Tag Archives: friendship

  • 0

The Other Side of “We”

Tags : 

We…

Imagine a large field. Populate it with images of people. Close your eyes and think for a minute about “We.”

Here’s a happy little field with a stream running through it to help you out:

When you envision “We” who joins you in your field? If I say to you “religion”, does the population change? What if I say “politics”? How about “nation”?

We are…

In your mind’s eye, what are the people wearing? What color is their hair, eyes, and skin? What are they thinking? What do they believe? What are their traditions? What makes them part of your “We”?

Here’s a peaceful waterfall to admire while you contemplate:

We are bound together by…

Now, in your mind you should have a picture of your “We”. You know what makes your group special. You know what ties you together. You know what makes you a “tribe”. If you wanted you could actually see the bonds between each individual, see each link that connects people to each other, and to you.

Perhaps one of the links says “family”. Maybe it says “community”. If you try you can break the links down even further into individual concepts. The link called “religion” breaks down to its constituents: beliefs about god, purpose, sacred rites, holy books and all those strands that make up the religious ties between you and your “We”. The link called “politics” does the same. As you imagine this you can see all the connections vividly, the most important connections thick like steel cables, unbreakable. When you imagine this you feel whole. A part of something bigger than yourself. Part of a tribe. Part of a family.

You now have your mind map of “we.”

Pause for another moment to internalize this picture you’ve created.

Here’s a cool visualization of the links that make up the Internet to get lost in:

“I” from “We”

Now that you are firmly rooted in your “We”, I have to wonder, what part of the whole makes the individual? Was this image created over time based on your upbringing, your income, or perhaps your genetics? Why is this your tribe and how tightly do you feel bound to them?

What would you do for the people within this cloud of connections you’ve created? Would you give your hard earned money to support them? Would you give them your time? Would you give them your life? What would you do to continue to belong to this family?

I find the dichotomy in many cultures that profess the importance of individuality while simultaneously stressing the importance of family, tradition, and loyalty to be confusing. Does your “I” depend on strands of approval those connections? Does your “I” venture out into the darkness of that beyond your tribe, or does it stay close, comforted in the knowledge that “We” have all the answers “I” need?

When you think about “I”, how much of you is held together by “We”?

Bonds, or Bondage?

I’ve seen it said that no man is an island, but I am. In fact, there’s an entire subset of people without the innate ability to create, visualize, or depend on those bonds that make “We”. Like most people, I was taught from an early age the importance of “We”. We are Family. We are Christian. We are Muslim. We are Jewish. We are Republicans. We are Democrats. We are rich. We are poor. So many different versions of “We”.

But I can’t see it. My mind map is empty when I do this exercise. I would guess that for many that thought is depressing, overwhelming, and possibly unimaginable. Maybe you feel sorry for me. Maybe your “We” does too.

I’ve chosen to see it as a blessing, because I am free. Once I stopped believing that to exist I had to belong, which I never could figure out how to do, I was able to stop trying to force those strands that make up the connections of “We” into existence . I was free to be wrong. Free to examine other forms of “we.” Free to see that:

With the bonds of “We” comes the bondage of “We”.

How many of your deep down core beliefs you hold as “truth” are really bonds that help you feel part of “We”? Is that thought too difficult to face? How many of life’s potential experiences have you missed because some of the bonds of “We” determine your actions? Do you find safety in the limitations or regret at lost opportunity?

How many good people will you never know because they are not part of “We”?

How many people in this world are “they”? When you imagine “them”, do you feel disdain and distrust? Are “they” evil? Are “they” scary? Are “they” they cause of your problems?

Most of all, what do you fear if you started cutting some of those strands? Will you be bullied, pitied or ostracized? If you identify those fears could you face them?

What will fear cause you to do in order to maintain your status as “We”?

Will you compromise your ethics to avoid becoming “one of them”? Will you support an undeserving leader? Will you become the bully? Will you refuse to speak up when you see wrong doing? Will you refuse to give “them” a chance to be heard, just because “they” aren’t contained within your mental image?

