Towards a new World of We?

new world of we

Common interest versus personal interest

Have you noticed? There’s an evolution towards a “new world of we”. That’s a world where common interest comes before personal interest. Increasingly people are disapproving behaviours that go against the general interest. Even more, people are uniting to build new meaningful connections in which the general interest is dominant. Three examples illustrate this evolution. (1) The idea of the cooperative enterprise is back. (2) The past years have seen also collective action like the Indignados and Occupy Wall Street. But this has weakened. (3) And under public pressure governments are limiting certain practices that are at the origin of the 2008 financial crisis. These are interesting evolutions in a society that has focussed on individualism as basis for it organisation.

The old world of me

The new world of we is based on the (1) universal need to belong to something bigger and the need for togetherness and (2) on the increasing resentment of how the behaviour of some has changed the lives of many, for the worse.
Don’t be mistaken. The causes of the crisis lie also with the many, not only with the few. We as a society have taken many things for granted: cheap textile, cheap food, cheap consumer electronics, housing, two cars, consumption of social security benefits … Our entire society has been built on the idea of producing and consuming more and on earning more to be able to buy more stuff we don’t really need. We have come to define our happiness and even our identity on material expressions of ourselves instead of spiritual and social expressions. In the process we have lost connectivity and spirituality defined as belonging to a system, a community. Our society has become obsessed with growth instead of sustainable prosperity, possession instead of well-being, rights instead of duties. And there is this tremendous pressure to be successful, defined as being better and having more than the other. This competitive definition of identity is the core of the old world of me.
So my question is if this evolution towards a new world of we means that our behaviour is fundamentally changing. How many people are prepared to let go of some of the nice and comfortable (sedative?) characteristics of the old world of me? Does the new world of we mean that we are approaching a state of interdependence, in which ancient values of human kindness, compassion, ecological grounding, … will conquer greed?

The new world of we

The new world of we is not a world without differences. It’s one of equality. It’s not one of uniformity, but of diversity. It’s not a world of exclusion, but of inclusion. It’s not a world of anonymity, but of accountability. It’s not a world of indifference, but of tolerance and respect. It’s not a grey world, but a world full of colorful patterns. The new world of we is a world where people – citizens, employees, … – join in order to make things happen no one can do alone. It’s a world where people give before taking and cannot hide within a maze of public systems. It’s a world in which meaningfulness is the driving force.
The thought of coöperation and doing things that serve the general interest might be stronger than we think. It’s a matter of togetherness. Could it be a part of our natural reflexes?
If this is the case, how is it possible that the old world of me has become so strong? I guess we have been inspired by personal gains and not by collective gains. We have developed value systems that fostered egocentric behaviour. We have been idealizing personal success and independence above collective well-being, progress and prosperity. We might have underestimated the need for integration and inclusiveness and overestimated the cohesive capacity of society.

There is no society?

Margaret Thatcher allegedly said :

There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.

This sentence has been taken out of context. She said also something else:

There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.

I agree with that quote as much as I disagree with many other things that she has said and done. And I disagree with the statement that society does not exist. What is lacking in her definition is the “togetherness”.
For generations we have not taken full accountability of the consequences of our behaviour and we have burdoned future generations in order to enjoy many current pleasures. Sloterdijk calls this “futurism”. But let’s not forget, this futurism has been the basis of the material prosperity of many. It has also allowed companies to attract funds needed for research and development, innovation. But we have created a society that focuses on immediate pleasure, to be obtained by individual and competitive action. Moreover this is combined with a focus on entitlement: my flexibility, my rights, my prerogatives, … The idea of personal obligation towards the other has waned. So we are in bad shape.

