5 Simple Steps to Unify Silos (and a Culture)

I used to love The Corner Office column in the New York Times. There was a wonderful interview with F. Mark Gumz, president and C.E.O. of the Olympus Corporation of the Americas, which I ran across this past weekend. I was intrigued by many of the points made by Mr. Gumz. His comments were relative to building a strong company culture, and through doing so, how a company can minimize the struggle faced with the lack of alignment and collaboration between silos.

The article is particularly relevant of late, as I have been working with senior level executives who are navigating HUGE change within their organizations….and additionally within various functional teams in the organization.

Below are a few of the key bullets (paraphrased) relative to his approach, with a few of my own ideas and best practices integrated, as well. In their simplicity, is their brilliance and amazing impactful effect.

  1. Insist employees never eat at their desks. Encourage getting to know your co-workers in the company cafe. This will help build friendly relationships and bridges before they are needed. I have been amazed at how teams can build bridges simply by eating (or having regular happy hours) together.
  2. Let people freely talk in meetings. Have frequent coffees, lunches, and gatherings with your employees to truly learn what is going on within the company. Have no agenda. Actively listen and learn. Don’t interrupt, correct, or influence what they are saying. Recognize value and always show appreciation for their input.
  3. Tie compensation to collaboration between silos to financially encourage that behavior. This particular idea I have personally used in three different companies, and every single time, the shift is transformational to the organization. As they say: ‘show me how a person is paid, and I will show you how they will behave’.
  4. Do volunteer work together as a team. Give to the community and encourage company values outside of the company walls. Every team I led over the course of 30+ years in Corporate participated in at least one (typically 3-4) group volunteer activities a year. From cooking at the Ronald McDonald House to driving ‘Meals on Wheels’…there is something magical about serving together that bonds like no other.
  5. Always tell the truth. Tell it openly and honestly –  both the good and the bad. This builds trust within the company. Without trust – we have nothing.

Simple. Actionable. Only one takes money to implement. And ALL can have a dramatic impact on the collective power of culture and teams.

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