And that is the core of it all. From the beginning of this post I’ve had you creating mental images. Visualizations of what makes your reality. But if you stop to think about it that is all it is: a mental image. A picture in your head of how the world should be, and who should be in it. It is an ephemeral painting that you fight to make eternal and unchanging. And often with that fight comes intolerance, divisiveness, and hatred.

I’m not damaged. I’ve been given a gift. I can see both the power for good and the corruption that comes from “We”. I am the equivalent of a Mars rover, a robot observing and collecting data, weighing things based on logic and reason.

I’ve also been given a curse. I look in on all of the various versions of “We” from the outside, and I don’t know how to relate to you. I don’t know how to say “please just open your eyes to the bigger world” without offending. In fact, the minute I started asking people to consider their fears, some who read this became offended. Who am I to ask them to question their “We”?

So on my island, I sit alone; having loved ones around me. Part of me wishes that I could have that desire and ability to be part of a group. Despite the limitations that may come from a need to belong, I do see the advantages. Part of me wants to scream at the top of my lungs “HEY EVERYONE, YOU ARE HEADED ON A PATH THAT LEADS TO GREATER PAIN BECAUSE OF YOUR FEAR OF LOSING YOUR “WE”!”

I don’t have the right answer. So I leave it up to you. You have to decide. You have to have the courage to choose to expand your version of “We” to include everyone, despite the fact that it will break many of the ties that make your reality. For me, that process was painful, but nowhere near what I imagine it would be for someone who depends on those connections to be whole. I would guess the thought is terrifying. But I feel it is important to at least ask you to consider it. You can work to simplify the kinds of bonds that connect you to others, you don’t have to erase the whole picture.

As you tear away the pieces, you will find that you only need a single strand: “human”. When you do, there can be no more “they” or “them”.

“We will work with them” becomes “we will work together”. But I fear that it is still easier to choose to remain “We” and “they”.

Because after all is said and done there is comfort in:

“We are righteous”, “We have truth”, and “We know what is best”.


  • 0

Blurry Lines, Corporate Caste Systems, and the Emotionally Detached Leader

Tags : 

I love lines, and boxes, and points of demarcation.  Everything in its file drawer in my head.  This is mine, that is yours. Useful person, Useless person. Godlike senior executive, plebian workers to be expended at will.

Oh wait. I think that last one may be wrong. Or maybe it’s not. No. It’s gotta be wrong doesn’t it?

What I mean to say is, traditional management teaches us to not get too close to those who work for us.  I know this ’cause I was learned it in the University.  I been gived readin’ books on “how to be a great boss” that done did said it.  Some’un wrotes it.  Must be gospel.

Just because an expert said something doesn’t make it the right thing for you

Here’s the problem with lines: Different people (often “experts” in their field) draw the lines in different places. This causes me all kinds of trouble. I go through phases of voraciously reading everything I can about a topic, and often end up with very conflicting points of view on the same subject bouncing around in my  head.  I have to actually think and come up with my own conclusions.

 

Many of the places I’ve worked keep some separation between management and not-management. Often, they go so far as to draw another line between executive leadership and management. This is great for the people that draw the employee charts. It leads to nice triangley shapes.  And since I’m an “executive” I get to be the pointy part at the top.  I like pointy, it’s better than pointless.

Speaking of points, here are some of the reasons I’ve been given to avoid fraternizing with the help.

Don’t develop close relationships with people who work for you because:

  • You’ll likely end up friends with some and not others, which could be seen as unfair.
  • They might not respect you, or take you seriously.
  • Friendships are based on equality, and bosses aren’t equal. They have to do performance reviews, set salaries, give promotions.
  • They might take advantage of your kindness.
  • You might have to fire them in the future, which will be difficult if they are your friend.

Here’s the thing. Or at least a thing.  Look at that list.  What’s the driving factor between each item.  I’ll give you a hint…they all take about future possibilities. Things that might happen.

When you don’t do something because it “might happen” you are acting out of fear.

