Breaking Down Silos for a Stronger Organization

It’s no secret that collaboration creates high performing teams and organizations, yet leaders in some companies still struggle to get people to work together instead of protecting their silos. In our new book Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster, my coauthors Jane Ripley, Eunice Parisi-Carew, and I describe how you can break down silos and bring people together to achieve fabulous results at every level in your organization.

As the title suggests, we believe that collaboration is the responsibility of every single person. Although it’s up to the leader to declare and introduce a culture of collaboration, it is up to each individual to promote and preserve it.

Silos exist when people who are more interested in organizational hierarchy want to protect resources and information as sources of power. But in today’s diverse, global environment, collaboration is the key to communication, innovation, and success. We must all be silo busters.

Establishing a culture of collaboration isn’t an overnight fix—it requires a completely new mindset. We call it the inside-out mindset of Heart, Head, and Hands. The Heart aspect refers to who you really are as a collaborator—your intentions and character. The Head aspect is about your beliefs and attitudes about collaboration. The Hands aspect relates to what you do—your actions and behaviors. People with this mindset understand and live by the statement None of us is as smart as all of us.

From this inside-out mindset, five factors are generated that help build a strong culture of collaboration. We created the UNITE acronym to make these factors easier to remember. Everyone must be vigilant about Utilizing differences; Nurturing safety and trust; Involving others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; Talking openly; and Empowering themselves and others.

I’ll explain these concepts in detail in future posts. In the meantime, remember that collaboration begins with you—and it can begin today!

Editor’s Note: Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster will be released October 12. Place your pre-order at


Set Boundaries for an Empowered Workforce

Setting boundaries to help empower people might sound like a contradiction. When managed correctly, though, well placed boundaries can ensure a strong culture of empowerment for your entire company.

I’ve often said that a river without banks is a large puddle. If you empower people by setting them loose without any direction, they can lose momentum and focus—or, even worse, they can make costly mistakes or put a project at risk. Like the banks of a river, properly set boundaries will channel energy in the right direction so that people can take on more responsibility as they grow and develop.

The key to setting boundaries is to ensure people know the areas where they can be autonomous and responsible rather than focusing on things they are not permitted to do. Boundaries are based on each person’s skill level and are meant to help the person understand how their goals align with the overall vision and goals of the organization. Helping people see how their work fits into the big picture allows them to become peak performers.

It is also important for managers to explain the decision making process in an empowered culture. Some people think being empowered means they get to make all the decisions. They could be disappointed when the manager continues to make strategic decisions and leaves only some operational decisions to them. And they might hesitate to make decisions at all when they realize they will be held accountable for the results—both good and bad.

Yes, empowerment means people have the freedom to act, but it also means they are accountable for results. The right balance is to have managers continue making strategic decisions and get team members involved in making more operational decisions as they become more comfortable with assuming the potential risks involved. As people gradually accept more responsibility for decisions and consequences, managers can pull back on their involvement.

It takes a little time in the beginning for managers to establish boundaries for team members, but this investment has a huge payoff. The worst thing a manager can do is to send people off on their own with no clear direction and then punish them when they make mistakes. Don’t fall into that trap. Establish clear boundaries that will empower people to make decisions, take initiative, act like owners, and stay on track to reach both personal and organizational goals.

Taking the Time to Find Your Calling: Two Ways to Get Started

I’ve been reading an interesting book by Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro called Whistle While You Work: Heeding Your Life’s Calling. The authors explain that in many instances our calling comes to us when we are removed from everyday routine—that’s when we are able to listen to what authentically moves us from the inside.

Each summer, my wife, Margie, and I spend time at our lake home in upstate New York, where we are removed from our everyday routine and obligations in San Diego. This change of scenery allows me to do just what the authors of the book describe: I get time to think about where I want to make a difference in the world. In fact, I do most of my writing at the lake. I have time to think about the issues leaders are facing around the world and spend time researching and writing articles and books that offer solutions to those challenges.

So what’s your calling—and how do you discover it? In addition to taking the time to quiet yourself by removing yourself from routine, I also think it is important to identify the activities that cause you to lose track of time—that’s a hallmark of a calling versus something you are driven to accomplish. For me, writing at the lake certainly ticks that box. How about you? Think about using vacation time to quiet yourself. Pay attention to what you learn. This concept goes beyond what you do to make a living—think about what you want to do in your community or with your family that will support your values and purpose.

It’s never too late to make changes in your life by taking advantage of your most precious commodity—time. Life is a very special occasion, so celebrate it by finding and honoring your authentic self!

