer will be a ME workplace.

What’s the difference – and why does it matter?

ME or I centered workplaces are still the norm. They are characterized by cultures that are high on fear and low on trust.  People don’t feel or believe they can speak honestly and contribute ideas and opinions freely.  Organizations preach teams but many team members operate as lone wolves.

In ME based workplaces, employees feel they have to protect turf, leaders are perceived as ineffectual or autocratic. Self-protection is the dominant feeling. Anxiety, frustration and resentment are the common emotions found in ME centered workplaces.

WE focused workplaces bring out the best in their employees – at every level.  WE centric leaders are characterized by caring, courage and vision and to use the old expression, walk the talk.  Environments that foster WE centered behaviors encourage diversity of thought and expression of feeling. They encourage risk-taking and tolerate “failure.”  WE cultures support sharing and discourage territoriality. They are dedicated to fairness and the achievement of the full potential within everyone.  Confidence, passion and satisfaction are the common emotions found in a WE centered workplace.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Despite decades of discussions and program implementation of leadership and team building, the consensus is that most workplaces are still not healthy, vibrant relationship building systems. In fact, many are downright toxic.

There are many reasons for this.  The “legacy” of top – down, command and control thinking and management still prevails in most organizations.  Fear is the dominant emotional driver in too many workplaces.  Most organizations still don’t understand and factor in the human equation in terms of policies and practices.  Communication and emotional intelligence are still relegated to the territory of “soft skills” and are often not considered as essential job requirements. In fact, too many business pundits still question their validity in the business environment!

Many organizations are either in the dark about the impact of power dynamics or just don’t care.  Unhealthy competition, gossip and positional power struggles are often the result.

Lack of organizational trust and transparency is growing. Even employees, who like their jobs or their managers, often report they don’t trust their company or its leaders. Economic and social pressures always exacerbate individual, group and organizational systems and often reveal the weaknesses that are concealed during “rosier” times.

FROM US TO THEM

It’s easy to find a list of the cultural forces and organizational factors that contribute to Me based workplaces.  Many people feel trapped within organizations and teams that are completely out of step with their values.  They want more collaboration, trust and partnership in their workplace relationships and aren’t interested in engaging in power plays.

But regardless of the influence of structural norms and hierarchical influences within a workplace, every person has a critically important role to play in creating more WE focused work environments.

What WE bring to the table matters.  Cultures are important but they are merely the aggregate of mindsets.  Creating more WE based cultures, depends on all of us getting far better at two critical competencies of emotional intelligence – self awareness and self-management.  While blame is common in ME centered workplaces, self-responsibility and self – reflection are the cornerstones of WE based cultures.

To be genuinely successful, WE cultures have WE embedded into systemic practices reflected in interpersonal norms. WE focused cultures cannot flourish unless there is accountability at all levels of responsibility.

SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE – THE NEW SCIENCE OF WE

“Perhaps the most stunning recent discovery in behavioral neuroscience is the identification of mirror neurons in widely dispersed areas of the brain. Italian neuroscientists found them by accident while monitoring a particular cell in a monkey’s brain that fired only when the monkey raised its arm. One day a lab assistant lifted an ice cream cone to his own mouth and triggered a reaction in the monkey’s cell. It was the first evidence that the brain is peppered with neurons that mimic, or mirror, what another being does. This previously unknown class of brain cells operates as neural Wi-Fi, allowing us to navigate our social world. When we consciously or unconsciously detect someone else’s emotions through their actions, our mirror neurons reproduce those emotions. Collectively, these neurons create an instant sense of shared experience.” Social Neuroscience & the Biology of Leadership

What you do matters. What they do matters. There is nothing “woo-woo” about emotional contagion. It’s real. Emotions, whatever they are, spread. Leaders who lead with fear (whether they are consciously aware of it or not) spread fear. Leaders who lead with empathy – spread empathy.  Empathy is the ultimate contributor to building WE based cultures.

The latest neuroscience has powerful implications for the ways in which we organize our workplaces, our schools, our families and our societies.  Our brains work on an organizing principle with two primary tasks – minimize threat and maximize reward.

The need for status (recognition), certainty (safety), autonomy (self-mastery), relatedness (affiliation, love) and fairness are either satisfied or frustrated by WE or ME cultures.

The latest scientific findings clearly show that social needs are as important to WE humans as the need for food and water!  Our brains are wired to work within the social context of community.  

BUILDING THE WE IN ME

Developing the WE factor inside of us takes work. It’s easy to jump into the ME vs. YOU pool. Our entire culture is organized to support that. WE isn’t popular. Oh yes, we teach our kiddies to share their toys and not whack little Jacob with a baseball bat, but as a culture we are still modeling aggression and competition as our primary values.

So building our WE behaviors can take vigilance and practice. Here are some of the basics:

  • Upgraded Belief Systems– we live by our beliefs (some are conscious and most are not) We have dozens that govern the way we relate to our own feelings, those of others, behave in relationships (inside the workplace and outside of it) and treat other people. Unless we make a determined effort to unearth our deepest beliefs, we cannot change our behaviors.
  • Value Your Values – Everyone has values. We refer to them, but often we don’t really know them or live by them. Unless you honor your own values, you can’t possibly understand or respect those of others. WE centric cultures use values as a guiding force.
  • Know Your Needs – Most people can’t really name their needs. We’re not talking about food or water here – but needs that relate to our social interdependence with others.  Identifying your needs is central to understanding your values and beliefs. They are the drivers.
  • Evaluate your Communication Strengths – and Weaknesses.  If you are too aggressive, commit to learning how to express yourself in a more assertive style. There is a huge difference in the eye and ear of the beholder.
  • Get your Assumptions, Judgments and Expectations of Others Under Control. They’ll reflect your beliefs and values – so make the connections. This is important because we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviors.

