This isn’t a Kumbaya rally cry. This is about a corrosive situation that I see in small and large organizations alike.
For the past 25 years, I've been honored by the access I have had to the internal sanctums of my corporate clients. It’s been necessary for me to do my work. I have signed dozens of NDAs and I have staying in integrity with all of them. What my commentary is about today does not point to any one client in particular, nor does it call out any one specific incident as being a trigger for this passionate plea.
My tipping point is more like riding over an ocean swell. I am recalling all the ‘perfect storms’ that I’ve been privy to. I see a common weather pattern. I’ll stop the metaphor here, though it’s tempting to surf on.
People work in silos. They need to meet in circles. Not at yearly retreats - but on a weekly basis, if not daily. No effective and clear communication happens in any other way.
The employee engagement and leadership development space generates over 4 billion dollars each year. That represents an enormous amount of money spent to enroll participants in training programs that are more like communication boot camps. Epiphanies happen. Hugs even. But Monday morning comes, and a large percentage of these programs drop people off a cliff. No sustainable change happens.
Retreats create openings because paradigms shift and walls fall. Then, once we return to work – the old paradigm - we build walls back up to protect ourselves. So let’s work with that, because it’s what realistically happens.
We can pull each other over the walls we build by inviting people into circles of communication. Circles create uniformity between all points. Silos do not. Unless companies institutionalize communication circles – literal, intentional, physical circles of connection, collaboration, sharing and compassion – there is no chance for the complexity of the human experience to be a positive force that drives progress forward. Being human requires that we leverage our ability to honor and connect around what's going on in each of our lives that impacts the whole. I’m not imposing any one method or modality to achieve this. I’m just suggesting that is starts with a circle.
Unless companies institutionalize communication circles – literal, intentional, physical circles of connection, collaboration, sharing and compassion – there is no chance for the complexity of the human experience to be a positive force that drives progress forward.
When I run storytelling workshops, I sometimes begin with this spoken word. Then, with 500 or 10 people – it doesn’t matter – I pair people to create the smallest circle possible. From that experience, expectations of communication increase. Then the ripple happens. Then systems can change, new habits can form, and people talk about what’s going on – regularly. Not after they get a horrible, frequently misguided performance review. Not after a crisis. But as a regular means of holding the entire community accountable to the well-being of each individual member.
Circle up! It’s what tribes have always done for centuries. It’s what most things in nature do to survive. We can’t let our self-aggrandizing complexity blind us to the most basic of communication styles that has worked for thousands of years.