Are You a Silo Builder or Buster?

Silos crop up in organizations when there is a lack of trust.  Departments, regions and co-workers try desperately to mark their territory and keep a tight fist on resources and information.  It’s not a healthy situation.  This results in closed doors, back stabbing and, frequently, loss of good personnel.  They take off for more forthcoming, open organizations.Silo Builder or Buster

Silos in your personal life crop up when you don’t tell your husband about the exam your son failed at school.  Why bring him into it?  He’ll probably get angry.  Your son will get embarrassed and defensive.  Let’s just put up a wall on the information to keep the peace.  Suddenly you’ve laid your first brick in your own personal silo.  The “keep bad news away from Dad’ silo.  In the long run, when someone finds out who knew what and when, the trust might be irreparable.

So how do you go about some silo busting?  Here are some ideas

1. Open.  Be open with your communication.  This can be difficult; especially, if the culture is to keep your cards close.  It starts with you.  If you just got some information that might negatively affect the business or one department in particular.  Take the first step and be open with the information.

2. Drop.  As in drop the assumptions.  This moment never happened before.  You really don’t know how that manager, child or customer might react.  You might have an educated guess but leave your assumptions out of it.  They are frequently a self fulfilling prophecy.  “Suzie always gets angry when I mention the sales forecast.”  Hmmm, regardless of Suzie’s reaction you are going to be looking to fulfill your assumption and any reaction Suzie has will be categorized in your mind as “anger”.

3. Love.  Sounds crazy but I do this especially if I am angry with a colleague (or ex) .  I imagine myself embracing them.  It’s hard to throw someone under the bus if you recently imagined embracing them.  We are all human and deserve caring folks around us.  It’s real hard to lay the first brick of a silo if you promote a caring culture.

4. Share.  This straight out of the “Essentials of Leadership” from Development Dimensions International,  “Share thoughts, feelings and rationale.”  It builds trust.  Explain to your husband why you were reluctant (feelings) to tell him about the failing test score.  Tell your colleague why (rationale) you would like to delay the project.  Trusting environments rarely have silos.

5. Promoter.  Be a promoter within your work group.  Make sure your employees are drinking the same Kool-Aid.  If your employees know that you are an open book on information and resources, they will follow suit.  Do not reward those who withhold important information to other departments.   It starts with you

6. Vacuum.  Don’t tolerate a vacuum on information or resources.  Take a deep breath and take the first step (this is more difficult for some of us who hate rocking the boat).  Pick up the phone or, better yet, (if you can) go be eyeball to eyeball with that guy you think is trying to build a silo.  “Hey Joe, I haven’t heard the status on Project X and my understanding is that you do….what gives?”  Be a silo preventer.

Depending on the organization, work unit or family culture, this can be difficult.  You can’t choose your family but you can choose the organization you work for.  If you are sensing there are too many silos and there aren’t any silo busters like you around?  The best strategy might be finding a place without any silos.

Help!

This is another key principle from “The Essential’s of Leadership” developed by Development Dimensions International (DDI), ask for help and encourage involvement.  Sounds simple. But is it? For most, it’s difficult to give up the reins.  Most of us are compensated for being an expert, a technician, highly skilled in creating widgets or leading others.  I think we find it difficult to ask for help when we are supposed to be the go to person.  The answer man.  “Go ask Cathy, she’ll know what to do.”

I’m not suggesting that this is asking for help with bringing in grocery bags or changing the water cooler bottle.  This is more about asking for help and getting involvement on a process, procedure or project.  Maybe it’s asking your child to select a recipe and make it for dinner, having your assistant design a page of a website or putting an ad hoc team together to do some process improvement.   This creates buy in and helps advance everyone’s skills.  The helper gets some mastery in a new area and you get better leadership and delegation skills.  It’s a win-win.

In the book, “Multipliers” by Liz Wiseman, one of the five disciplines of a Multiplier is being The Liberator. The leader that liberates is one who “releases others by restraining yourself.” This can be difficult when most people assume that the highest ranking person in the room is going to make the decision.  Time to sit on your hands and let your child, coworker or partner, flourish.

So how do you get on board?  Here are some steps:

1. Let go.  It’s time to let go.  I know it’s easier to do it yourself.  It’s faster.  More efficient.  Saves time, money and (sometimes) aggravation.  In the long run, it will pay dividends.  One of the hardest steps as a parent was to let my child cut an onion.  Handing a child a sharp cutting blade and a round slippery peeled onion sounded like a formula for disaster.  I had to let go.  If they cut off their finger, we’ll go to the emergency room (I’m happy to say it didn’t happen with either child).  How are they ever going to learn?  The bonus is, I’m not the only one who can chop onions.

