Good leaders recognize it can be hard to build a team culture that says we’re all here to work together and win if there is an air of hierarchy in their organization. To truly build a team, often leaving job titles behind can be very important. Here are some ideas to remove the feelings of hierarchy from your organization:
- Stop introducing yourself with your title. Many people pay careful attention to how someone introduces themselves and it’s likely your team does too. Next time you introduce yourself refer to the team you’re part of rather than using your job title (for example, I’m Bill Smith with the marketing team, rather than Bill Smith, Vice President of Marketing). I think it sets the tone for what’s really important, and it’s often not your job title.
- Be mindful of ways hierarchy is demonstrated at your organization. Do you have special parking for “the boss” at your company? What about a special area or break room that only VPs and above can use? Although there are times when this is warranted, it often just tells people who the company believes is most important and in all reality, everyone is important in making a company run effectively. If everyone plays an important role, then look at ways your company says that someone is more important than another and determine if any of those could be removed.
- Maintain an open door policy. Organizations that strive to build a true team culture have front line employees that wouldn’t hesitate to email or walk into the office of the top ranks or leaders in the business. Does everyone in your organization feel comfortable coming in your office?
- Take time for casual conversations. In a world where everyone is busy and the pace seems to be getting faster every day, it’s important for leaders to take time to have “corner of the desk” type conversations. This means that leaders simply stop by someone’s desk (without a meeting invitation!) and see how things are going. No agenda, no formal conversation – just making sure people know they care and are genuinely interested in how they are doing. These casual conversations go a long way to removing the barriers hierarchy can create.
- Dress the part. At my organization, Fridays are casual dress days. I think it had to do with how I was brought up, but I just didn’t feel comfortable wearing jeans to work (the old “you never know who you may run into” kept popping in to my mind). I was actually one of the few people that came to the office on Friday that wasn’t wearing jeans. One day, someone on my team asked me why I didn’t ‘dress down’ on Friday like everyone else. Although they didn’t say as much, I felt as though their assumption was that I either didn’t want my team to see a casual side of me or I was ‘above’ dressing down. I was mortified! This was obviously not the message I wanted to send and it never occurred to me that people would interpret it that way. Needless to say, on Fridays I now fit right in and wear jeans to prove it!
I am fortunate to work at a company where titles are rarely mentioned in introductions and employees feel extremely comfortable reaching out to anyone in the organization, regardless of their role. If your business or organization is like most, people just want to come to work at a company where they feel valued and that they are making an important contribution. Removing the sense of hierarchy helps people realize their role is just as important as anyone else’s… because it really is!