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5 Ways to Strengthen Your Team's "We" Disposition


The Clarity Foundation is in turmoil. As a philanthropic organization that represents a very wealthy family, it gives lots of financial and other support to non-profit organizations that promote gender equality and human rights. Despite the good deeds done within the local community, gender inequality, miscommunication, and distrust are rampant within the organization.

 

It all began with a few comments made by a member of the leadership team—comments that the established workers didn’t take offense to, but Liza, a newer employee at the Foundation, did. Because there is no formal system for providing feedback within the organization, these comments remained unaddressed. As a result, turmoil started to brew. Liza’s justified frustration smoldered until it shifted to rage, leaving her feeling raw and sensitive. Now, every comment or perceived slight makes her blood boil. The leaders, on the other hand, were unaware of her frustration until very recently. They are well-meaning, and want to ‘walk the walk’ of their Foundation’s philanthropic mission, but it never occurred to them to prioritize changing their culture to reflect the times. They comfortable with ‘traditional’ cultural norms which are at times, sprinkled with sexism.

 

Now that the turmoil is coming to a head; the frustration that only Liza experienced at first, spread throughout the organization, and leaders are catching a whiff of the angry judgments pointed in their direction. Surprised, hurt, and a little defensive, the leadership team takes no action at first. They don’t seem to recognize how their entrenched beliefs and behaviors might endanger the mission of the Foundation and employee wellbeing. Indeed, their defensiveness is making the situation worse. Usage of words like ‘hormonal’ and ‘overreacting’ are increasingly common amongst leaders which only reinforces the sense of distrust radiating from employees.

 

How will the Clarity Foundation turn its organizational culture around before losing members of their highly-competent team, or, worse, fighting a sexual harassment lawsuit? The answer lies in a concept called the ‘We’ Disposition.

 

The ‘We’ Disposition, introduced by Yvette Bethel in her book Interconnectivity, Flow, and Balance, is the measurable ability (Link to Trust Style Inventory) for individuals and organizations to balance collective and individual needs. In the case of the Clarity Foundation, the ‘We’ Disposition is dangerously low. Liza’s heels are dug deeply into the ground on her side, and the leadership teams’ heels are equally planted into the ground on their side. There is no common ground—no space for ‘We’—in their current situation.

 

However, all hope is not lost. With hard work, dedication, and changes to their organizational culture, the Clarity Foundation can strengthen their ‘We’ Disposition. They can create a culture that values teamwork, collaboration, and support while increasing productivity, respect, and inclusion. Best of all, they can finally align what their internal activities with what they do on the outside: Creating a better world through good work and open mindsets.

 

What can the Clarity Foundation, or any organization do to increase their organizational ‘We’ Disposition?

 

1.      Clarify your organizational values:

Identifying the non-negotiable values of a culture’s organization helps teams stay together while navigating stormy waters. While the Clarity Foundation has strongly stated values for facilitating change outside their organization, no one has ever taken the time or made an effort to identify the values of the organization’s internal culture. For example, if one stated value becomes ‘fair and inclusive language’, this phrase could be a neutral touch stone from which Liza could talk to the leadership team about the offensive comments they made. Has your organization created core values around which everyone can come together, or is it time to refresh those values?

 

2.      Create safe space for feedback:

The Clarity Foundation could have avoided the explosion of mistrust and division if Liza felt comfortable providing feedback about the leadership team’s comments right after they happened. Imagine if her frustration was met with authentic listening backed by open minds instead of being left to simmer into rage. If you need to increase your team’s cohesion and trust, a dedicated HR person, or regular check-in meetings could help your organization provide the safe space for feedback needed for employees to feel heard before their emotions escalate. Effective communication is a core component of building a “We” disposition and a work environment where everyone feels heard and cared for.

 

3.      Assess the current trust style of the leadership:

Everyone gives and receives trust in different ways, and being aware of the unique ‘trust style’ of a few key team members could strengthen the cohesion and performance of a team. At the Clarity Foundation, low trust is at the heart of their cultural dynamics. If Liza trusted the leadership team, her struggle with their comments could have been dealt with at the time. Similarly, if the leadership team trusted Liza, their defensiveness may have been lessened. The Trust Style Inventory (link to tool) helps organizations understand the missing pieces of trust within key members of the team. One component of the Trust Style Inventory is the ‘We’ Disposition, this feature helps organizations to identify and measure how their leadership team is doing with creating and sustaining an inclusive and collaborative environment.

 

4.      Corporate coaching sessions for leadership team:

From time to time, leaders need to brush up on their people-skills. For the Clarity Foundation, the leadership team seems to be over-due for developmental opportunities. A corporate or executive coach could help them understand why Liza took offense to their comments and how they could more effectively (and less offensively) get their point across. Coaches can also operate as excellent resources for processing team conflict such as the kind the Clarity Foundation is experiencing. Corporate coaching helps organizations understand and remove the unique blocks to growing their collective “We” Disposition.

 

5.      Reinforce the importance of difficult conversations:

Organizations are just like any other group of humans; each person has different opinions and view points, and difficult conversations are essential to finding peace in these differences. The leadership team at the Clarity Foundation seems uncomfortable with difficult conversations, and, by avoiding conflict, they are eliminating their chances for building a healthy “We” Disposition. While they may not agree with Liza on other topics, compassionate and safe initial conversations about language and bias could go a long way in repairing the relationship. These conversations are also critical in rebuilding an organizational culture that is actually authentic and aligned with their charitable mission. Difficult conversations need to happen to make organizational cultures safe and effective; they provide space for individuals to navigate the waters between ‘I’ and ‘We”.

 

With hard work, know-how, and a goal of building their ‘We’ Disposition, the Clarity Foundation can not only avoid unnecessary delays caused by conflict but they can also create an organizational culture that will help their teams thrive. How will you use the Clarity Foundation’s example to build the ‘We’ Disposition in your organization?

 

To learn more about your personal and team’s Trust Style—which incorporates your ‘We’ Disposition— you can read more about the Trust Style Inventory at www.orgsoul.com.


With knowledge gained from almost 40 years of Fortune 500 and international consulting experience, Yvette shares her rich experience and proprietary model for changing businesses from the inside out. She is a thought leader in the areas of trust, leadership and organizational ecosystems, a multiple award-winning author and cultural consultant.


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