This blog post is the second in a series of blog posts on transformational leadership, to read the first post click here.
2. The motorcycle immerses you in the scenery, a car only provides a frame.
-(Pirsig, 1999, pg. p. 4)
In order for an organization to be successful, it must be one cohesive unit. Cohesiveness cannot be reached if employees are always isolated in their respective departments.
As a former college athlete, I see many similarities between my track and field team and a company. Both are large organizations broken into a number of sub-teams. Naturally, these sub-teams become tight knit, developing a unique culture that may differ from the other teams, sometimes resulting in isolation. There are also instances in which individuals find themselves in competition with one another—for recognition, for a better position, or even for some tangible reward—which too can contribute to individual or group isolation. When this occurs the whole becomes disjointed; individuals do not recognize how their efforts affect other parts of the group.
On the track team, I noticed that when my teammates learned about each other's events, personal records, and personal motivations, the team became a more cohesive unit. Each individual was aware of how their performance affected the team as a whole. Even though teammates directly competed against each other, they still showed their support at each meet and kept personal agendas off the track, preventing it from causing turmoil on the team.
Admittedly, this takes a bit of coaching. We put a lot of effort into learning everyone's name in each event group and the intricacies of each event. We cheered each other on even when we were in direct competition. We understood that we all played a small part in the overall team's success. Most importantly, we all had the same goal. Because of our efforts, our team was strong in both talent and morale, which ultimately led to a conference championship.
Similar to an athletic team, employees must be fully engaged in their organization, building relationships with their coworkers, regardless of the position or department they are in. These new relationships will not only allow employees to understand how the organization functions, but they will also get different perspectives on the same problem or function, based on the department representative they are speaking to. This type of intermingling promotes team cohesion. Employees will become more innovative thinkers, and will be more in tune to what is going on in the organization. As a result the company as a whole has an opportunity to grow stronger.
Companies like Zappos and Google have recognized this and come up with creative ways of getting their employees fully immersed in the company and its culture. At Zappos, their solution is referred to as a ‘serendipitous interaction.' Zappos encourages employees to take a break from their workload to find out what their co-workers are working on. One Zappos employee argues that “taking an interest in what friends and co-workers are working on not only gives our brain a break away from our routine, but can also renew our vision and inspire a fresh level of engagement." Google has taken this solution one step further, taking a calculated approach ensuring people intermingle. They affectionately call this ‘serendipitous interaction' the ‘Google bump.' Google's campus is filled with areas designed to get people talking outside of their everyday work routine. There are volleyball courts, school style cafeterias, and even calculated cafeteria lines almost guaranteeing that you will have to wait around for your food - a prime opportunity to strike up a conversation.
Leaders that promote this ‘cross pollination' among their employees are transforming organizations. Their push for increased interaction is helping people become more creative, empowering them to step outside of their world and immerse themselves in unfamiliar territory (Hackman, 2013, pp. 102-212).
Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: A Communication Perspective, Sixth Edition. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.
Pirsig, R.M. (1999). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintained: An Inquiry into Values. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.