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The 5 I’s: How to Guard Against and Overcome the Silo Mentality.

Silo Mentality is a mindset present when certain departments, sectors or programs, intentionally or unintentionally, do not share information freely. This type of mentality reduces operational efficiency, morale, and eventually contributes to the demise of productivity in the organization’s culture.

Here are 5 ways to guard against and overcome silo mentality.


1. Identity
Communicate the organization’s vision and mission to everyone. From the top down everyone in the organization should be able to clearly state the vision and mission statements.

2. Integrity
Schedule regular meetings focused on accountability and interdepartmental communication. Make sure that all stakeholders attend.
3. Intentional  
Deliberately build bridges between departments. Ensure that people, tasks, and communication flow freely.

4. Influence  
Plan special projects or activities aligned with the organization’s vision and mission. Invite all departments to take part. This will help create synergy and a culture of unity.
5. Impart
Share successes. This will encourage, motivate and inspire everyone.
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The Potential of Uniqueness

“Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, ‘Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!’ she doesn’t get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!
This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves’
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.”

– Dr. Suess

It is easier to place people in the same neat little box than to personalize our interactions with them. How much simpler to call everyone “Dave” than take the time to handcraft a unique title?

Growing up, my grandparents had several dogs. Each new dog, my cousins and I were allowed to name it, but invariably, my Grandfather would call them all the same thing. “King” if the dog was male and “Girl” if it was female. He didn’t have to worry about forgetting the new name because they were all the same.

It was easy.

When we work with volunteers, we might find ourselves falling into the temptation to treat everyone as the same “type.” It saves us mental exertion if everyone we work with gets the same end result. The same kind of reward, the same sort of encouragement, the same training, the same correction, the same…whatever.

Granted, working with large groups of volunteers forces us to standardize some aspects of the serving experience: orientation, training, annual rewards or appreciation gifts. But we start to get into trouble when we attempt to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to our relationship with volunteers (or anyone else for that matter!).

Without knowing it, we are forcing members of the team to fit the mold. Be like everyone else. Join the status quo.

What we’re saying through these behaviors is, “Because this is how the majority operates, this is how YOU must operate.” And when we communicate this to our team, they start to believe it. It squashes the creativity, freedom of expression, and the personal touch that comes with people performing in all their unique glory.

Treating people like the individuals they are instead of like an identical cog in the machine takes a little bit of effort. It requires a certain amount of attention. It forces us to get to know people on a personal level. People have complicated, imperfect lives. Things may even get a tiny bit messy.

It’s a challenge for leaders. But one well worth the effort.

What would our organization look like if we began to remember details about our team? If we showed people appreciation in a way that meant the most to them? If we used standardization as a helpful tool instead of a mind-numbing crutch?

I dare say we would begin to see volunteers who thrive in their position. We would see team members who feel valued and come to volunteer excited about their work. We might even start to see increased productivity and more effective staff.

The possibilities are infinite, it just takes a little bit of work. And a lot a bit of remembering names.

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7 Ways to Change Office Atmosphere. PART II

 

We all know how stressful work can be, and it’s difficult enough with the pressure of all our actual tasks. The last thing we need is to worry about a tense office environment.

Besides, life is too short to be anything less than fun.

You don’t need a leadership position to change the atmosphere in your workplace. In fact, this is a list of the 7 ways I changed mine without one.

I talked about the first 3 tactics last week. Now, we’ll focus on the last 4.

#4 Find common ground.

It was difficult at first to connect with some of my coworkers. But pretty soon I learned that you can find common ground with ANYBODY.

“Oh, you like bowling? I went bowling once. It’s so hard! How do you manage to drive the ball down the center without going into the gutter?!”

“You collect porcelain mice? How interesting! Do you have a large collection? What made you start that hobby? I bet there’s a good story in there.”

By the way, these are REAL conversations I’ve had.

And each conversation led to the start of a great friendship. The more you know about people the easier it becomes to establish a real connection.

You don’t have to be fake. All it takes is a genuine interest in the lives of your coworkers and you’d be surprised the incredible things you learn.

#5 Be a friend.

At the end of the day it’s all about relationships.

Yes, our goal is to perform at our best and to accomplish the goals of the organization, but we are human and there are times that emotions, personal issues, and illness will impact us at work.

I wanted my coworkers to know that I cared about them and what concerned them ultimately concerned me.

If there was a problem that I could help solve, or if I could just be there for a team member, I wanted them to know they had a friend.

