Building Corporate Solidarity
Jun 15, 2017
Perhaps now more than ever before, we need organisations that stand together. Teams that act as though they are one, people who stand by each others actions, organisations that are places of belonging and commitment.
Maybe the isolationist, self serving culture that we currently operate in is leaving people lonely, anxious and even (after honest analysis) feeling deeply unhappy. Imagine instead a workplace where people are so engaged and aligned that staff attrition is exceptionally low, communication is free and where challenge is constructive and welcomed and where direction has incisive clarity; Where the team is unified as one in their drive to improve and succeed. These are things we should be striving for.
It's penalty shoot out time. The chosen striker steps forward to the ball carrying the weight of success or failure on their shoulders. The team stand metaphorically with them. Their actions in that moment carry the whole team. Will they win? But it's not just the team who stand with them as they take a step back from the ball and eye the keeper. The crowd are there too, standing in a silent hush as they step once, twice and boot the ball. They roar as the ball eludes the keepers gloves and drops perfectly in the back of the net. It's their win too. It will be the talk of the faithful for weeks. "We won" they will say, "we did it" and they did, all without touching a single ball, because of their unified support – their 'corporate solidarity' around the team. One stood for all, one took the the penalty but all stood or fell by that individuals actions.
It's this very thing that's missing so much from today's workplace - a sense of corporate solidarity.
Effective teams and high performing organisations get it instinctively but many of our managers and leaders need to improve.
Of course ‘corporate solidarity’ is easier said than done. But it's far from impossible. It just needs focus and perhaps some re-education to turn a business into the type of environment that fosters this sense of unity.
We've been working at understanding what makes organisations develop this corporate solidarity. The emerging model will no doubt develop further but for now we have identified seven key management themes required to heighten this sense of unity and commitment across the organisation. Unsurprisingly it is highly inclusive, requiring the involvement of the entire population. It is a management approach that needs to be understood and applied from the top to the bottom of the organisation.
None of these themes are unique. They are topics which will be common to many management programmes. The unique element is their interlinked nature which proposes that no one area is of more important than another and that a successful outcome is dependant on the inclusion of every one of the seven themes.
The iManage corporate solidarity model embraces seven C's. Clarity, Competence, Challenge, Communication, Coaching, Courage and Confidence.
I remember being brought up to attend Sunday School, where I learnt very quickly that you were nearly always correct if you answered any question with 'Jesus'! The same could be true of our seven C's. Answer any question on a management training course with any of these C words and you will nearly always be right. However, the model gives us a hanger on which we can consider developing the skills and behaviours that lead to corporate solidarity. Lets take a look at each very briefly to draw the big picture of corporate solidarity:
Clarity of purpose, clarity of direction and clarity of whats required are so important. It’s how we can inspire people to find their own motivation (see my other article on motivation / inspiration). It’s so much easier to feel aligned to an organisation that does this well. I’m hardly likely to feel corporate solidarity if I lack insight concerning the direction we are supposed to all be heading. We talk about the golden thread that needs to be evident between the vision at the top of the organisation and tasks being completed at the operational end. Structuring that golden thread clearly helps us to create an organisation that is aligned and driving in the same direction, the same aims, the same purposes. Everyone in the organsation should be able to succinctly define the organisations vision and their own role in fulfilling that vision.
Building competence across the entire organisation is our second theme. Ensuring personal effectiveness, developing our people's skills on a daily basis and giving new learning experiences through effective delegation will all aid corporate solidarity. Managers who demonstrate a clear framework of how they support and build competence in their teams will generate people who feel valued as contributors to the overall performance of the organisation. If I feel my contribution is valued I will feel more corporate solidarity. If I feel my contribution is ever growing and improving I will feel it even more strongly.
When organisations lose sight of their challenge they simply become ineffective. It’s not that they lack energy or effort, they can still be the busiest places on earth, it’s more that they stop breaking new ground and become too complacent. Their sense of urgency is dulled which impacts on the performance of the team. The team do not need to feel threatened in order to be productive, they just need purpose and a challenge that they are striving towards. If you have even a hint of a blame culture then you will never break new ground because people will be too fearful to try. Correct challenge is about creating a culture where people see the need to continue polishing, improving and moving forward because standing still will ultimately mean we are going backwards compared to the world around us. Challenge that grants the authority to break new ground and push forward into new horizons creates a sense of journey. People who journey together are much more likely to be aligned and have corporate solidarity.
The most over used word in learning and development! But perhaps that’s for a reason as it is so critical. What’s needed to create corporate solidarity is an understanding of what communication is required and how it must be delivered. We believe that this is massively connected with ‘freedom’ of communication. Effective teams are able to communicate freely without fear and without internal politics whilst still respecting others at all times.
They have to be able to speak what needs to be spoken alhtough never at the expense of respect for others. This means that communication within corporate solidarity organisations comes from a good place, a heart that desires the best outcome and an ear that is full of humility!
If you want corporate solidarity then you need people who work at supporting one another - those who help others learn to fish, rather than just handing out a plate of them when people are hungry. Engendering a coaching style across the entire organisation is like flint to the blade; it’s ever honing and sharpening performance.
Leaders need it, managers need it, supervisors need it and so do (by the way) operatives. Organisations that have it are strong not weak. They dare to step out, even when the going gets tough. One dictionary definition says courage is ‘the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.’ Brave organisations know how to behave when it’s not going well, when the pressure is on and when stress is rising. This is the essence of corporate solidarity; people who go through tough things together often build relationships that transcend working careers in a permanent kind of way. They feel united in their experiences, fiercely committed to one another.
Organisations that propagate corporate solidarity are often places where individuals act with confidence. They are emotionally resilient not least because they are in a safe place but also because they know themselves well. The senior people are confident to fly high and lead with vision, the middle management are confident to take ownership of decisions and the operations levels are confident in knowing what it is they do and need to do.
Imagine that penalty shooter had missed the goal entirely, the victory had gone to the opposing team and all had walked away defeated...
In environments that lack corporate solidarity, the ‘we won’ would in such situations morph into “he made us lose!” It’s a very clear and easy indicator. Individuals in organisations that have built corporate solidarity would still own, not disown the outcome. We don’t always win, we don’t always succeed, but great organisations still stand together. They are still united in the ups and downs of organisational life.
So work at it, consider it, think through how you might apply it and help your organisation take the next step towards realising their true potential through some corporate solidarity.