Enter Your Day Slowly to Lead a Balanced, Productive Life

Years ago I learned a very important lesson from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. He explained to me that we all have two selves. One is an external, task-oriented self that focuses on getting jobs done, while the other is an internal, thoughtful, reflective self. If we let the task-oriented self rule our lives, we might accomplish many tasks—but we won’t be leading a balanced, values-based, fulfilling life. Making more time in your day for the thoughtful self will actually help you accomplish more while reducing stress.

Think about which self wakes up in the morning. Of course, our external task-oriented self wakes up first—usually to an alarm clock. Think of what an awful term that is—an ALARM clock! My friend pastor John Ortberg thinks we should call it the opportunity clock, or the it’s going to be a great day clock. Wouldn’t that give everyone a more positive perspective and outlook?

So the alarm goes off and you leap out of bed and you’re into your task-oriented self. You’re trying to eat while you’re washing, and you’re checking your email as you get dressed. Then you jump in the car and you’re on your speaker phone while you’re driving. Next, you’re going to this meeting and that meeting and running from here to there. Finally, you get home at eight or nine at night. You’re absolutely exhausted, so when you fall into bed you don’t even have energy to say goodnight to someone who might be lying next to you. And the next morning—bang!—the alarm goes off and you’re at it again. I call that leading a busy life, but not necessarily a balanced, peaceful, or thoughtful life.

There is a way to break this cycle. We all need to find a way to enter our day slowly so that we can awaken our reflective self first thing in the morning. The way for some people to do it will be exercise, and for others reading, meditating, or journaling. I put together a booklet of favorite inspirational quotes that I read in the morning. It only takes a few minutes to read and it helps me begin my day with a positive and happy perspective. Instead of immediately doing activities I can check off a task list, I’m able to be thoughtful about how I approach each task. I can prioritize easier, be more creative, and eliminate a lot of stress this way. I even have more time for the most important activity of all—spending time with loved ones. And what’s better than that?

By entering my day slowly, I find it easier to focus on the important things and have more energy to face challenges. It has worked for me, my family, and friends—I urge you to give it a try.

The Reality of Work-Life Balance

Much has been written about work-life balance. Some say it is impossible to find in our fast-paced world. Others say it is achievable—but you have to work at it.

Summertime is usually the time of year when people try to concentrate a little more on work-life balance. However, I don’t see balance as just a summer project. In fact, for some people, summers can be more hectic than the rest of the year with children out of school, extended visits from family and friends, and pressure to take vacation—even as project deadlines pile up at work. This kind of schedule can turn a balanced summer into a stressful summer. But there is a way to manage all the day-to-day demands of a busy life, no matter what time of year.

Reaching balance in life is all about decreasing stress by focusing on things that create a sense of contentment. Several years ago my lovely wife, Margie, came up with PACT—an easy to remember model whose elements can help people relieve stress in their lives by achieving Perspective, Autonomy, Connectedness, and Tone.

  • Perspective is about seeing the big picture of life. If we know our purpose and direction in life, chances are we have a good perspective and daily stressors don’t get blown out of proportion. To illustrate the concept of perspective, I think about when our kids were young and we would take them to the zoo. Most parents get a little crazy chasing their kids around the zoo, but we loved it because our top priority was to have fun with the kids. We were able to overlook certain things and just enjoy the day—it was all part of our perspective. I called it zoo mentality. Honestly, it still seems strange to me that parents take their kids to the zoo then spend the whole time yelling at them. Everyone would have more fun if they embraced the perspective of zoo mentality.
  • Autonomy relates to our ability to make choices that allow us to be in control of our lives. If you have a high sense of autonomy, you are not totally controlled by your job, your spouse, your children, or anyone or anything. Of course no one can always be in complete control of every aspect of their life, but as long as your daily activities support your personal and professional goals you will have a greater sense of balance.
  • Connectedness is all about having strong positive relationships at home, at work, and in the community. Mutually supportive relationships can enhance a feeling of overall well-being and balance. Creating trusted connections at work helps improve morale and performance, while spending quality time with family and friends leads to a feeling of satisfaction of belonging to a community or being part of something bigger than yourself.
  • Tone covers how you feel about yourself physically. It includes the way you look, your health and energy level, and your level of fitness.  People with high tone generally have a high energy level, maintain a proper weight, have sound nutrition, and feel good about their physical appearance.

Margie and I have taught the PACT model for many years, and I still use it to monitor the balance in my own life. It’s a great tool that will help you not only pinpoint what’s wrong when life gets stressful, but also check off what you’re doing right when you are feeling great.

When your life is in balance, stress naturally loses its grip. Start using the PACT model this summer and keep it up all year long. You’ll live life at a higher level.