One of the most powerful parts of John Jantsch’s new book, The Commitment Engine, is the section where he talks about shared commitment. In the book, this section is about how a leader can infuse a company (from employees to customers) with commitment to the overall purpose of that company. However, I think that sharing is also a powerful key in breaking down silos, or that sense that a single person or a single department should “own” any segment of a business operation. When we talk about silos in the business world, we are talking about people or departments who isolate themselves from other portions of the company. Often, the marketing department is in a silo separate from the sales department. The two departments do not collaborate, communicate, or share ideas. This post is going to outline the facets of shared commitment that Jantsch writes about, but I’m going to add how these elements can also help break down those barriers to communication in your company.
Shared Stories – To build commitment, it’s important that everyone understands the company’s story. For a company to succeed in breaking down silos, sharing stories is also extremely important. It can be easy for the C-Suite to claim ownership of the company’s story. After all, they manage the company. It can be assumed that marketing owns the company’s story because it is marketing that shares that story with others. Maybe the sales team feels they own the company’s story because they have to share those stories with customers. Factually, everyone in the company, including customers, owns the stories of that company. If the company started small and experienced explosive growth, that is an important story to tell. If the company grew out of a desire to improve something in the world, that’s an important story to tell. No one person or department should claim ownership of that storytelling currency.
Shared Beliefs – In The Commitment Engine, sharing beliefs ties to stories as well as to purpose. In order to break down silos, everyone must share beliefs with the key belief being that there should not BE silos. The company should share the belief that sales and marketing are allies, not competitors. The company should share the belief that there is a single mission, and everyone in the company should be able to verbalize that. If silos are defeated and beliefs are shared, you will find that customers are just as adept at verbalizing beliefs as anyone working within the company’s walls, because the shared beliefs will not just be thoughts, they will be the basis of action that permeates the company.
Shared Purpose – If you think about an engine, it makes sense that in order to build commitment, everyone in a company would need to push or pull the same way to propel movement forward. Shared purpose is also a great way to break down silos. If sales and marketing know that they are sharing goals and objectives, they will be enticed to support each other, not compete against each other.
Shared Leadership – This can be a tough one. In our last post we talked about the leader of a company or department empowering employees. The C-Suite should not be isolated in a lonely tower. A company’s leadership must be accessible. After all, it is often the C-Suite that begins the conversation about big picture issues like purpose and corporate beliefs. Everyone in the company needs to feel they have a stake in the company’s success, not just in the company’s shortcomings. Everyone must feel that their individual efforts are important. This starts from the top and can bust silos by reaching everyone equally.
Shared Outcomes – We have talked about it before on this blog. When a company experiences a downturn, too often the resulting conversation is that marketing points to sales and sales points to marketing. They both point to management. Nothing is accomplished. This can be the worst repercussion of a company with silos. When a company is doing well, everyone should have a right to claim ownership of the success. Likewise, when the company is not doing well, everyone should claim an equal portion of the blame.
Shared Ownership – Of course, Jantsch notes that shared ownership can be taken quite literally. Many companies allow employees to buy a stake in the company itself and some companies are 100% employee-owned. This can help level the playing field, which can help kill silos, but even more important, perhaps, than monetary ownership is actual ownership of the company’s success and mission. On a ship, everyone has a vested interest in arriving safely in harbor. If something challenging arises, it’s in everyone’s best interest to work together to right the sails. So it is with a company. Everyone, regardless of job or department, must feel they have a vested interest in how the company performs. If everyone shares this sentiment, no one person or department will appear more important than any other.
Just as sharing can kill silos, one could argue that silos could kill commitment. Inter-departmental competition, office politics, and a negative attitude and atmosphere can wear everyone out. Build commitment, kill silos, and emphasize sharing in order to succeed.
Note: This is our fifth post in our series inspired by The Commitment Engine. You can read the rest of the series here. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a post!
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