Written by Cory Charles,
Partner, FFB Collaboration
We don’t need a poll to tell us that people in the United States are deeply divided. These divisions are playing out on television, in the political arena, on college campuses, and in our cities and communities every day.
So, what do you do if you’re leading a company where diverse people – from all backgrounds and political sides – must work together in order to achieve the company’s goals and objectives? How do you bring people together when those same people may be starting from a place of division and separation?
John Evans, who founded C-SPAN said: “There are two emotions in life: love and fear. Fear divides us, and love brings us together.” Importantly, love is rooted in a deep sense of trust, and trust is founded on a shared set of values and goals – so let’s start there.
Shared Values. Think back to how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about civil rights. He didn’t talk about the values of the minority versus the values of the majority. He needed both groups to come together to support his mission of equal rights for all. So, he found a set of
values that both groups would agree were important: “American values.” Dr. King often talked about what it means to be an "American" as the basis for supporting civil rights in the United States. It was not a Republican versus Democrat issue. It was not a South versus North issue. It was an American issue. Indeed, it was this focus on a common, shared set of American values that President Johnson leaned on when building support among the majority for voting in the Civil Rights bill. The same is true in business – whether it’s a merger of firms with different cultures or resolving conflicts – establishing a shared set of values is essential for bringing together diverse groups.
Shared Goals. It is healthy for people to disagree on how to accomplish a goal. In fact, it is often in the moment of dissent where creativity is born. But it is critically important for people to agree on what the goal actually is. Unfortunately, out of fear, people often assume their goals differ from the goals of others. As leaders, we must either make clear to people that
they share the same goal, or if a shared goal does not exist, we must create one. For example, if you have two people who are divided, consider putting them on a project team together and assigning them a common objective. Often through interdependence and working together, they discover they share more in common than they have in differences. Also, make sure that you reinforce – and often – that your people share the same set of organizational goals even if they come from different backgrounds or have divergent political beliefs. If we lead by consistently reinforcing shared goals, the organization can become the glue that binds people together, even if some favor blue and others favor red outside of work.
Balance the team. It is essential that your leadership team reflect the diversity of backgrounds and beliefs in your organization. If you look around your leadership table, and everyone looks, thinks, and acts like you – you should be concerned. Not only does this show that your organization’s creativity will suffer, but you are also signaling to the groups not represented that they are valued less. Remember, love brings people together; fear divides us. Your team’s composition is a signal to people about how much you care. Unless people believe you care about their needs and views, fear will inevitably set in. One way to show you care is to ensure that people can see a part of themselves in your leadership team.
Create reminders of common identity. One of the most important questions is how to build a culture where people feel they are part of one cohesive unit. My first question in return: what are the visible signals in your organization that communicate to people your shared values and goals?
It’s simple: we often get lost in the trees of daily work and fail to see the forest where we’re all working towards a common goal and share many of the same values. As leaders, we need to create reminders for people. These reminders can range from physical artifacts (e.g., office design), to symbols (e.g., awards), to informal norms and routines (e.g., language, how you make decisions).
To illustrate, I recently met a founder/CEO of a company who asked her employees to design her firm’s business cards and define her job title, resulting in a funky card with the job title: “Ambassador of Awesomeness.” She and her employees were proud of these symbols because they brought to life the underlying values of the organization. To bring people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs together, you need to create visible reminders of a common identity, where people genuinely believe that despite their differences they are, together, part of something special.
Dividing does not Conquer, and conquering isn't really the goal anyway
Divisiveness is a real concern, in our communities, politics, and business. Twenty years ago, it was less common for our beliefs outside of work to find their way into the office. But now with social media, co-workers are often Facebook friends or Twitter followers, and people routinely let their beliefs and preferences hang out in cyberspace like laundry on a line. Suspicions and opinions build up among co-workers on opposite sides of the political hedgerow at home, and then get brought into the workplace.
As leaders, we want to promote free speech, debate on important issues, and civic engagement. At the same time, it is our responsibility to align and mobilize a diverse group of people to accomplish shared goals on behalf of the organization. It is therefore more important than ever before that we creatively remind employees of their shared values and goals, and to work together on the same side of the hedgerow – at least while they are at work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Speaker, Trainer, Motivator, Fashionista & Autism Dadvocate
As an award-winning sales professional, certified sales coach and sales mentor for multi-billion-dollar public companies. Cory pulls from his years of experience across industries to motivate, inspire and empower teams to elevate their performance in sales, customer service and leadership. Using his out of the box Salesvational style Cory inspires audiences through heartfelt storytelling, sharp wit and practical tips and tools that can be employed immediately!
Cory’s goal with every engagement is to inspire and empower others to push past their own limitations so they can overcome obstacles to reach their full potential. With a multi-faceted style that mixes humor, video, music and relatable stories, your team will be engaged and entertained as they experience a roller-coaster ride of laughter, tears, chills and still more laughter while walking away with a fresh perspective.
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Saleslosophy – A New Sales Philosophy
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As the last-born son of immigrants from Trinidad, my story of trial and triumph is proof that the American dream of success is alive and well. A poor upbringing from one of the roughest areas of Brooklyn, NY didn't stop me from building a near 20-year career as a top sales professional and becoming a highly sought-after sales trainer and keynote speaker. Through this journey I teach teams how all our stories are interconnected and how even our smallest actions and decisions have major impacts on our customers, team members and families. Mixing more traditional sales training with motivational messaging I can kick off any event.