Differences

The new world of we still allows for individual initiative and success. It applauds people who take on endeavours that create value. The new world of we allows for differences between people, but not for unjust inequality. The new world of we defines justice as fairness, like John Rawls did. It has no tolerance for people who ruthlessly take advantage of others. And it has compassion for those who are weaker. It has no tolerance for those who abuse social care systems or who do not put their talent into action.
But I am skeptical. The current model of the world is not that of interdependency but of independency. Looking at what made the West into the example for so many nations and cultures, Niall Ferguson, defined six killer apps: competition, science, property, modern medicine, consumerism and work ethic. Some of these killer apps are now causing the western world to break up. Competition has been the basis for progress in science, innovation, … but it has led to very destructive behaviours as well. Consumerism has led to a certain kind of prosperity but it is based on growth and depletion of natural resources and ecological devastation. And the problem is, that we cannot easily stop.
The new world of we might be the answer to many of the problems that humanity is facing. But there is one issue. We have to step in that new world together. And there’s the challenge. If we cannot evolve together towards a state of interdependency, and if we continue to excessively value independency and competitiveness above the social aspect of humanity, we shall not make it. The new world of we will be based on coöperation and togetherness. But like the sociologist Richard Sennet says in his book Together, coöperation is a skill. It takes an effort. And not everyone has the talent for it. The superficial communities of the web are caricatures of what the new world of we could be.

Interdependent companies in the World of We

Companies suffer from the old world of me. In times of networking, co-creation and intertwined economic processes the behavior linked to this old world is potentially harmful. Companies can join the new world of we by

  • involving employees more than ever; by focussing on what connects people.
  • creating policies that foster inclusion of people, employability, …;
  • developing practices of corporate social responsibility that are more than mere ethical window dressing or social tourism;
  • getting involved in local communities;
  • sharing know-how with people through networking, buddy-systems, open systems;
  • offering chances to people who have maybe a less privileged background and a difficult access to work;
  • focussing on the long-term and sustainable development and not the short-term maximisation …;
  • joining networks that have a common purpose that exceeds the company’s interests;
  • focussing on the personal accountability in a collective context.

Even with this new focus on the common, attention needs to be given to the person. By providing a context that enables people to experience professional and personal success, companies also contribute to the new world of we. Success must be meaningful. And what’s important: by focussing on togetherness and interdependence, companies will develop a sustainable competitive advantage.
Dialogue
In all this dialogue is crucial.  It’s a choice.
 
 
 
 
Reading
Fergusson, N (2012). The West and the Rest. London, Penguin Books.
Senett, R. (2012). Together. The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. Yale, University Press.
Sloterdijk, P. (2012) interview in De Groene Amsterdammer.
Thatcher, M. (1987). http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=106689

What if your Team would play Soccer?

soccerI am not a soccer fan. I never watch the game. Until now. I have followed the Belgian soccer team during the world championships in Brasil. Last Tuesday I could witness an incredible game between the Belgian team and the US Team. Never before I was captured like this in a game. In the aftermath I was wondering how it would be like when a team would be functioning like a soccer team. What can we learn from that team? Here are 11 insights and questions.

