Accelerate Your Performance

09: Stop the Subconscious Behavior Infecting Your Organization

February 04, 2019 Studer Education Season 1 Episode 9
Accelerate Your Performance
09: Stop the Subconscious Behavior Infecting Your Organization
Chapters
Accelerate Your Performance
09: Stop the Subconscious Behavior Infecting Your Organization
Feb 04, 2019 Season 1 Episode 9
Studer Education

‘It’s not me, it’s them!’ – We’ve all heard it before, the blame game. But seriously, if they could just get their work done, I wouldn’t have to bring it up right? This default communication has lasting negative effects on team performance and results. Dr. Pilcher advises how to eliminate we/they behavior in the organization, and your life, for good. The results can be dramatic, imagine a positive culture where people take ownership. This episode addresses questions, such as: 

  • What is we/they and how does it affect our culture? 
  • How can we avoid pointing fingers? 
  • What are alternative ways of communicating a message? 

Recommended Reading: Results That Last – Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top 

Recommended Learning:  Eliminate We/They 
__________________________________________________________________ 

Show Notes Transcript

‘It’s not me, it’s them!’ – We’ve all heard it before, the blame game. But seriously, if they could just get their work done, I wouldn’t have to bring it up right? This default communication has lasting negative effects on team performance and results. Dr. Pilcher advises how to eliminate we/they behavior in the organization, and your life, for good. The results can be dramatic, imagine a positive culture where people take ownership. This episode addresses questions, such as: 

  • What is we/they and how does it affect our culture? 
  • How can we avoid pointing fingers? 
  • What are alternative ways of communicating a message? 

Recommended Reading: Results That Last – Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top 

Recommended Learning:  Eliminate We/They 
__________________________________________________________________ 

Thank you for joining today’s Accelerate Your Performance Podcast. And thank you for having a desire to be the best at your work and helping your organization achieve success. The podcasts focus on tactical actions to improve workplace culture and these tactics align to our Nine Principles® for Organizational Excellence.  

Today’s topic is “Stopping We/They.”

 In our previous segments. You’ve heard me answer this question asked by leaders --  Can you help fix our negative culture?  And, I respond – I can’t do that. What I think we can do together is take specific actions in the organization that will improve the organizational culture. 

 One action to take is “Stopping We/They.”

 We/They is when we look better at the expense of others. And unfortunately, it can seriously harm organizations from top to bottom: dividing employees and leaders…creating animosity between departments…causing a complete breakdown in teamwork and mutual respect.

 What we know is this – when we/they occurs in an organization, we shut down the possibility for achieving a great culture. We also limit our opportunities for accomplishing our organizational goals.


Several years ago, I was the dean of a college at a university. Sometimes I used we/they, I wanted faculty and staff to feel good about me and at times I communicated a message at the expense of the Provost and President. 

 

Subconsciously, I felt that if faculty and staff saw me as the person who “saved” them from the administration, they would feel better about me. My actions could have been interpreted by staff in this way - “I’m here for you. I’m fighting for you. If unfavorable decisions are made, remember it was them not me.”  

 

Years ago, I was introduced to the negative consequences We/They behavior has on organizations. That day I decided to stop communicating in this way. Stopping we/they forced me to find better language to communicate unfavorable decisions without throwing someone else under the bus.  It wasn’t easy to break this bad habit. I had to work at it.

 

What do I mean by “better language?” Let’s look at a case where someone uses we/they and then let’s re-do the case with “better language.”

 

Let’s say that one of our team members resigned and we let our leader know how important it is to hire a replacement. Our leader, Jim, agrees and sends the request forward to his leader, Sam.  The approval is delayed because of not being where we need to be with our organizational budget.  Jim reports that he made a solid case to Sam on the need we had to hire a new staff member. He tells us Sam did not approve the request he made. Jim says he understands the need and if it were up to him, he would have approved even in bad budget times.  Here’s how we feel about Jim - He fought for us.  Here’s how we feel about Sam - He does not care that we are overworked.

 

What’s a better way for Jim to share the bad news with his team?  Jim says, “Team, I requested to fill the replacement position and had a good conversation with Sam.  Sam wants to support our team and has agreed to put the position as a future priority rather than hiring right now. Here’s why.  The budget is not where we need it to be as an organization.  We need to save money so that we can support people in our organization in a positive way.  I suggest that we review possible options for reducing our recurring costs as a way to help the organization manage through difficult times. I believe Sam and I can work together to make sure we support this team in the most positive way and we can help the organization work through the budget deficit.” 

 

We/they seems to be the “default setting” for many workforces. We do it because we’ve never been taught not to do it. And, it’s something we’ve witnessed leaders and co-workers doing.  In fact, we even live we/they in our personal lives.  How many times have you we/theyed your brother or sister – thrown them under the bus to keep you out of trouble. Have you ever told your parents that if you had been responsible, you would have made different decisions than your brother did? – more mature, thoughtful, sound decisions… Now that may be true.  And you also know you didn’t mind throwing your brother under the bus. In fact, it may have even felt enjoyable at the time, thinking about all those times he threw you under the bus.

 

The great news is we can overcome we/they —and when we do, the results can be dramatic.

 

Results are a significant part of what we call the organizational flywheel. It includes passion, actions, and results.  When we align the three, our flywheel starts spinning -- positive results support the flywheel spinning faster and faster.  Here’s what we know – we/they behaviors slow the spin. We lose our momentum and jeopardize achieving successful results. The flywheel continues to stall until we rid the organization of We/They. That’s how critical it is.

 

Here’s what makes we/they so difficult to stop. People do not do this on purpose. It’s very likely that when we play the we/they card we do so subconsciously. We don’t intend to subtly shift the blame, but we do so to shy away from conflict. We want to be liked and valued. 

 

When we make a commitment to stop we/they, most people will perform better and enjoy working together.  People will take ownership of problems and opportunities, which keeps the organization constantly moving forward. The result is more positive organizational culture that allows people at every level to thrive, and that makes for happier, better served clients/customers.

 

It is important to note that we/they is not just an issue that leaders deal with; it’s a phenomenon that affects everyone in the organization. We’ve all pointed the finger and shifted the blame at one time or another. 

 

Today, let’s begin to work on communicating without using We/They. Our employees will benefit and so will we as leaders. Why? Because our employees will focus their behaviors on achieving results.

 

Your team will know its purpose and how the work makes a worthwhile contribution.

 

This week let’s do two things.  

 

First, let’s watch for people using we/they.  Note it and then think, what would have been a better way to communicate the message?

 

Second, let’s catch our tendencies to use we/they behaviors and stop doing this. Jot down how to send this message without using we/they.

 

Most of us want to work in an excellent organization.  To achieve excellence, we commit to stamping out we/they.  The first step is for each of us to stop communicating with we/they messages. If every person makes that commitment, we make a significant change to our organizational culture. 

Thank you for tuning in to Accelerate Your Performance. I look forward to connecting with you next week when we focus on being an owner versus a renter in our organizations.    Have a great week.