Fear is a powerful motivator. It can be a great thing in certain situations. It keeps us safe from danger. But it also causes us to miss out on having a deeper, more meaningful existence. And more importantly, fear can cause us to draw unnecessary lines. Lines that keep people out of our lives. Lines that lead to thinking some are better than others.  Lines that effectively place a caste society right in your office.

Right now, where you work, do you really feel that your leaders sincerely care about your life?  Do you really care about people who work beneath you?  Have you ever thought about the fact that we use phrases like “Bob works under me” or “the people below me on the org chart”  are like saying we’re above them… better than, even?

And you thought we were progressing towards equality.

Here’s what I think:  I’ve chosen to treat people who report to me (directly or indirectly) as someone I care about. Yes, in the end I have to make the final decisions, and I get to bear the responsibility of failure or success, but having more on my shoulders shouldn’t have to mean I have to be some unreachable island. When I care about others I can best serve them as a leader, mentor, and even as a friend.

I get that it’s a bit ironic for me to say that, because by nature I’m about the most emotionally detached person you’ll find. Despite that I’ve found that when you see each person on your team as someone who is trying to do their best in life,  and someone who is worth getting to know, you’ll find coming to work is a much better experience. You will all be more productive and happier, which rubs off on customer interactions, which equates to more customer loyalty, which in the end means a more successful company.

So even though I’m simply not good at being a friend, and as a result I’ve failed my fair share of times, I still think my life has been better for trying to cross the line between boss and employee, and the teams I have been a part of  have been more successful for my efforts.

Have some taken advantage of me?

You betcha! But there have been many more times where someone would go the extra mile to get a job done because they knew that it mattered to me, and you do things for people you care about.

Have I held on to an employee longer than I should while trying to help them get their life together?

Check! While I’m a big believer in parting ways with an employee who can’t fit in for whatever reason as early as possible, I’m also a big believer in trying to bring out untapped potential. While I haven’t always succeeded in my efforts, I’ve had some people turn around to become top performers. I wonder what their lives would be like today had I just tossed them to the wind? Overall the benefit to myself and the companies I’ve worked for has been greater than the bit of wasted money on holding on to a few of the wrong people for too long.

Have I had to fire a friend?

I’ve had to lay off a whole team of people I cared about. It sucked. But years after we shut the division down the team arranged a get together dinner to reminisce on old times. I temporarily wrecked all their lives…and yet I was still invited. That meant a great deal to me.  I’m still proud to see all that they’ve accomplished since then.

If you are in a leadership position ask yourself:

“Do I keep an emotional distance between myself and those under my care because I am afraid of things that *might* be a problem later?”

If the answer is yes, maybe take some time to re-think what your team could be if they had a leader who they cared for as a friend. No one is saying you have to be BFFs, remember a friend is simply a “person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.”  So the question is:
Would you have a more positive workplace if there were more bonds of mutual affection?

Yes! Though it will be hard on you.  You will have to have the willpower to not be biased, to not make poor decisions because you don’t want to mess up a friendship, and to treat everyone equally.  But you rose to a leadership position because of your abilities.  I’m sure you can handle it.

And if you work for an emotionally detached leader, it might be good to put yourself in their shoes. Maybe they aren’t very good at forming attachments to people, or perhaps they may have been taught their entire career that they can’t be close to anyone who works for them. Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to come to work each day knowing you weren’t supposed be friends with the people you interact with the most? It can be really hard, so why not do what you can to help them out?  Afterall, they are also just there trying to do the best they can.

A wise mentor once told me “no one comes to work hoping to fail.”  It’s much easier to see that when you care about each other’s success. The point of all this: Even in my black and white world, I can see that some lines aren’t so great.  Sometimes we should blurry them up a bit.

Don’t let fear prevent you from getting out your eraser.


Get the App

tablet-2sm

When you download the WeFeel App you start a journey. Where that journey takes you is up to you, but you can't get started without the app:

Get WeFeel for Windows

Get WeFeel for Android

Get WeFeel for Apple