  1. They share the same goal. Here the goal is very clear: to win and to go to the next round. The mere possibility to become the world champion is energizing. The fact that the Belgian soccer team gets in to the quarter finals was maybe hoped for, but not in words. Today the team has exceeded expectations by winning the 1/8 final against the USA. So the next aim is winning against Messi and the Argentinian team. That would be the day.
  2. All members of the team are talented. They are among the best and they bring skills to the team that enable the team to function. They are hand-picked with care. The choice is based not only on their individual skills but also on the complementarity of their skills. You only need one goal keeper. You need forwards, defenders and midfielders. You need agility, speed, endurance, tactical insight, field overview, camaraderie …
  3. Although all team members have excellent skills they cannot play alone. The combination of skills makes them excel. They have to rely on the other. No-one of the team can be a star. And no-one serves the other (unlike in biking where group members must support the one who the team coach wants to see winning).
    Sometimes personal ambitions are put aside to achieve a team goal. To sit on a bench and watch your team mates win (or loose) is probably very excruciating. But in the interest for the collective target this is accepted.
  4. Team members take the responsibility for their actions. When to pass, when to take a shot. The goal is not to have the ball as long as possible, but to make a goal. Team members that have as a goal to score and put this objective above the common objectives do not stay long in the team.
  5. Since the soccer game is not predictable, the team needs to adapt. Agility is important. What you have planned does not come true in spite of all the preparations. So the soccer team needs to be vigilant and follow the flow of the game.
  6. The roles in the soccer team are clear but organic. Even when players switch positions (a midfielder becoming a forward). The game is fast and fluid. So players can switch positions organically. There is a team captain who gives directions and leadership on the filed. (the coach needs to be next to the field).
  7. Trust is key. I noticed in the game how other players were able to trust the goalie blindly to catch the ball. They did not try to save the situation themselves. If the goal keeper would have missed, the team would be in trouble. But if everyone would rush to save the situation, the rest of the game could be jeopardized. So they need to trust one another.
  8. The interaction is intense. How players interact to create space and advance is passionate to see. They seem to have pleasure in passing the ball to the other. This interaction seems easy and light, but it’s not. I can imagine that a lot of training precedes this level. A national soccer team is a temporary team and members play with other teams in other countries that have other traditions. So achieving this level of interaction cannot be simple. It requires openness of mind and willingness to adapt.
  9. The role of the coach is as always a conundrum. During the game he has to stand at the side (yelling, shouting, snorting). But he is the one who selects, defines strategies, decides on replacements during the game. It is he who has to motivate the players and mold them into one team. He decides what he wants to see on the field and what not. He gives feedback. He comforts frustrated players. And he shares the defeat and the victory. That is the role of the team leader.
  10. Celebrating successes is a skill that many teams do not have. A soccer team has that. They celebrate together with the audience.
  11. Every team needs an audience. A soccer team has the fans as its audience. The fans give meaning to the soccer game. Without the audience of fans there is no point. Winning in en empty stadion – it happens – reduces the soccer game to a technical matter. The muggy atmosphere of a boiling stadion in Brasil in which only a handful Belgian fans mingle with other spectators.

11 questions to ask

Here are 11 questions to ask about your team.

  1. Question 1: Is the goal clear and to what extent is it shared?
  2. Question 2: How would you describe the strengths of the team members? Is there enough diversity of skills, opinions, …?
  3. Question 3 : To what extent are team members able to set aside their ego?
  4. Question 4: Do all team members take their responsibility?
  5. Question 5: What is the level of agility of your team?
  6. Question 6: Are the roles in your team clear without being static?
  7. Question 7: How real is trust in your team?
  8. Question 8: What is the quality of your team interactions?
  9. Question 9: Does your team have someone who takes the lead and fulfils that role?
  10. Question 10: Do you celebrate successes?
  11. Question 11: Who is your audience?

Becoming more like a Soccer Team

What the soccer game #belusa did to me that it made me get interested in the game. I saw a team who had the 11 aspects within them. And what would happen if the team you belong would have the same characteristics. Imagine that your team would function like a soccer team. How would that be? Feel free to share your thought as a comment to this blog.
Here are the highlights of the game Belgium – USA

HR strategy: Control + Alt + HR function ?

snale - HR Strategy

HR strategy, the discussion.

I’ve been in HR now for more than 15 years. In all these years the “strategic” role of HR has not been out of the debate.
Through the years I’ve noticed that this strategic role is complex and intangible. I will not try to define and describe the word strategic in this blog. You could check other literature for that. I am looking for what defines the strategic role. And I would like to answer the question how HR could become more strategic in the future.  I am aware it’s not perceived as strategic today.

The management team

There’s a perception that being a part of the management team is the most important indicator for the strategic nature of an HR manager. Only when you’re on the team, you are strategic.
But this is nothing more than a perception. I’ve known HR managers who are member of that team but who were not strategic at all and vice versa. So it’s not that. So it’s not team membership. Could the strategic role depend on the person?

The person

If an HR manager is not perceived as being strategic, surely it’s due to his or her own behaviour. There is one key question. Does the HR Manager have enough power to influence the strategic decision-making ?
Being able to influence is always an advantage. Sometimes it might be necessary. But it’s absurd to limit the strategic power of the HR function to the personal impact of the HR Manager.
So it’s not team membership or the HR Manager’s behaviour. What then is the determining factor for  HR to become strategic?

The functions and roles

Dave Ulrich has introduced one of the most influential models in HR. He clearly described 4 roles for HR. HR was to become next to the administrative expert also a champion for the employees, a change agent, and a strategic partner.

