Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
Silos are critical structures found on farms across America providing central storage to grain that is critical to support a nation. Silos found at your business are a harbinger of inefficiency, toxic culture and declining profit.
Why Are There Silos?
The existence of silos is understandable and commonplace in corporate America. They are typically the result of a natural separation of groups within organizations stemming from when management is internally focused on their team rather than how their team impacts the larger organization. Silos are typically found in manufacturing organizations where there is a natural checks and balance that exists between Quality Control and Production. In the classic sitcom, the Office, you saw the separation that was very evident between Michael Scott’s Sales team and the Warehouse, led by Darryl Philben.
Silos, while prevalent at work, are becoming more evident outside of work in today’s world where we surround ourselves with like-minded people on Social Media. We create our own political echo chambers that reinforce our beliefs and our “rightness” so that we can add another brick to the wall of our silo keeping those who are different away from us.
Silos can form with intention and unintentional activities and mindsets. Maybe it’s fear or uncertainty. Maybe a lack of trust or confidence. It might be as simple as where relationships are formed, like the cliques that you remember from High School. Many times, groups “silo up” when executing a Vision or Strategy. It might start innocently enough from confusion in the interpretation of those ideas or more serious in situations where groups may have conflicting strategies.
The Impact of Silos
Regardless of the intent or size of the silos, they will negatively affect an organization. While friction can help generate momentum, conflict with separation can generate divisiveness. Minor impacts such as inefficiency and duplication can be tolerated for a time, but eventually it can lead to resentment and isolation that will fester into a toxic culture that can lead to high turnover, political infighting and drive a business into bankruptcy.
Whether they are your own silos or those built by others, it is imperative that you do your part to tear them down. Leaving your silo isn’t enough. The silo still stands. It serves as a constant reminder that the silo exists, reinforcing the need for others to build their own silos to combat the one you built. If you leave one silo, will you then go to another silo? Will your team let you out of the silo or will they lure you in with some text messages complaining about the excessive forms that the “other” team makes you fill out?
How to Tear Down Silos
Demolition - Definitely a way to get a building down, but there could be casualties, and that may not be good for the organization as a whole. Blowing it up could take down processes, relationships, the careers of people you care about, and maybe cause others to become defensive and reinforce their own silos. It could result in career suicide if the silos are not acknowledged by others.
One Brick at a Time - Slow and steady wins the race, right? This is a way to get it down while minimizing the impact to people. However, it will take a lot of time during which other silos can be built and there are people still in the silo that will be putting the bricks back faster than you can take them down. The result of this approach could cause multiple silo’s to turn on you, isolate you and lead to a frustrating work environment that zaps your morale.
Teamwork - The good old fashioned work team! Many hands make light work. It’s not about forming a team, but the alignment that occurs when you have a team. The recognition by individuals that the silo exists. Also, this isn’t about forming allies. That could easily lead to the formation of ANOTHER silo. Like with any team there are certain behaviors that are crucial to their alignment such as communication, transparency, trust and respect. These behaviors foster engagement and alignment towards common strategies and vision. Creating this alignment will enable team members to become aware of the silos, the negativity associated with the silos and the support to remove the bricks so that they can see outside the silo.
What role do your actions and mindsets have on the construction or destruction of the silos at work or in your personal life? Are the actions you take laying the foundational blocks by drawing a line in the sand and refusing to talk to a family member? Do your words help brace and support the silo when it leans? Are you replacing the bricks using subtle emails or text messages during a meeting? Or are you actively tearing down the silo? Possibly, you are only focused on the silos of others and neglecting the one from which you cast stones? Silos are designed to isolate and whether at work or at home, we are always stronger together. By recognizing and eliminating all the silos, together, is how all of us grow Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.