2. Drop assumptions.  Unless you are clairvoyant, you don’t know what is really going to happen. Your assistant may have totally botched the last spreadsheet you delegated to him but, hey…he probably learned something and will do just great this time.  Quit predicting disaster and let them fly.  If they fall on their face, they will have learned something and so will you.

3. Get clear.  Make sure you and your helper  are clear about project parameters, deadlines and expectations.  If you tell your coworker that we need a budget for the fund raising project, make sure you explain how to develop the budget, when it’s due and any expectations for the format.  It’s not a good idea to send them off in the dark and hope for the best.  Clearly delegate for the best outcome.

4. Be available.  Once you have delegated, be available for course corrections.  I once asked my daughter to make macaroni and cheese while I attended an evening meeting.  The box asked for 1/4 cup of milk.  Somehow my eleven-year-old thought that meant 4 cups of milk.  The end result was a milky cheesy macaroni soup.  I had not been available to answer questions.  If you can’t be available, it may not be the right time to delegate.

5. Accept.  Be prepared to accept any outcome.  The results might be great or they may be a disaster.  Give encouraging feedback about the results regardless of the outcome.  A colleague of mine would say this is “pumping sunshine.” I’d like to think it’s encouraging their mastery.  I’m not suggesting that you gloss over errors that were made.  My daughter now knows the difference between a 1/4 cup and 4 cups (and we didn’t eat the macaroni).  Better luck next time. At least she tried and now, at nineteen, she can cook on her own.  Accept the results and encourage them to continue.

I realize that there may be things that are beyond someone’s abilities.  If it’s too much of a stretch, set realistic expectations.  My daughter won’t be making a turducken anytime soon.  Heck, that’s beyond my skills.  The important thing is to empower those around you and watch them blossom.

How do you encourage involvement?

Silo Busting

Silos crop up in organizations when there is a lack of trust.  Departments, regions and co-workers try desperately to mark their territory and keep a tight fist on resources and information.  It’s not a healthy situation.  This results in closed doors, back stabbing and, frequently, loss of good personnel.  They take off for more forthcoming, open organizations.

Silos in your personal life crop up when you don’t tell your husband about the exam your son failed at school.  Why bring him into it?  He’ll probably get angry.  Your son will get embarrassed and defensive.  Let’s just put up a wall on the information to keep the peace.  Suddenly you’ve laid your first brick in your own personal silo.  The “keep bad news away from Dad’ silo.  In the long run, when someone finds out who knew what and when, the trust might be irreparable.

So how do you go about some silo busting?  Here are some ideas

1. Open.  Be open with your communication.  This can be difficult; especially, if the culture is to keep your cards close.  It starts with you.  If you just got some information that might negatively affect the business or one department in particular.  Take the first step and be open with the information.

2. Drop.  As in drop the assumptions.  This moment never happened before.  You really don’t know how that manager, child or customer might react.  You might have an educated guess but leave your assumptions out of it.  They are frequently a self fulfilling prophecy.  “Suzie always gets angry when I mention the sales forecast.”  Hmmm, regardless of Suzie’s reaction you are going to be looking to fulfill your assumption and any reaction Suzie has will be categorized in your mind as “anger”.

3. Love.  Sounds crazy but I do this especially if I am angry with a colleague (or ex) .  I imagine myself embracing them.  It’s hard to throw someone under the bus if you recently imagined embracing them.  We are all human and deserve caring folks around us.  It’s real hard to lay the first brick of a silo if you promote a caring culture.

4. Share.  This straight out of the “Essentials of Leadership” from Development Dimensions International,  “Share thoughts, feelings and rationale.”  It builds trust.  Explain to your husband why you were reluctant (feelings) to tell him about the failing test score.  Tell your colleague why (rationale) you would like to delay the project.  Trusting environments rarely have silos.

5. Promoter.  Be a promoter within your work group.  Make sure your employees are drinking the same Kool-Aid.  If your employees know that you are an open book on information and resources, they will follow suit.  Do not reward those who withhold important information to other departments.   It starts with you

6. Vacuum.  Don’t tolerate a vacuum on information or resources.  Take a deep breath and take the first step (this is more difficult for some of us who hate rocking the boat).  Pick up the phone or, better yet, (if you can) go be eyeball to eyeball with that guy you think is trying to build a silo.  “Hey Joe, I haven’t heard the status on Project X and my understanding is that you do….what gives?”  Be a silo preventer.

Depending on the organization, work unit or family culture, this can be difficult.  You can’t choose your family but you can choose the organization you work for.  If you are sensing there are too many silos and there aren’t any silo busters like you around?  The best strategy might be finding a place without any silos.