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Silo Busting: How to Create A Culture of Belonging.

At Belongify, we recognize that silos of information in your organization can sabotage your productivity and breed distrust, but they don’t have to. 

Organizational silos form when leaders, and ultimately employees, are allowed to develop more loyalty to a specific group or team, than to the employer or company as a whole. 

As a result, silos make it increasingly difficult for groups to connect and work together. Information sharing grinds to a halt, and the opportunity to advance the organization together begins to break down. 

Rather than creating a workplace for greater conditions to belong, we create a breeding ground for silos to grow and flourish. As Amy Edmondson says in her HBR article, Fostering Collaboration Across Silos, 

“Most executives recognize the importance of breaking down silos, but struggle to make it happen - because breaking down silos is extremely difficult. But the rewards for eliminating silos and improving collaboration are clear: greater customer loyalty and higher margins.”

The article goes on to explain that a common approach to silo-busting includes complete structure redesign for the entire organization, however that strategy is often problematic and costly. 

Instead, Edmondson recommends focusing on: 

  • “Developing and deploying cultural brokers.
  • Encouraging people to ask the right questions.
  • Getting people to see the world through others’ eyes.
  • Broadening employees’ visions.” 

It can be that simple, and that hard. 
According to David Parks, the VP of Client Services at Bluepoint Leadership Development,

“All of us in leadership have a profound responsibility to work our strategy smarts to serve up silo-busting solutions, and provide the leadership and interpersonal skills for a healthy and dynamic organizational culture.”

At Belongify, we recommend an additional step to focus on fixing our own personal silos first. Organizations are not living creatures, but like the word “government,” they seem to take on a persona. It’s like there is a big puppet master in the clouds somewhere, pulling all the organization strings. 

A common phrase we often hear regarding company behavior is: “The organization has too many silos…” Or “the company is too siloed.”

In fairness, this is often an accurate assessment because people in institutions can act in a fragmented, disconnected, and conflicted way. 

However, it is worth reminding each other that WE’RE the collective of how we individually think and act in the workplace. So, it may be worthwhile to reflect on the importance of fixing our personal silos first. After all, if we can’t look at ourselves as a whole system, how can we navigate our contribution to organizations in a systemic, connected way? 

Learning how to best contribute to a whole system starts with our ability to see ourselves in our wholeness.

That’s why developing our own self, emotionally and spiritually (and physically), is necessary to fully serve in any organization. 

Here are three ways as a leader you can help your team members and yourselves fix our personal silos on a regular basis. (These practices can be done virtually, too). 

  1. Connect before content. Before diving into the content of your meetings, always have some sort of check-in with all participants. Whether it be a short, thought-provoking question, a light-hearted observation, or even sharing a snapshot of their working space. Make that connection. Get creative with it. 
  2. Put intentional effort into getting to know your teammates and co-workers. Do they have pets? Do they have children? Partners? What are their names? Find out the personal (non-intrusive/creepy) basics about the people you spend so many hours working with. 
  3. Discover how your teammates and co-workers like to work. Is there anything that triggers them? How do they prefer to receive feedback? What is the best and most efficient way to communicate with them? 

Furthermore, do they have any guilty pleasures? What are their favorite shows/podcasts to binge?  Where is their happy place? 

Putting intention towards developing this connection with teammates and those you work with will strengthen all of us emotionally and spiritually, putting us in a better position to deliver our best results to the organization.

Where are you on your personal wholeness journey?  

When someone fires out salvos about fixing the silos in the organization, take it as a gentle reminder that we each need to work on fixing our own personal silos too. Starting with these three ways (with a focus on connecting before content) is an excellent practice to take self-accountability towards our personal silos, and to bust silos throughout the company as a whole. 

Team at Belongify!





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