People genuinely want to work together in a more authentic, courageous and effective way.
However, even good, well-meaning people often find it challenging to do the right things and behave and act in ways that promote a productive environment. They know what works and what doesn’t work, but knowing and doing are two different things.
- People know that gossiping doesn’t work; ‘trashing’ coworkers and ‘throwing them under the bus’ is hurtful and it undermines trust and productivity, but they still do it.
- People know that paying lip service to commitments doesn’t work, but they still do it.
- People know that blaming other teams and people doesn’t fix the problem, in fact, it makes it worse, but they still do it.
So why is it so hard for us to do what we know is right and effective?
The collective culture shapes and promotes individual behavior.
If you come to work every day to an organizational culture in which victim mentality, blame, siloed dynamics, lack of accountability and politically incorrect communication are tolerated and perhaps even promoted, you will find yourself behaving accordingly.
The culture teaches you very quickly to get in line in order to get along. Any deviation from status quo could be detrimental. You could think of it this way: In ancient Roman time, an overly enthusiastic and eager slave rowing in a ship’s galley probably did not make it alive through the night.
Frederick Taylor, who in 1909 wrote a book called the Scientific Method of Management and pioneered time-and-motion studies, spent his career perfecting the hierarchical model of the workplace. He said:
“Hardly a competent worker can be found who does not devote a considerable amount of time to studying just how slowly he can work and still convince his employer that he is going at a good pace. Under our system, a worker is told just what he is to do and how he is to do it. Any improvement he makes upon the orders given to him is fatal to his success.”
Don’t get too excited. You are not off the hook. The other side of the equation is that:
Individual behaviors can change the collective culture.
In fact, the only thing that can change the collective culture is when individuals take responsibility and start changing the dialogue, rhetoric, beliefs, and mindsets of their colleagues around them.
They change “We can’t” to “Yes we can!” They encourage people to move from “It will never work” to “Let’s try!” And they take action to turn “Nothing will change” to “Let’s start changing things together!”
Declarations and commitments turn into new actions and behaviors. New actions and behaviors reinforce the new collective culture you are creating.
Margaret Mead (Scientists, author) said it well: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”
Individuals really do make THE difference. YOU make THE difference. You just need to own up to that and not hide in the shadows.
You have a choice whether to be right or be wise. Not choosing is the worst form of choice. It’s choosing without taking responsibility.
Choose to make THE difference:
- Refuse to participate or engage in gossip, negative and backchannel conversations.
- Always have a positive outlook.
- Address issues openly, directly and completely and not let issues fester.
- Take responsibility for challenges and failures.
- Communicate and share information even when you feel vulnerable.
- Call people to the carpet when they are not doing what they said.
- Do what you say or let people know you won’t do it.
Making THE difference means doing the right thing, doing what you know works and always staying true to your principles, values and higher self.
It does not mean being perfect. If you take on making THE difference, you will make mistakes, screw up, stumble and fall. But, every time you falter don’t dwell in self-pity, blame or guilt. Quickly return to your commitment and become stronger for it.
Taking on the role of making THE difference, definitely requires courage.
However, if that choice is an expression of who you are it will greatly empower and energize you. Try and see.