The 4 HR roles, inclusive the HR strategy role.
Dave Ulrich’s model of HR

This offered a framework that helped HR departments to develop into what they are  now. Various people fulfill the different roles within the department. Those people need to collaborate with one another and with the internal client.
The focus on the internal client cleared the way for the HR business partner. This is a generalist who functions as a single point of contact for the internal clients. This function also integrates a change driving and strategic dimension.
So here we were and are.
HR finally became a full function, covering the four roles. And the people in  HR departments started integrating the strategic dimension in their roles. The strategic HR role was born.
Was it ?
If all of this were true, why hasn’t the discussion about the strategic role of HR not stopped? Why have certain HR functions dramatically felt the crisis? Why have they been hit by serious cost cutting? Why was HR unable to turn the continuous “noise” about its HR strategy into satisfaction ?
Could it be that we have forgotten the people?

The people

Employees and their managers do not benefit a lot from the fact that the HR function is strategically positioned. That’s because there’s a long way between the definition of a strategy and the experience in the field.
Suppose your manager:

  • is a member of the management team.
  • supports and communicates the HR decisions to the own department.
  • is actively participating in the HR decision-making process.
  • has the active support of an HR business partner.

Then chances are that

  • the implementation of the HR strategy will go ahead smoothly
  • you will effectively feel “something” of what the HR strategy is all about.

But even then. Interpretations, convictions, emotions and misunderstandings about roles and responsibilities between the business and HR could spoil the party.
Should we conclude that an HR department can be as strategic as it wants, but that at the end of the day it’s the people who mess up ?
Absolutely not.
If people perceive the collaboration between HR and their department negatively, there is a problem. People do not experience the  HR strategy as intended. In that case HR has seriously messed up.
HR and the company face a huge challenge here. An HR strategy can only be successful if there’s a good collaboration between HR and the line managers. And I’d take it a step further. The line manager should become the real owner and executor of the HR strategy in his/her department. The HR business partner can give support and not drive the HR agenda. It’s about coaching business people towards HR (strategic) decisions. The HRBP should not take this decision him/herself.

The people processes

So the line manager is responsible for HR. And the HR business partner has a supporting and coaching role. We cannot expect our line manager to set up a “mini HR team”. That would not work. That would only lead to ineffective fragmentation of the HR function.
But line managers manage a lot of processes. So they can also manage HR-processes if they’re supported by experts and coaches. Some examples are:

  • Recruitment
  • Performance management
  • Outflow of weak performers
  • People Development
  • Team building

Let me introduce a new process the business could perfectly drive: the HR strategy process.

Control + Alt + HR function

HR Strategy is about the continuous improvement of people processes. It’s driven by the business. HR is no longer a function. It’s a process, driven by the business.
How do we have to understand these processes?
Some examples. Improvement of:

  • Hiring. How and where to attract our future talents ? Business people  know the market better than HR people.
  • Talent acquisition and development processes. Which competencies will we need within 5 to 10 years? Business people  know the future needs of the customers better than HR people.
  • Industrial relations. How can we convince the unions better than by telling them how the business is working ?
  • Internal communication. How can we integrate social media in the existing employee communication platforms?
  • Retention. How can we use the output of exit interviews more appropriately?
  • Team building and collaboration. How can we better deal with conflicts in our teams?
  • Leadership development. How will our own leadership have to evolve if we want to stay successful ?

Imagine managers becoming responsible for driving and managing these people processes. They are not only responsible for driving existing people processes but also for co-creating new ones. Of course, they are supported by colleagues and HR.
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 20.13.24
I think these managers will be much more willing and able to:

  • see the HR strategy as their HR strategy
  • make it much more concrete for their people.
  • transform employee’s negative perceptions about HR into transparent understanding of it.

That is the real meaning of strategic HR.
 
Read also:

5 reasons why multiparty collaboration is not the same as teamwork

IMG_2009 - Version 2
Most of us are familiar with the concept of teams. We know the importance of clear goals, focus and cohesion. Since Tuckman (1965!) we know that teams are built along predictable stages as forming, storming, norming and performing. We know that bringing in a new member may create fuzz. It might draw the team back to earlier stages. A huge body of team-knowledge is surrounding us and we love to share it. So did I. At least: until a few years ago.

