They or We?

There have been some interesting contrasts in my work recently. Beyond the obvious differences (facilitation versus coaching for example) I’ve noticed a more subtle demarcation.

One of the organisations I was working in apparently had a strange, nebulous group of people employed there. No-one seemed quite sure of the roles, job titles or indeed positions in the organisation. I couldn’t garner any clear idea as to where these clandestine figures were located. So I asked my delegates where I could find these people, how would I know I was looking at one? Again, I couldn’t obtain an answer.

However when we talked about changing behaviour or processes in the organisation I kept on coming up against similar answers

They won’t let us” or “They always stop our good ideas”. I also heard that “They” were responsible for inefficiencies, that “They” stopped good labour relations and “They” made management difficult.

Seems “They” are the real problem at this organisation.

I asked my delegates (a cadre of managers) whether anyone had ever described them or their role as being part of this shadowy “They” cabal. As you can imagine there was some awkward shuffling of feet, a few chairs creaked. I asked them to substitute the word “We” in their earlier statements. This was not a terribly comfortable moment for everyone.

Skip ahead with me to some work I did last week. Different organisation, different subject but this group of delegates always described themselves as “we”.

  • How can “we” change things?
  • How can “we” ensure our teams know they have permission?
  • What can “we” do to pass this message on?
  • What can “we” do to lead by example?

Quite a difference.

Next week will see me do a final wash up meeting at the first organisation. I wonder what conversation we will have.


About Jon Bartlett

I'm a coach, blogging on things that occur to me, that I want to share and any other fun stuff I find lying around in the real world.
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4 Responses to They or We?

  1. Doug Shaw says:

    Good blogging – I here this often too. And even when ‘we’ is used, quite often ‘you’ is what is meant. I really enjoy the challenge of trying to get as specific as possible with people about who is going to do what, how, why, when etc etc. Good luck with the wash up.

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