The 5 Enemies (and Some Pretty Cool Benefits) of Unity
Unity and loyalty go hand-in-hand, and if you're a leader within your organization you only have 2 options on how to handle the subject.
- Ignore it, in which case none of your people will be loyal, or
- Do it, and a large majority of them will be loyal.
Now I can already hear you throwing up objections like, "What if my people aren't always loyal in return?" Well here's some wisdom from the ultimate EntreLeader, Dave Ramsey, after 20 years of building his own business from scratch.
So to get straight to the point, here's the key operating principle that fuels unity and loyalty:
In other words if you want loyalty, give loyalty. It sounds simplistic, but take a moment and think back to the last time you broke this rule with a co-worker, vendor, employee, etc. As Zig Ziglar said, "Don't stand in front of the fireplace expecting heat. Add wood."
The Benefits of Unity
But why focus on unity in the first place? Well, unity brings about a great work environment where productivity, customer service, creativity, and the resulting profit more naturally occur. Both unity and loyalty are so rare in business that when you have both, you automatically stand out in the marketplace! Great talent stands in line to join your team because your culture is the stuff of legend. And great customer service is a natural occurrence for companies that have these values. And it is tremendously satisfying to lead.
First and Greatest Example of Unity
The power of unity is illustrated nowhere better than in the Bible. Genesis 11 tells the story of the Tower of Babel, which mankind built to reach above the clouds in an attempt to show their superiority over God. When the Lord saw the city and the tower the men were building He said,
That's when He decided to confuse their language and scatter them across the earth. But think about that....Biblical proof that unity of purpose creates an almost unstoppable force! So when you get all the people in your company working as one, you create a power in that oneness that allows you to defeat unbelievable odds. It's one of the major differences between a organization of mediocrity and one of excellence.
Unity in Sports, and How It Applies to You
A group of superstars is seldom a dream team in sports. Just ask Tony Dungy, the famous NFL coach who turned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers around from 1996-2001, and later went on to lead the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl championship in 2006. A soft-spoken man, Tony has also written 6 books including Quiet Strength and The Mentor Leader, both of which were New York Times best sellers. To him, having a unified team was more important than having the best players. For example the Indianapolis Colts won (1) Super Bowl in the 7 years he was their head coach, but that team was only their 4th or 5th most talented during that time. The same is true in business. An "A Player" marching to the beat of his (or her) own drum doesn't do anybody any good. In fact it will work against you, and the disunity will more than offset the benefit that talent brings. You'd be better off having passionate and unified "B" and "C Players" who constantly ask, "How can I do better next time?" even if it wasn't their fault the first time.
Loyalty to Whom?
This may seem a little off topic, but I want to quickly talk about loyalty because it's so inextricably linked to unity. You can't have loyalty without unity, because you can't be unified without having the common bond of everyone being on the team for the same reason....being loyal to the same cause. Loyalty to this cause, your reason for existing....your "Why", is even more important than loyalty to your leader. As an example, one of Tony Dungee's proudest moments was when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl in '02.....a year after he had been fired from the team!
The Enemy At The Door: 5 Enemies of Unity
One of the best ways to increase unity is to keep these 5 "unity destroyers" away from the gate.
*WARNING: These are EntreLeadership principles, so some may strike you as foreign and/or extreme. Don't worry, they've been implemented in a real company....and work!
- Poor Communication: If the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, disunity, anger and frustration will fill your company. By definition a team is only unified when they're all on the same page.
- Lack of Shared Purpose: If the team doesn't share the goals of leadership as well as each other, there isn't unity. There is no unity where there isn't a common goal/mission/vision flowing from a common dream [More about this in a future post].
- Gossip: In a company culture, gossip will destroy everything you worked so hard to create. There is no possible way to have unity if there is gossiping, since it's very nature is the exact opposite of unity. Unity pulls people together, gossip pushes them apart. Everyone inherently knows they can't trust a gossip. If someone talks about others behind their back then they're likely talking about you when you're not around, too. After putting up w/ it in the early days of his company Dave now has a "Zero Gossip Policy". He hates it so much that if he or one of his leaders catches someone gossiping they will warn that person once. If they do it again he will fire them! Yes he's actually fired people for gossiping, and if you want to have unity you have to stamp out gossip, too. Proverbs says, "Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles." Problems or gripes are fine, but they have to be handed up to leadership. Problems that are handed down (or laterally) are gossip, because those team members can't do anything about your complaint.
- Unresolved Disagreements: This can paralyze team members. There are particular maturity levels (and personality styles) that can't stand conflict. It debilitates them and therefore must be resolved. If left unresolved, disagreements grow and grow and can eventually kill unity. The EntreLeader must teach their team to either resolve conflicts themselves or openly talk about them w/ leadership so they can get help in solving the problem. Dave doesn't expect his people to be best friends outside of work, but he does require shared integrity and shared intent within the office. And they talk through disagreements until they reach that point. Sometimes disagreements go unresolved because leadership is "chicken", or doesn't want to be bothered by the drama. Part of leading a team is helping them grow together. Otherwise they will grow apart. EntreLeaders must have the courage to deal with the conflict and bother w/ the drama.
- Sanctioned Incompetence: John Maxwell says, "Sanctioned incompetence demoralizes." When a team member is incompetent and leadership won't act, the good team members become demoralized. "Why should I work hard if he (or she) doesn't have to?" becomes the prevailing thought in the whole company, and team members who are motivated become the exception rather than the rule. When you allow someone to stay who isn't excellent, even if they're the nicest person in the world, you aren't doing anyone any favors. Letting these people go actually sends a message to everyone that leadership is strong and competent themselves!
It takes constant effort to combat the "us vs. them" (management vs. labor) mentality that we all naturally drift towards. But if you care about moving your company from merely surviving to thriving (hint, if you've read this far then you probably do) the world needs you to give unity the attention, intention and effort it deserves.
Question: How have you seen unity fire up organizations you've been a part of? Let me know what you think by scrolling down.
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