Collaboratology

I was working as a lecturer personal development at a business school. I finished a workshop on team building. A student came to talk to me and stated: “I love this course, it’s so interesting, but it’s not useful to me. The world I’m working in is so different from your world’. He had my hundred percent attention.
This student worked as a civil servant and worked on area development in a multi stakeholder environment. As such, government, citizens and enterprises join together to develop a region in a way that addresses the hopes, wishes and needs of different stakeholders. This student was not alone. I learned that a lot of my students worked in multiparty settings. They all came to the same conclusion: Multiparty collaboration is a different world with different rules. That is where I started my research on collaboratology.
Let me first give you some more examples of this type of collaboration. A school collaborates with businesses and the community to connect the school curriculum to real world experiences. In cluster collaboration businesses improve their competitiveness by focussing their collective efforts on joint targets like health, food or logistics. A biotech firm works together with research institutes and universities to increase the speed of innovation and lower the costs of product development.
Multiparty collaboration has become a very common way of addressing complex problems. But at the same time our knowledge on this type of collaboration is still based on concepts of teamwork that sometimes date back to the sixties.
So how does multiparty collaboration differ from the classic teamwork?
Let’s focus on the micro level, on that what happens at and underneath the table, usually the place where all these collaborative goals, ambitions, efforts and limitations are sorted out. Here are 5 reasons why.

Reason 1: Extra agendas rule the game

‘One team, one plan, one goal’ is a very acceptable motto for a team. In multiparty collaboration (MPC) the group has to deal with a multitude of agendas: the collective agenda (the reasons why the group collaborates), the personal agendas of the group members and the agendas of the stakeholders of the different members.
This multiplicity of interests, agendas and goals adds to the perceived complexity of the process. But on the other hand: all these interests are the fuel for the collaboration engine. They bring in different solutions, networks, assets. They create a greater chance that hick-ups will be solved. Trying to pin this all down to ‘one plan, one goal’ is counterproductive.

Reason 2: Power and leadership are distributed

Apart from self-directed teams, most teams are guided by one leader or project manager. In multiparty collaboration this is not the case, although the group may decide to appoint a coordinator or a temporary leader. It’s an interesting paradox. Maybe multiparty collaboration could benefit from clear leadership for the sake of structure or decision making power. But at the same time a powerful leader who pushes the agenda is often mistrusted for having a huge interest in the end result. With a strong leader the multiparty collaboration would probably become less powerful, because people may feel less involved and responsible and maybe would size down their contribution. So power is important to make things happen, but cannot be used freely and in multiparty collaboration should mainly be used outside the group.

Reason 3: Members are not exclusively dedicated to the group.

Regular professional teams like boards, project teams, invest in cohesiveness, mutual trust and understanding. The more challenges the team is facing, the more the members are aware of the need to be able to place blind trust in each other. But in multiparty collaboration, more often than not, members tend to be part of different groups. They don’t want to invest in every group in terms of trust, understanding and cohesiveness. They come, deliver (at it’s best) and they go. They rely on their experience and professionalism to tackle the issues that arise and less on goodwill or on deep knowledge of the personalities at the table.

Reason 4: Membership changes.

Never change a winning team! Changing membership of groups always creates fuzz. But in multiparty collaboration, people often are representatives of their stakeholders. Representation can change. Somewhere in the background a stakeholder can decide to send in a new representative. Also depending on the stage, different expertise can be needed. In a cluster collaboration on medical health, members (mainly government and research) learned that no one in the group had networks linked to entrepreneurs. So they had to change membership in order to be attractive to this type of participants. This relatively easy switching of membership adds to the feeling that investing in the group is not so useful. As a result members often try to rely on formality, rules, or political behaviour as a way of reducing the complexity.

Reason 5: Low trust as condition.

