There’s No US vs. THEM

Recently, I facilitated an all-hands meeting where participants talked about state of the business. I repeatedly heard comments like, “The company” doesn’t promote from within. “The company” is risk averse. “The company’s” merit and bonus programs are unfair. It’s hard to know who to trust in “this company.”

After allowing the group time to voice their thoughts and feelings – to decompress – I asked, “Who is the company?” For a long while, there was silence, perhaps even an air of annoyance. Finally, a few people spoke, almost simultaneously, saying, “We are. We are the company.”

“Right,” I replied, “YOU are the company. You give it life.  You play a role in making it what it is. When you acknowledge accountability for the company’s current state, you empower yourself to take action and lead the way to needed change.”

I once read a poem called “Everybody, Anybody, Somebody, Nobody and Someone Else. ” It illustrates the way many people in organizations shift responsibility. The poem cleverly describes the way we wait for someone else to be the agent for the change everyone believes needs to happen.  In part, it reads:

“Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it,
And Anyone could have done it.
But in the end Nobody always ended up with the task.”

If you’re in middle management, this feeling is all too common. According to Barry Oshry, middle managers understand what top leadership expects and what the broader workforce wants. Where there is a gap between the reality of top management and the workers, middles become the site of the clash where those two worlds meet. His book, “In the Middle” offers tools that will help you step up and participate in making your organization better.

Empowerment isn’t always someone else’s to bestow. We each play a role in making our organizations – and even our families – better. Paraphrasing Mahatma Gandi, YOU can be the change you want to see – not just in the world, but in the workplace as well.

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