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


Re-Direct the Behavior, Not the Person

on the roadAs a manager—or a parent, coach, or any other kind of leader—you want to get rid of bad behavior but keep the good person. To do this, you must give feedback frequently—this goes for catching people doing things right as well as noticing mistakes or poor performance. It makes no sense for a manager to store up observations of poor behavior and present them all at once at the end of a project or during a performance review. Not only would this be frustrating for the manager, it would also put the person receiving the feedback on the defensive.

Re-directing behavior as soon as possible allows the manager to deal with one behavior at a time. It also allows the other person to focus on constructive feedback and how to correct the problem, instead of being overwhelmed with information about numerous mistakes or misbehaviors that happened long ago.

For the manager, the most important part of the re-direct is remembering to build people up, not tear them down. Confirm the facts, review the goal, and explain specifically how the behavior didn’t support the goal. End the re-direct with a praising: this lets the person know they are better than their mistake. A re-direct should never be perceived as a personal attack. You want the person to be aware of and concerned about what they did, not feel mistreated.

Like all of the Three Secrets Spencer Johnson and I share in our book, The New One Minute Manager, the One Minute Re-Direct takes about a minute and can be a great learning moment for both the manager and the direct report. It allows them to refocus on the goal and work together to strategize how to align performance with the desired outcome. Working collaboratively also improves the relationship by building trust and improving communication.

One Minute Re-Directs are the perfect way to provide feedback and coach people to peak performance. Remember, the best minute of the day is the one you invest in your people.

Why Praising Progress Works

The main idea of The New One Minute Manager is to help people reach their full potential. In the book, Spencer Johnson and I describe the Three Secrets: One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Re-Directs. I believe the most powerful of the three is One Minute Praisings.

For a One Minute Praising to be effective, you must praise the person as soon as you can and tell them in specific terms what they did right. Let them know how good you feel about what they did and encourage them to do more of the same.

As a manager, the most important thing you can do is to catch people doing something right. And when someone is just beginning to learn a task, it’s important to catch them doing something approximately right so you can help them move to the desired result.

One of my favorite examples of this is a parent teaching a child to speak. Suppose you want to teach your toddler son how to ask for a drink of water. Of course his first attempt isn’t going to be a full sentence. If you waited for him to say “Give me a glass of water, please” before you gave him a drink, that wouldn’t turn out too well. So you start by pointing to a glass of water and saying, “water, water.” After several weeks or months, all of a sudden one day your son says, “waller.” You are so excited you hug and kiss him, give him a drink of water, and get Grandma on the phone so the child can say, “waller, waller.” It wasn’t the exact way to say water—but it was close, so you praised his progress. Eventually, you only accept the word water and then you start working on please. By setting up achievable targets along the way and praising progress, you help the learner move toward the end goal.

In the workplace, unfortunately, many managers wait until people do something exactly right before praising them. The problem with this is that some people never become high performers because their managers concentrate on catching them doing things wrong, keeping an eye only on the desired performance instead of praising progress along the way.

This happens with new employees all the time. Their manager welcomes them aboard, takes them around to meet everybody, and then leaves them alone. Not only does the manager not catch the new person doing something approximately right, they periodically zap them just to keep them moving. I call this the leave-alone-zap management style. You leave a person alone, expecting good performance from them. When you don’t get it, you zap them. What do you think that does to a person’s performance and engagement?

If you set clear goals and catch your people doing things right, you’ll create a work environment where people are engaged and fully committed to doing a good job. It only takes a few minutes to praise someone for a job well done. It will be the most important minute of your day.

One Minute Goals: Are You Keeping Score?

In The New One Minute Manager, Spencer Johnson and I share that setting One Minute Goals begins with the belief that everyone is a potential winner. They just need to understand what they are being asked to do and what good performance looks like.

When setting goals, managers work side by side with each direct report to write a goal statement for each of their areas of responsibility, including the standards that will be used to evaluate their performance. This provides clear direction on what the direct report needs to accomplish and how they will know they have done a good job.

Ensuring that direct reports have a way to monitor their own performance and measure progress is an important component of motivation. To explain the motivating nature of creating clear goals, in the book we share a story we heard from Scott Meyers, a longtime consultant in the field of motivation.

One night when Scott was bowling, he saw some people from an organization he previously had worked with. Everyone in this group had been described as disinterested and unmotivated. Meyers watched as one of the men who had been identified as unmotivated approached the line and rolled the bowling ball. Soon he started to clap and jump around with delight. Meyers had never seen the man so animated. Why do you think he was so happy? Because he got a strike and he knew he had performed well.

Meyers contends that the reason people in organizations are not clapping and jumping around at work is, in part, because they aren’t always clear about what is expected of them. In bowling, this would be like rolling the ball down an empty lane without any pins at the end. With no pins to knock down, there is no goal and no performance to measure. That wouldn’t be much of a game, would it?

Yet, every day in the working world, people are bowling without pins. As a result, they can’t tell their manager how they’re doing. When managers assume wrongly that the people on their team know what the goals are, no one is set up for success.

Never assume anything when it comes to goal setting. Set your people up for success by working with them to write clear One Minute Goals. Then check in occasionally and see how they are scoring. Keeping goals top of mind will help people focus on the important work and achieve higher levels of performance.

A Positive Approach to Re-Direction

\One of the things people seem to be most interested in about The New One Minute Manager® is the modern version of the Third Secret: One Minute Re-Directs. Spencer Johnson and I realized that One Minute Reprimands worked years ago when you needed to change behavior in a command-and-control management environment, but today working side by side with people gets better results. When everyone is constantly learning and re-learning new skills The One Minute Re-Direct is more gentle and caring than a reprimand, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

My friend Erwin McManus has a wonderful saying: “Don’t let the truth run faster than love.” This applies so well when re-directing behavior. When someone makes a mistake you need to tell the truth so you can change the behavior—but make sure you do it in a caring way. Also assume the best intentions. The best way to do this is to talk to your direct report about what you observed to make sure their goals were clear to them at the time. If you both determine that the goals were clear, next check out the facts leading up to the re-direction to make sure you both agree on what happened. Discuss the impact of the behavior, and then reaffirm the person in a way that is meaningful. Let the person know they are better than their mistake and you have confidence and trust in them.

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, states it this way: “It’s important to maintain the balance between being tenderhearted and task oriented.” As a leader you must be able to re-direct behavior to keep people on the right track while also respecting their dignity. Remember—when you share feedback it is never about you or the other person; it is about the behavior. A leader’s job is to constantly help people be the best they can be.

I hope you find this information helpful the next time you need to re-direct someone’s behavior. You’ll encourage them to improve performance while letting them know how much you support their success.

NOMM-book-featureTo learn more about The New One Minute Manager, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.