Once I heard of a team trainer who refused to start with team building ‘as long as the group didn’t trust each other’. The group was sent home and had to improve mutual trust. Only when they were successful he could start the team building project. To be honest, I thought this was quite hilarious. I would have loved to work on trust with the team and then tell the team trainer: “By the way, while we were improving our mutual trust, we felt we grew as a team. Thanks for the free advice!”
In teams low trust can be a big issue. In multiparty collaboration the starting point is a low level of trust. “How can I be sure that the other party will invest as much as we do? How can we be sure that the other one will not forge other coalitions with our knowledge? How can we be sure that the other one is not benefiting more whilst investing less?
It’s a challenge to deal with this low trust. Moreover, members can’t take for granted that trust will grow steadily. Trust is always a very delicate issue that should be taken care of until the very end of the process.

Contemporary Teams vs multiparty collaboration

The careful reader will notice that the differences between teams and multiparty collaboration are not that black and white. Contemporary teams also deal with distributed leadership. Organisations do suffer from reorganisation and rapidly changing teams. Organisational teams work a lot across borders. Team members more often than not identify with several groups. Team leaders might address these developments as imperfections, immature versions of the perfect successful team, waiting for an opportunity to start team building. I think the most important lesson is to look at all these emergent ways of collaborating as a very interesting phenomenon. A phenomenon that should be respected and seen as a result of our changing world where networking and collaborating across borders becomes more important than performing in one team.

Team Building – Team Coaching – Team Something

Peter is a recently hired manager in the consulting industry, facing a challenge: his team – if that’s the appropriate name – consists of 7 people, spread over 4 countries. And due to recent restructuring and changes in the organization, it is not really sure they all know each other already, so probably a team kick off or building or something was necessary. They must get to know each other and work together on projects, according to John, Peter’s boss.
Peter realizes that that part of the expectations towards him could have been clarified more in detail during the hiring process. Anyway, it’s a bit late now to mention that. So crafting a team would be one of his main challenges.

Team Building

What could he do?

    • Call each one of them for a one on one first?
    • Organize a meeting to see who shows up?
    • Explain them ‘his vision’ (provided he has one)?
    • First listen to them and their expectations?
    • Hope they become a team, or take initiatives towards that goal?
    • And what initiatives precisely could he undertake?

 
Quite worried, he has started reading some articles on team building and team coaching and that made him decide not to take any impulsive initiatives, but to contact his HR manager to ask for some comments, advice and support. That HR Manager was me. I had the honour and pleasure to converse with Peter about his concerns. These are some of the topics we talked about.

Team building

Team building literally means the “building” process of a group of people into a team. The attention mainly goes to the roles being held within the team. Very often a trainers choses outdoor-activities that provide challenges the team needs to deal with. The team members will spontaneously take up certain team roles during the process of accomplishing these challenges.
E.g. if you put a group of people on a sailboat, you will quickly be observing who is starting doing what and how: who is taking the lead, who is making sure there’s a good atmosphere, who is coming with solutions, etc.
As of the moment the team has an insight in the available team roles, people will start to really see each other as being different and to experience complementarity in a way that you would probably never do in “normal” working circumstances.
A day of team building typically has an informal character and combines fun with serious activities. It clarifies relations and consolidates involvement among the team members.

Team spirit

Team building also improves the team spirit and challenges team members to see each other in one’s uniqueness and essence. Team spirit grows when the team members become truly convinced that they are more productive working together as a team, than if each one of them would work on their own. You recognize team spirit when you see team members who:

  • like being part of the team;
  • look forward to collaborate (again and again) with each other ;
  • produce humor;
  • return to a relaxed state, after more difficult moments.

Team coaching

Team coaching goes beyond team building. Team coaching is not about getting to know each other and each others differences and complementarity. It is about creating awareness about the (invisible, hidden) interaction, communication, relations, possible blocking factors and conflicts among the team members. This can only be effective after the process of team building. This means that there is already team maturity with e.g. the need to integrate new members. Becoming aware of these hidden things is one purpose; breaking through certain ineffective patterns and turning them into effective ones, a second.
Another way to say it:

  • Team building clarifies visible, observable roles and their effect. With a metaphor: it stays above the water surface.
  • Team coaching clarifies what’s happening under the water surface. It clarifies the invisible, hidden causes of certain ineffective behaviours, interactions or old habits the team members seem to turn around into. How and why precisely do they unconsciously trigger each other to a certain ineffective behaviour ? And how can these patterns be broken through and turned into effective ones ?

