Us and them – how to build solid barriers


Us and them - How to build solid barriers Do you think you influence people as a leader? Most likely you do. The first experience you will get when being promoted from co-worker to boss is that what you say is not trivial anymore. Your words are being analyzed and battered to pieces just to figure out “what you really mean” – speaking to your co-workers will unfortunately never be quite the same. Today I am going to write about building barriers and how to strengthen them.

Building your tribe

Using words like “us” and “we” will include people in your tribe. It is important to be aware of the effect these words has, as people want to belong in a group. By talking about your department or your company with “us” and “we” you are branding your tribe and making border for who is “us” and “the others”. It is like putting your arm forward and embracing the people accepted in your crowd.

Creating your enemy

We all know that in order to create loyal followers you need to create an enemy. By using words like “them”, “they” or “the others” you are creating a distance between your tribe and those others.
“Those guys in accounting” – You are creating bad lines of communication, when you speak about people in your own company in an alienating way.
“Us” is those inside your circle the people you are calling “them” is the others, the strangers, the people that is hard to work with, the people at the other side of the wall.

Watch out where you create your borders

If you pay no attention you might create a separated group within your company. Or a divided city within your own country, it just doesn’t work in the long run. You might want to keep the borders outside your own company? Typical inner-city borders are departments or divisions blaming each other for problems.

Our responsibility to bring down the walls.

As a leader or an employee you must remember who your tribe is. At most companies you have one chief, a group of chief advisors (chief wannabes) and a few more minor chiefs trying to do their best in middle management. Your tribe is your company. “Us” is all of the employees. There is no “them” – “them” is the competition.

  1. Always use “us” and “we”
  2. If disagreements between leaders, find a solution first and include and inform employees about what we found out at the pow-wow.
  3. Do not involve employees by blaming “them” for problems. WE have problems, we solve them.
  4. The only time to use “they” or “them” is when you are giving praise to someone. “they did a good job and we are all grateful”
  5. Avoid internal blame game, identify the problem and discuss solutions. Ask questions like: What can we do to solve this? Is there anything we can do to assist?
  6. Do not call upper management for “them” and leaders should not call employees “them” it is all we. If we f**k up, we will all be without a job.

“what are you going to do about the problem?” – How about using “what should we do to solve this problem?” instead?

So, how are we going to spread the word guys? How about using twitter to reach them?
And we all follow @frodeheimen don’t we? And please share with us other ways to bring down walls in the comments field below.

Thank you so much for reading my blog.
Frode Heimen

Wall demolisher and motivational gardener

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1 Comment on "Us and them – how to build solid barriers"

  1. Steve Roesler | August 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    Hi, Frode

    Good advice for steering people toward self-responsibility and away from “them” thinking!

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