The measure of glue

Adhesives, Nitrocellulose adhesives

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I’ve been in a number of discussions, both “official” and over the proverbial pint, about the things that help groups of people actually do things worthwhile.  A very close colleague of mine told me that, in turning over a spreadsheet listing the things that she does everyday to her manager, he said, “It seems you only work about 15 hours a week!”  While being completely wrong, his comment points out something that is devilishly difficult to measure and enumerate on paper: the innumerable small-ish things she does that keep her team moving forward and meshing well.  I’ll call it “glue”, for lack of a better term.

I’ve been in a lot of meetings and conferences where the topic has been “How can we get our teams to collaborate better/more smoothly?” and “How can we measure and incent that?”  This is a tough nut to crack for a lot of organizations that have absolutely thrived on the Hero Model.  I define the Hero Model as the operational model where there is one person who rises above the fray, puts in the hours, is on-call 24/7, responds to all mail within minutes, can produce “emergency” presentations within an hour and has her office shelf lined with awards, certificates of appreciation, plaques of merit (and a bank account full of bonuses).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with heroes.  Our culture has a Hero myth buried deep within it (read most any book by Joseph Campbell). Leaders are a prized resource everywhere….but note I write Leaders, not Heroes.  The difference is that Leaders, well, lead….and that requires others to follow, and to be willing to follow because of the authentic quality of the leader.  Heroes seem to operate as individuals, not so concerned with bringing others along as to fulfill whatever quest they happen to be on.

Leaders recognize the utter value of the “glue” I mentioned earlier.  Without the glue that consists of all members of the group/team/division/business seeing the goal, understanding its importance and willing to work together to attain it, well, the goal is not likely to be attained.

The “glue” can look like this:

  • asking, and receiving, simple assistance from someone
  • saying “Thank You” and “You’re Welcome” (seriously, how often do you hear “You’re welcome” where you work?)
  • chiming in with an opinion, an idea, a different way of looking something
  • really, truly listening to others (instead of spending the time formulating a snappy answer)
  • readily acknowledging the help of others and accepting the thanks of these same colleagues when you help

…you get the idea.  The kinds of things that can make a workplace an exciting and fulfilling place to be.  We owe it to ourselves as leaders to openly and privately acknowledge the glue and its importance.  Finding the right ways to measure and incent or reward it can be pretty tough…more on that in another post.

If you have some ideas, please share them.

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One thought on “The measure of glue

  1. Pingback: Measure the glue–continued « Authentic Voice

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