This article focuses on how to shift a workplace from fear-based power-over environments (I-centric), to aspirational-based power-with environments (We-centric). When leaders understand the condition necessary for Creating We, they are able to “be the change they want to see in the world.”
It All Starts With You
As a leader who wants to make a difference in your organization, you hold the key. It all starts with you. You influence the power dynamics in your organization. When you create a sense of community and inclusion, colleagues feel they are accepted and valued and they will strive to live up to that higher level of performance. When you broadcast, even unconsciously, that you are unhappy with or, worse, unaware of the value colleagues bring, they feel the lack of appreciation and they will underperform.
Once you become mindful of the difference and can consciously shift your orientation as a leader, your organization will explode with productivity. This deep level of awareness provides you the power to engage your organization positively and proactively in the process of becoming extraordinary.
You can do this by becoming conscious of how masterfully you use inclusive language to pull people toward you rather than push them away; inspire others to greater heights, and fuel everyone’s Leadership Journey. You have the ability—by being mindful of how your conversations impacts others—to transform relationships, teams, and organizations – from power-over to power-with; from positional power into mutual power, fear into opportunity, and territorial energy into positive, vital energy. When this happens, you also change the mindset of the company from powerless to powerful—and incredibly, progress begins.
The ability to work together interdependently is one of our least-developed skills. This is so vital that, in its absence, good leaders turn bad, good executives become ineffective, and good colleagues turn into adversaries. The skill of opening up to others—and of creating the emotional space for others to open up—requires deep trust. Trust is the most precious of the golden threads. Without it, there can be no WE. With the golden thread of trust, we can weave our lives together like a beautiful tapestry.
WE-centric relationships are built on trust. I trust you will not harm me and you trust I will not harm you. When we have that level of trust we don’t feel the need to duck into protective behaviors. We automatically assume a mutual support and we move forward from there.
When we experience doubt about the good intentions of others, for whatever reason, we need to recognize the importance of having the kind of conversations that bring us back to trust. Creating the space for open dialogue enables us to reclaim trust with others.
Building Trust Takes Commitment
When we get married, we establish a relationship based on mutual love and appreciation, and we hope for unconditional love every day. While we may aspire to unconditional acceptance and respect at work, we find that these relationships are often temporal. And there are many more of them to manage. Because of the nature of work and business, relationships take effort to sustain, and establishing positive, growing relationships takes a lot of back-and-forth checking, updating, and clarifying. All of these are necessary to create a sense of community and collaboration. Such an environment is feedback-rich.
Our ability to communicate openly with candor and caring, determines the quality of the connectivity between us as individuals, teams, or larger organizational units. While we don’t always talk about it, we feel it. Knowing where we stand is vital to our success, and when we feel we are on the outs, it negatively impacts our performance. We start acting strangely—we protect, we hide, we defend—all because we feel we are being judged or rejected.
Too often, we see management and employees as separate. In reality, both are part of a larger system of colleagues working together to create positive business results. The challenge for you as a leader and as a colleague is to understand how to create “mutual trust” through the way you communicate with colleagues every day.
Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books:
Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose
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