Whether we live and work in ME or WE cultures depends a great deal on US.  Each time we interact with someone in the workplace (and outside of it) we make a deposit or withdrawal into the Bank of WE or ME.  The problem in most workplaces is that the bank is overdrawn. All of the big and little daily interactions have drained the coffers.

So how each of us acts now, will decide the cultures of the future.

Adapted from an earlier article in The Intentional Workplace

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Changing Your Habitual Responses


freedom

“Freedom is the ability to pause between the stimulus and the response.” Rollo May

Beware of quick fix formulas! On this we can mostly all agree.

The E + R = O (EVENT + RESPONSE = OUTCOME) formula, which we picked up on from Jack Canfield’s – The Success Principles How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, is an effective, practical and not a quick fix tool that can help you to change the way you work – and live.

Why?

Because to use it, you have to change the way you think. Doable – yes! Easy – no!

Here’s how it works. Continue reading

What Business Should Know About The High Costs Of Uncivil Behavior

civility

Last week, Mike Rice, Rutgers University men’s head basketball coach was fired after videotape of his verbal and physical abuse toward his players went viral. The video is a series of incidents showing Rice repeatedly yelling, cursing at his players and aggressively grabbing and pushing them, and throwing basketballs at them.

As if watching this display of outright bullying behavior wasn’t painful enough, later that week Sean Hannity from Fox news referred to the incident in laudatory terms;  in effect condoning the action and saying we need more of this kind of disciplinary behavior and character building.

His comments awakened me to the reality that, while Rice’s particular egregious display of bullying is more the exception than the rule in today’s workplace – abusive, disrespectful and uncivil behavior is occurring all the time and at higher rates in organizations of all different sizes and industries.

While dictionary definitions of civility refer to manners, tact and politeness as the essentials of civility, the root of the word stems from the idea of “good citizenship” and the “state of being civilized.”  Whether we call it respect or civility or etiquette, it’s really how people as citizens think about treating each other in a society.

A 2011 article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines workplace incivility as “seemingly inconsequential, inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional workplace conduct.”

Trevor Cairney, writing for the Center for Apologetic Scholarship and Education, says that “civility refers to the behavior between members of society that create a social code and is a foundational principle of a civilized society.”

Jim Taylor, a psychologist at the University of San Francisco, writing in the Huffington Post, suggests “Civility is about something far more important than how people comport themselves with others. Rather, civility is an expression of a fundamental understanding and respect for the laws, rules, and norms (written and implicit) that guide its citizens in understanding what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For a society to function, people must be willing to accept those structures. Though still in the distance, the loss of civility is a step toward anarchy, where anything goes; you can say or do anything, regardless of the consequences.”

The articles I read on leadership spend a lot of time and space on the traits, characteristics and methodologies of successful leaders. That’s important, but these articles are not  exposing the day-to-day nitty-gritty of office life – long, stressful hours filled with people who did not choose to work together – but in many cases must depend upon each other for work to be successful. Continue reading

5 Things Leaders Are Not Taught, Part 2

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In Part 1 of 5 Things Leaders Are Not Taught, I wrote about how conscious leaders see the world. Their field of perception is broader.  They commit to a continuous process of learning and they resolve to see more deeply because they understand that they don’t have all the answers. There’s a moral courage that grows from this kind of experience – and a willingness to engage in constant introspection and self-correction.

With ancient roots, today’s brand of mindfulness is the new kid on the block. To be fair to most leaders, none of us were taught the skills of mindful awareness. These days it seems everybody’s writing or talking about it (I plead guilty). Google, Harvard Business School, the US government, even the military include mindfulness principles in leadership programs.

In her article, Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and their Connection to Corporate America’s Bottom Line, author Arianna Huffington writes, “Even a quick look at what’s happening in the American workplace shows it’s a seriously split-screen. On the one hand, there’s the stressful world of quarterly earnings reports, beating growth expectations, hard-charging CEO’s and focusing on the bottom line. On the other hand, there’s the world populated by the growing awareness of the costs of stress, not just in the health and well-being of business leaders and employees, but on the bottom line as well.” Continue reading

Boxed In By Self-Deception?

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 “We define self-deception as not knowing – and resisting the possibility – that one has a problem Arbinger Institute

Have you ever wondered if there was a missing ingredient that could improve your relationships – in the workplace and beyond?

Well, it wasn’t until I came across the book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box, written by The Arbinger Institute, that I was able to put my finger on an important part of the puzzle.  – Self Deception.  Not that it’s THE ANSWER, but it can go a long way in changing the quality and nature of your relationships.

Understanding how acts of self-deception affect our perception of others is the first step.  This can give us insights into recognizing the behaviors that can lead us to treat people more as objects – means to our end – and not living breathing human beings with needs just like our own.

It is easy to get caught up in the endless “doing” of work and lose sight of who is at the other end of our “transaction”.  Managers, even seasoned ones, who pride themselves on their results orientation, can lose their focus seeing interactions between people – as tasks.  Another workplace reality is that we simply do not “gel” with or even like, some of our co-workers – all the more reason to see past their humanness. Continue reading