Building More: When To Say “I” In A Culture Of “We”

Building More: When To Say “I” In A Culture Of “We”

Corey Adams

For anyone that has read some of my articles, talked with me in person, or ever sat through one of my presentations, you know I am a huge perspective guy. I have never claimed to be the be-all-end-all guru of the construction industry. What I do pride myself on is the ability to inject a little perspective into your thoughts and hopefully allow you to see more angles than you ever thought existed. 

At the World of Concrete this year, I was blessed to be able to put out a keynote presentation on leadership. I was humbled when more than 400 industry professionals signed up and attended. My style is a bit informal in these settings. I love to have thoughts and questions flow freely. Often a discussion will lead us down a path that helps everyone, including myself, learn a thing or two. This presentation was no exception and brought this article to life through a great discussion.

The one thing leaders do well is share in the successes with the members of their teams. Probably more important is when leaders do not share in the failures. Now, I know that there are hundreds of leadership books, consultants, and mentors out there cringing as they read this, but trust me, saying “I” can be leadership at its finest.

The prevailing thought for decades has been to replace I with we when talking to or about your team. The goal is to make everyone feel like they are involved in the success of an organization. Face it, no one person is ever fully accountable for success, even their own. We all had help and a team of people to propel us to the levels we have achieved. I have even mentioned this theory in my articles. I appreciate it, I use it, and I firmly believe in it until it is time to say I.

One of the major keys to being an effective leader is responsibility. This isn’t just the responsibility of one’s self, but the responsibility for the success of the entire team. It boils down to the old three-point accountability test.

If you Cause it, Contribute to it or Condone it, you are accountable for it. 

That is about as straightforward as responsibility can get. As a leader, if you are not eliminating these factors, you are responsible for them.

No matter how invested a company is in the We culture, someone has to take the ultimate responsibility. That is what a true leader does. They are the ones that step up and say, “I.” I caused this project to lose money; I contributed to the low morale on the site; I condoned the lack of production by not addressing it. 

Creating a culture of we is an extraordinary tool for bringing people together, but if you want people to follow you off a cliff, take the sole responsibility for the team’s failure. Show them that no matter what happens, you have their backs, and you know that you must perform better so they all can succeed. 

I am not saying to never address mistakes on the team. We all make mistakes, and as leaders, we should have the ability to help our team navigate and grow from them.

A long time ago, I was taught a valuable lesson. I wish I could remember where it came from. It would be nice to give the due credit deserved, but for now, I will just have to put it out there. It is always better to take responsibility for your mistakes than to get praise for your achievements. 

If you truly want to have effective leadership, and grow your company or career to heights unimaginable, start taking responsibility for the people you claim to lead.

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