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Friday, October 24, 2014

Building Bridges and Tearing Down Walls

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. – Tom Peters



The Great Wall of China was built over hundreds of years to keep China’s northern enemies from invading. The Great Wall is so wide that chariots could ride across the top. It is one of the few manmade objects that astronauts can see from space as they look back on the earth.

But the Great Wall did not keep the enemy out. Do you know why? All the enemy had to do was bribe a gatekeeper. Despite the massive wall, there was an enemy on the inside that let the enemy on the outside in.

One of your most important responsibilities you have as a leader is to grow your corporate culture in a way that benefits everyone. But what happens when office gossip, professional jealousy, and turf wars build walls that place your company at risk? What is the fallout when walls go up and camaraderie is a faint memory of the past? Here are four critical areas that are impacted in your organization if walls are built or allowed to remain.

Loss of trust
The first line of defense for you as a leader as it relates to your corporate culture is the establishment of trust. When walls go up among your people trust is one of the first casualties along with it. Trust among your team is essential to your operation. If it doesn’t exist internally it’s going to be hard to nurture and develop it externally.

Trust is the foundation of your corporate culture. If there is no trust among the members of your team then your team is simply going through the motions. Trust is built when the walls come down and your people learn to work in harmony with one another. When they see each other as allies and advocates rather than adversaries then you trust can be established.

Lack of communication
When there is no trust then communication is going to suffer. If information is being withheld and secrets are kept, then good corporate culture is lacking. Walls keep people apart and when this occurs then the life blood of your company is missing. Everything rises and falls on trust and communication.

Consider for a moment how different things in your organization would be if there were not impediments to communication. Good communication can be a challenge in the best of times when there are no walls much less when they do exist. Communication in your organization will exist and thrive when you bring people together and make it a priority.

Lack of collaboration
Whatever the cause for the walls that exist – clicks, territorial disputes, petty office politics, etc. one thing is certain – relationships suffer. A strong work environment and the collaborative process are dependent upon good relationships – the very thing the walls have destroyed.

A healthy collaborative process can be very beneficial. When team members come together and check their baggage and their egos at the door, it can make a huge difference in the productivity of the organization. But this can’t happen within the confines of walls that are far too often supported by pride. When team members see their differences as strengths and their diversity as an advantage then collaboration can thrive.

Lack of credibility
Walls can be detrimental to any organization and every leader faces the challenge of how to deal with the underlying issues that lend itself to their creation. It’s a frustrating process and I understand the challenge it presents.

But the credibility of your organizational structure is on the line when walls of division that lead to a lack of trust, communication, and collaboration are allowed to linger. Chances are it’s only one or two disgruntled people who are the chief antagonists giving you this headache. But nonetheless, walls are being built because well-meaning team members may know of no other way to deal with it.

As a leader you must be proactive in the implementation and development of your corporate culture. It’s not an auto-pilot feature that you can turn on and then ignore as you move on to other issues. As a leader the best things you can do is learn how to build more bridges and tear down a lot of more walls.

What do you say?



© 2014 Doug Dickerson

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