#6 Collaborate across departments.

I’ve always heard that competition fuels creativity, resourcefulness, and generates new ways to accomplish goals. But if that’s the case, imagine how much more we can do if we collaborate?

Just think what we could accomplish if we collaborated not only in our own teams and departments, but if we joined forces even across industries!

When we pull from people with differing backgrounds and experiences, we are opening the door to all kinds of innovation. Who knows what could be accomplished with such a large think tank.

Once I had built relationships in my immediate area I started widening my circle. I made friends in other departments and pretty soon I had built up a large network of collaborators. If I had a problem, it was much easier to solve with an army of people in different positions, than it would have been if I had been flying solo.

#7 Be interruptible.

The most difficult part of all this is that we still have tasks to complete. Sometimes we get so bogged down with work that it is frustrating when a coworker needs something.

But we have to be interruptible. Even when we’re not feeling it.

Consistency in our willingness to serve and love our coworkers is the only way we can build a culture of relationship.

Obviously, it’s okay to have a bad day once in a while. But overall we need to be showing consistent readiness to help and support our team.

In my case, I let people know that I was always available. There was never a bad time to ask me a question. If I was on the phone, in a meeting, or working on a time-sensitive project, they knew I would respond as soon as I was done. I didn’t let people treat me like a doormat (always doing their work for them) but I tried to make it clear from the beginning that my first priority was the team.

I hope this has inspired you to create a culture of relationship in your organization. There is so much more we can accomplish as a team than we can on our own. It all starts with one person being willing to sacrifice their comfort and serve the rest of their staff and the possibilities from there are endless.

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7 Ways to Change Office Atmosphere. PART I

I once worked in an office with an open floor plan. It was me and my co-workers, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, staring across our little cubicles. My first day I nervously sat at my desk and peeked around at the engrossed people around me. Everyone sat in front of their screens, furiously typing, hunched over a phone, or angling their chairs in a way to best avoid accidental eye contact with someone else.

That first day I left the office with a bad headache and feeling more than a little deflated about my environment.

No one was rude or mean. When I talked to people they took the time to smile. Everyone was very polite. And professional.

They were just busy. And it made the atmosphere of the office feel…tense. I couldn’t imagine spending 40 hours a week in such rigid surroundings.

Something had to break. It was either going to be me or them and I decided right then it wasn’t going to be me.

So I started a little experiment.

Over the next couple of weeks I strategically began my mission to create a counterculture in the area surrounding my cubicle. The crazy thing was it worked.

Here are the 7 tactics I used to change my office’s atmosphere without having a leadership position.

#1 Be the change you want to see.

I was determined not to fall into the present culture. I behaved in the way I wished the rest of my coworkers would behave and eventually people began to notice. In fact, they eventually began mirroring some of those same behaviors.

Sometimes the only way to start a revolution is to change yourself. Is the atmosphere at work cold, competitive, and boring? Break the pattern. Smile at others, initiate conversations, sacrifice your time, build bridges.

#2 Offer to help.

You’d be surprised how often offering a hand improves the moods of your coworkers.

For my office, I realized the feeling of tension was caused by an overwhelming workload. I figured if I helped to relieve some of that stress it would ease that sense of heaviness. So I offered to help. Big or small, there was no task I wasn’t ready to tackle. I would purposely eavesdrop on my nearest coworkers to hear if they needed anything. If I heard someone complain about the huge amount of marketing emails they had to send to new clients, I would pop my head over the cubicle wall and ask if I could do the data entry while they worked on the content.

I took out trash, picked up lunches, helped push carts, and printed invoices for a coworker whose printer stalled.

Was it a little inconvenient?

Yes.

Was it effective?

ABSOLUTELY.

In fact, this ended up being the most effective weapon in my arsenal.

#3 Listen.

The reason I was able to help was because I was listening for opportunities. I’ll admit it. I was nosey.

Complete disregard for the old adage, “Mind your own business.”

I made my coworker’s issues, my business. And it payed off.

Bigtime.

I’m not talking about listening for gossip, or prying into people’s personal business. But, it’s incredible the things you’ll pick up if you’re paying attention. Little cues and phrases that are actually signals for help or a listening ear.

Sometimes people just need to vent. Being a safe person where your coworkers can voice frustration, concerns, and anxieties, without fear of you gossiping about them or making them feel bad is invaluable.

I’ll be posting the other 4 tactics next week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve shifted the culture in your office, class, or home!

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