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.

Elevating Esteem

I have been facilitating the “Essentials of Leadership” class by Development Dimensions International (DDI) for over 10 years.  The first Key Principle is “maintain or enhance self esteem”.  I find it interesting that in most classes, the concept of enhancing self esteem is much more difficult if the person you are interacting with appears to be confident.  Why enhance a self esteem that already seems to be adequately enhanced?  Why stroke someone who seems to be already full of themselves? It would be like paying a compliment to Arnold Schwarzenegger or Donald Trump.  Why do that?  They don’t need it.

I think we also get repelled when complimenting someone who is of higher status, say your boss or a peer who is obviously bringing in a bigger paycheck.  What’s the point? They never compliment me.  Why add to their bucket if they aren’t adding to mine?  Maybe their bucket will overflow and I won’t have any.

On the flip side, it so easy to give an “Atta boy” to your child for the smallest of achievements.  Heck.  I even say “good girl” when my dog stops to piddle when I walk her.  In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, “Esteem” is one step below “Self Actualization”.  So creativity and problem solving (Self Actualization) can’t even happen unless the Esteem is met first.  I think we better get on the stick and start enhancing everyone’s self esteem regardless of their status or position in life.

Here are some ideas on how to elevate self esteem:

1. Thanks.  It’s important to thank those around you.  Whether it’s the server who refilled your water glass, the guy who bagged your groceries or your boss when she gives you some direction on the project; it never hurts to thank someone for even the smallest deed.   When my son finally gets to the dishes three hours after dinner is done, I thank him.  It might be late, I might be frustrated but it’s better to encourage the behavior rather than to diminish his self esteem.

2. Appreciation.  I think this is one small step up from thanks.  It’s expanding the idea of thanking someone with just a bit more detail.  For instance, “Thanks for emptying the garbage” or “I appreciate that you put more detail in the report.”  It specifies what exactly you are appreciating.  “Thanks for responding in a timely manner.” This is going to encourage more of the same.

3. Connect.  If you connect it to how or why the behavior was important, it reinforces the behavior.   So that might look like “Because you emptied the garbage for me, I made it to my meeting on time, thanks” or “Since you put more detail in the report, the committee understood the impact of the decision, thanks”.  If you can tie the behavior to an impact on the organization, group or to you personally, you start hitting the sweet spot of enhancing self esteem.

4. Sincere.  This is difficult to gauge but I think we all know in our gut when someone is being insincere. Somehow the compliment falls flat.  Perhaps it’s the inflection in the voice or that someone is normally sarcastic so it’s difficult to tell when sarcasm stops and sincerity begins.  It starts with you.  Be sincere.  If you know in your heart you are sincere; it won’t fall flat.

5.  Specific.  The more specific you are; the more bang for the buck.  There is a difference between “You look great” to “I love your blouse” to “That blouse is beautiful, the color highlights your eyes.” They are all good.  The last statement is just more effective because it’s more specific.  The enhancement of the self esteem is even greater.

6. Equal Opportunity.  Be an equal opportunity enhancer.   The meek of the world are not the only ones who need enhancement.   I think blowhards like Trump need enhancement as well.  I think that arrogance can be a sign that someone is over compensating for not receiving enough positive strokes in their life.  The best defense is a good offense.  People around them think they are full of themselves but inside they are yearning for validation.  Go ahead and fill their bucket.  You will feel better for it.  Honest.

There is pay off for all this.  People naturally gravitate to positive people.  The neighbor I grew up next door to as a kid was always positive and constantly enhanced my self esteem. She always looked for the best in me.  Be that positive influence on others in your life and they will gravitate towards you.

How do you enhance self esteem?

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.