How Leadership Can Break Down Walls
If you observe the various cultures of even a handful of organizations, you will easily see many walls erected that hold them back.
These walls, which exist in many forms both known and unknown, are largely the result of individual, team, and/or workplace dynamics. Sometimes they are willingly put in place; other times they exist out of ignorance. Whatever the cause of intention, a leader needs to identify and break down these walls in order to move the organization forward.
Some examples of walls:
- Silos of individuals or departments that hole themselves up, neither interacting or acknowledging the validity of others to the company
- Personal agendas that squelch input, accountability, and engagement
- Real or perceived offenses held by staff, managers, or even customers
- Communication breakdowns causing lack of information, misinformation, or conflicting information
- Fear of repercussions for doing the right thing or standing up for the good of the organization or customer
- A profit-driven motive that strips all other decision making that is deemed wasteful or unprofitable
When walls exist, they become inconveniences in which people will work around. They then become obstacles which are tolerated. If left intact, they will eventually become toxins that harm alignment, market mobility, productivity, and eventually revenue. At the core of erecting walls, distrust is fostered and internal credibility blooms.
As a leader you have the ability to identify and break down walls. When a wall is torn down, it literally opens up collaboration and communication. Trust is regained and strengthened. Teamwork is sparked, and creativity flourishes.
So how does one break down walls? Here are some brief real-life examples:
- A new organization struggles during its launch as each department compartmentalizes out of survival. Finally a department director raises the question and gets a few of their colleagues to see this trend. With communication and work, they eventually build collaboration and get the teams on the same page again.
- An account manager makes a grave error that impacts a customer’s order. The customer becomes irate and escalates the situation. The account manager admits their error, validates the customer’s feelings, and works hard to not only take extra care of the customer after correcting the mistake, but in buidling a deeper relationship. When the account manager’ company lost the contract of the customer’s group, that customer still kept buying from the account manager because of the relationship that was built.
- A vice-president of an organization came with a department administrator to express concerns to director of a second department. Many of the administrator and VP’s concerns were factually refuted by the director, and the director sensed the VP’s agitation of the situation. The next day, the director went to the VP and initiated a great conversation on how to remove the apparent divide between the three of them. What resulted was a revealing of feelings and only seeing one side of the situation. Once all was on the table, the dynamics drastically improved and communication became more open and objective.
- A manager who becomes a buffer for his staff by filtering out the negativity and politics, but still being upfront and honest without the drama. He uses his emotional intelligence to reinvigorate his field team and work hard to open communication channels with the franchise community and the executive management team. He succeeds in building a solid regional brand and increasing overall engagement and revenues as a result of stabilizing the tumult.
Think of ways you can knock down barriers in your organization. They may seem like large obstacles looming, but as a leader it is up to you to initiate change. It may take time, lots of hard effort, and even more patience, but over time walls can come down and transformation will occur.
Break down those walls. Start small. Think big. You could very well change the entire complexion of your organization by building trust and openness.