What about Peter ?

Through our conversation Peter realized that in a first phase he would have to organize one on one encounters with every team member. And his team members would have to get to know each other during an informal kick off allowing them to (1) physically meet, greet, listen and talk to each other; (2) playfully work together on nice, challenging team building missions; and (3) experience the chemistry of team work through all these activities.
Near the end of the first team meeting, he found a moment to listen to them about their ideas about purpose, goals, projects etc., to share (not impose) his ideas, after having carefully listened.
He suggested continuing physical meetings at regular timings, even though the international character of his team and budgetary realities would not always make that easy. But it was not an option to simply hope that after a first encounter, the group would automatically become a team and stay a team, without any further effort.
He asked me if I could support him as a coach with those eventual further challenges. Of course I accepted.
Peter was quite worried when he started this journey. I had helped him to discover the next steps and gave him a feeling that he was not standing alone in this challenge.

Togetherness: 4 strategies to enhance collaboration

Togetherness. The word suggests this is a collective state of being. But it’s not only that. It’s a process. And not an easy one for that matter. Think about it. How often have you experienced a complete state of togetherness? How long did it last? And how did it feel? Very often togetherness is experienced for a brief moment. It’s based on the coincidental interaction of individuals. For a moment they join forces and achieve things no one can achieve on his own. And very often the togetherness evaporates, becoming a (sweet) memory. This video illustrates this quite well.

So togetherness is a state, that often does not last very long, and it’s a process because a group needs to grow towards it. So how could you accelerate the process and prolong the state of togetherness? And how can you make sure that the state of togetherness is set on a larger scale? Not only a team should experience togetherness within itself, but people in organizations should be able to relate to other parts and to the entire organization.
You are wrong Mr Owen
At the end of the 90ies Lindsay Owen-Jones, the CEO of L’Oréal announced that his company would crush its competitors. The employees of the international business units of Henkel Cosmetics did not agree and they made a T-shirt with the slogan “You are wrong, Mr Owen”. This amongst other things created togetherness. The identification of an enemy outside the company increases feelings of togetherness. It’s classical, but it works.
Get rid of the (mental) org chart
A big issue of companies is the silo-effect. As if people internalize the org chart in their minds. Organisation charts seem to create mental boundaries and decrease togetherness. Cooperation between units decreases, togetherness within the unit increases. The only way to get rid of that is to combine forces and mold people into processes, in which the next step is always a customer. So instead of classical org charts which seem to become limiting realities, we should focus on creating flows in which people work towards a common result.
Outside in
Too often people take themselves as the starting point. My competency, my job, my place in the organization. Well, all of this is irrelevant. The only relevance comes from the customer you serve. And everyone has a direct customer, and every company serves a customer base. So bring the customer into your organization. Let the customer be the starting point of anything you do. Serving a customer creates meaningfulness and togetherness. Build a strong customer image to enhance togetherness.
Collaborative Leadership
Cooperation is a skill. It is not easy.  It requires an attitude and it requires practice. But the three first strategies should make it easier for people to cooperate. Nevertheless, there is an important role for leaders here. If a leader is focussed on safe-guarding his own territory or even expanding it, there’s a problem. Territory-based leadership is detrimental to togetherness. This kind of leader shows the bad example. This kind of leader will think in terms of defensive or offensive tactics. This kind of leader will attack other units within the company and think in terms of win and lose. To enhance togetherness we need a different kind of leader. One that sees leadership itself as a kind of collaboration. One that enhances the togetherness within the team, but also reaches out towards other teams. This kind of leader will create togetherness and will show the example. Who was the leader in the video “The Tree” ?
4 Strategies
So these are 4 strategies you can use when you want to enhance togetherness in your organization. I am sure there are others, but these are a good start.
1. Create the enemy outside
2. Create horizontal process flows, rather than static organization charts
3. Build a strong customer image.
4. View Leadership as collaboration