U is for Unity

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Copyright © 2018 by Barney Rosenberg
President, Ethics Line, LLC™
barney@ethicslinellc.com

A few years ago I boarded a flight in Los Angeles for a 14 hour flight to one of my company’s remote locations.  I have been on the phone with a few of the employees there for a couple of weeks and they had supplemented the calls with emails/documents electronically.  When I got there, late at night on whatever day it was, we met for dinner and a little more conversation about the awful state of affairs at the business site.  We put faces to the names.  We established what I hoped to achieve.  And we agreed that the mission that brought me there was to get to the bottom of things and see if it was possible to repair the position.

This was a classic case of dis-unity!

My plan of action was as follows:

  1. I would meet with the general manager who was a prime suspect!
  2. I would then bring together all of the site’s leaders and explain.
    1. That I would be meeting separately with each of them
    2. That I was there because I had been asked to come. People were unhappy. They were worried about “The Other 4-letter F Word, FEAR.
    3. Then I would bring all of us back together and tell them what I learned.

And I did all that.  At my exit interview with them (before my return 14 hour flight) I told them that if they were in the Olympics and rowing in an 8-person crew, they would be going around in circles.

  1. They didn’t like each other
  2. They didn’t trust each other and
  3. They would prefer not to work each other

In a separate feedback meeting with the general manager, I broke the news to him that his team was not a team and that they blamed him for most of the troubles.  This was a man who thought of himself as “warm and cuddly” and a brilliant leader.  I had to share with him that he was the only one who thought of him that way.  This clashed with his self-image and truth be told, he teared up and cried.  I thought that was progress.

When I got home, I met with the President of the division and his Human Resources director.  We agreed that the situation could be salvaged if we all stayed in touch with those Olympic rowers!  And we did.  We lost the Finance Director but she said she had always meant to move back home.  She acknowledged that the others felt a little better and that they felt “supported” by my visit and approach.

Modesty aside (and I am generally not particularly modest) any success was due to the team’s willingness to fight for a better future.  To use some other “U” words, they re-committed themselves to greater unity in their sense of purpose, direction, and effort.  And they expressed a sense of Urgency.  And the general manager, to his credit, DID make changes in the way he approached business.  I had shared with him one of my abiding maxims: Business is easy.  People are hard!  He is still there and the boat is moving forward!

Now, it’s your turn.  If unity requires teamwork, how have you nurtured the necessary unity that business success requires?

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