Think Us, Not Them

A Useful Belief for First Time Managers

Think Us, Not Them is a useful belief for First-Time-Managers

In the previous article, we examined the importance of mindset change in leadership transitions and discussed a key belief that effective managers hold — Think We, Not Me. We continue this exploration by looking at another important belief — Think Us, Not Them.

Group identity is an innate part of being human and is indeed at the very foundation of people coming together as families, communities, societies and even nations. This shared sense of belonging is what makes organisations feasible and successful. However, group identity operates at several levels, and in organisations this can lead to several dysfunctional behaviours.

In this article, we look at some of the ways the Us vs Them dynamic plays out in organisations and why Think Us, Not Them is a useful belief for first-time-managers to adopt.

Blame Management

As a manager, you can no longer blame management — you are part of management. Now, this does not mean that you not ask questions or blindly agree to everything that your manager or senior management says or that you do not provide feedback or share concerns upwards.

Your position in the organisation, at or pretty close to the coalface, gives you a perspective that is valuable to senior management — so do share. However, also recognise, that there may be other perspectives and considerations that you may not be aware of. You can certainly question and certainly state your point of view, but eventually you must own the decision and ensure you deliver what is expected of you and your team.

It also does not mean that you do not allow your team to vent or speak their mind or provide suggestions or feedback. You must address their questions and concerns as best as you can — but also ensure that this does not get in the way of delivering what you committed on their and your behalf. And if there are any concerns or useful suggestions from your team, do pass it on upwards and follow up.

Of course, this assumes that your management is not asking for anything that is unsafe, unethical or downright illegal. Or plain stupid. That is an entirely different matter. And if this happens routinely in your organisation, you have bigger things to worry about than how to make your mark as a manager!

Blame Other Groups

“Those #$&^! In Marketing/Finance/Planning/what-have-you are out to get us! They did it deliberately…”

Second to blaming Management, blaming other teams/groups within the organisation, seems to be a popular sport. While team members may do it, sometimes managers also invoke this bogey to rally their troops. If you’re one of these managers, STOP. While silo culture within organisations is a reality, it is also one of the major contributors to dysfunctional and failed organisations.

As a manager, you need to help your team see that the value that they create is not in isolation — that all parts of the organisation need to work together to truly serve its customers and generate shareholder value. Your energy is better utilised trying to break silos and collaborating with other groups to achieve organisational objectives.

As a manager, you model this by not blaming other groups and by discouraging members of your team from doing so. This does not mean you brush off your team members’ complaints about other teams lightly; instead you take it seriously and work with your counterpart from the other group to resolve it.

Withhold Information and Resources

Not sharing crucial information and/or resources with other groups within the organisation to retain power, avoid taking responsibility for failures or to ensure the other group does not outperform, is common in some organisations that have an excessively competitive culture.

As a manager, you need to help your team see how short-sighted this strategy is and the real risks and negative impact to the organisation. While it is easy to blame this behaviour on an excessively competitive or winner-take-it-all (when it comes to rewards and bonuses) culture within the organisation, you need to remember that as a manager, you have a significant role to play in creating and improving the organisations culture.

Think Us, Not Them is about taking responsibility for decisions and genuine collaboration across the organisation. This is another key belief that will help you fulfil your responsibilities as a manager. In the next article, we will examine yet another important element of the effective manager’s mindset — Friendly, Not Friends.

Are you a new manager? Does this resonate with you?

If you are an experienced manager, how easy or difficult did you find changing your mindset?

Please share your observations, opinions and questions in the comments below.

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