It’s a Decision

Do you work within an organization, division, department or team that you would describe as valuing ‘competence’ over ‘connection’ by a wide margin?

This is an environment that you might describe as static, procedural, technical or hierarchical far more than it is dynamic, connective, open and human-centered.

You might even say that it’s an environment fueled by fear rather than by love.

If this sounds familiar to you and you feel limited, stifled, stuck or afraid you have a few options:

#1. Wait for “them” to change it.
#2. Change it yourself.
#3. Leave.

If it’s a truly toxic environment, option three is the best bet for your longterm health and well-being. Yes, it’s risky but it’s a strong job market and there are plenty of good leaders building healthy and meaningful organizations that also perform.

As for number one? You already know what I’m going to say but you’d rather not hear it. A hero is not about to come riding in on a stallion to save the day. Unless the place is about to go under and those with real power demand radical change, the place is going to keep operating as is. This is because human beings are addicted to the status quo, even when it’s the worst thing in the world.

So, on to number two. This is where you come in. And you can, you most definitely can change it yourself. Not the whole thing, and maybe not even a large part of it, but you can change the area that is one, maybe even one and a half concentric circles beyond yourself. It’s just a decision. Here are some ways you might act on that decision:

  1. Get to work early. Be there when your colleagues arrive and greet them warmly to start the day.
  2. Check-in on your teammates. Ask about their work and stuff going on at home. Just listen. No judgments, no advice.
  3. Check-in on your boss. Find a few minutes once a week or so to say hello and ask how things are going.
  4. Offer to help. Where it makes sense and respecting context and boundaries, of course. Small things matter a lot. Be the person who picks up that slack.
  5. Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, read, see friends, hug your family.
  6. Never, ever contribute to negativity. Know and live your personal values. Know and live the values of the organization even if nobody else is doing so.
  7. Do your best work. No one knows what that means but you.

I predict that if you do most or even some of these things, you will feel better about yourself, your work and your workplace. What’s more, others will start to emulate your behavior and your small part of the enterprise will take on an energy that is envied by others. As long as you’re going to be there, why not control what you can control and make it the kind of place you want to be?

In summary:

Option #1 = Fantasy
Option #2 = Possibility
Option #3 = Escape hatch

It always was and always will be your decision.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

The Tyranny of “They”

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There are many, many bright and thoughtful people who will be happy to tell you which path to follow. It’s much easier to play armchair quarterback with someone else’s life so opinions come freely and often.

The tyranny of “they” afflicts us in two ways:

First, it supports our reservations about declaring our path through an invasive voice that asks, “What will they think?”

Second, it muddies our efforts at clarity by allowing too many theys to have a say.

They are vital for support, strength and guidance. But only a select few. For my money, this is a combination that works well:

One person who loves you unconditionally; a person who only wants the best for you and will take extraordinary measures to make sure that you get it.

PLUS…

One person who respects you; someone who is familiar with your work but has an arm’s-length distance in personal matters. This person believes in you and holds a broad and diverse perspective.

PLUS…

One person who challenges you; someone who has a track record of telling it to you straight. They don’t suffer fools and aren’t concerned about offending. You’ve probably disagreed with them before and will again.

When I finally decided to leap a number of years ago, my wife said “Of course…we will make it work.” A former boss said “Let’s talk this through” and coached me to the strategies vital to successful first steps. And an associate spoke plainly about the potential pitfalls ahead.

In the end, the decision was mine. And it was made with loving, respectful and challenging support.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

You Have to Decide

You were promoted to a leadership position because of your exceptional competence.

Your team is full of competent people.

They do not need your competence.

They need your leadership.

And so, you have to decide.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.