Why is it so hard to nurture a culture of “We” instead of “Me”?

By Arleen Smith, RN, Leadership & Engagement Consultant with Drive

Why is it so hard to nurture a culture of “We” instead of “Me”? In theory, the concept of working together seems quite simple. Many hands lighten the load. But in reality, and in leadership, it is much more complex.

Whether we attribute it to lack of time, differing personalities, or general lack of empathy, our reality is that a “me” culture exists in far too many organizations. If you have leaders, managers, or staff who don’t step up to help their fellow co-workers, you only need to look to in the mirror. That’s right, chances are YOU are modeling the way!  

Not delegating, asking for assistance, or if you are taking on far too much than humanly possible — congratulations you are leading the pack! That is why a culture of “ME” before WE” can be so challenging to break. If you want to improve your culture, it starts first with you!   

Often leaders quickly lose sight of the importance and value of empowerment. As a result, large numbers of staff are left wandering about seeking aimlessly for step-by-step instructions on what to do and how their leader wants it done. Instead of working together with peers to creatively solve issues and problems, they seek your instructions first before taking action. This way they can be assured they will “do it right” every time.  

Why is this so dangerous? Because it creates an environment of ME before WE! Want to cultivate a culture where everyone in your organization steps up to help one another without even being asked? Follow these three simple suggestions to get started:

  1. Empowerment breaks entitlementIf staff is entitled, they will have an “I want” mentality. When you empower them, you reinforce with staff that with empowerment comes expectations. One of your expectations is that they will help one another. You have to teach staff to help one another, but they will never do it without leaders who empower them first to act!

  2. Empowerment breeds enthusiasmTo be truly empowered, leaders must exude optimism in their team members’ capabilities. They are more likely to outperform your expectations because you are hopeful in them! Believing the impossible, they will transform in their approach to challenging situations. Their desire to prove their capabilities to their leader who believed in them drives them to collaborate with others to be successful. Staff is more likely to engage in collaboration with one another when their leaders enthusiastically believe in them!

  3. Empowerment brings synergyLeaders that create a culture of growing talents in their team members are more likely to have staff who find ways to benefit one another. Synergy is celebrating differences, working together as a team, and exploring innovation. Synergy is not being closed minded, working independently, or giving up. It is about finding ways to imagine the possibilities and working together with one another to reach your goals.

When we create a culture where we lead by example, demonstrating through empowerment that we believe in staff, they will quickly learn the secret:  There is greater power in WE than me!

Arleen Smith, RN is a Leadership & Engagement Consultant with Drive where she focuses on improving the culture of senior living organizations. When she is not helping clients improve the resident and staff experience, along with their bottom line, she spends time with her spouse and children at the Jersey Shore.