Ten questions to break the ‘working in silos’ mentality

| 10 March 2023

Leaders say ‘we’re working in silos’ but are often at a loss as to how to change things.  In this article I’m going to share some ideas that will get you thinking bigger, seeing more and working collaboratively with your colleagues.

Why are we working in silos?

Silos are most often created when we only see our needs and perspectives.

Or the purpose and priorities of the organisation are not clear or they’re in conflict.

I often see ‘silo mentality’ in leaders who are hugely loyal to and want the best for their teams.

But that can make them blind to the bigger picture. A kind of ‘we’re right and you’re wrong’ mentality kicks in.

Their intention is often well meant but the impact it has is not.

Years ago, as a senior leader, I worked in a siloed organisation.  One part of it working to ‘pile it high, sell it cheap.’ The other on providing a quality, exciting, affordable experience for our customers.

Sometimes we were able to do both, and it worked brilliantly.

But much of the time we didn’t. It created frustration a lot of time-wasting and unnecessary,
unproductive conflict.

But what can I do to break down the silos?

As a leader you can most definitely start to break down the silos.

As a starter for ten, set up a conversation with your counterpart from another silo (sorry team).

Set the intention for building a stronger working relationship together.

‘I notice we’re working in silos. I’d like us to find a way through this together – are you in?’

Set some ground rules

No blaming or justifying or points scoring – draw a line on ‘what was.’

The focus is on creating a better working relationship from today (it doesn’t matter what happened yesterday, last week or last month).

‘First seek to understand’.

Equality of speaking and listening.

Hold the bigger picture in mind (which includes other stakeholders, customers, patients and whoever else we serve – directly or indirectly plus your values, mission and overarching purpose.)

Ten questions to help drive the ‘working in silos’ conversation

  1. How does my role work with your role?
  2. What are we both trying to achieve and for whom?
  3. What are the roadblocks that need removing (and how can we do that together?)
  4. What would you like me to know about your current challenges/opportunities?
  5. What resources/ideas can we share?
  6. Are there any gaps/overlaps in what we do?
  7. What ideas can we take forward together?
  8. What are our collective priorities?
  9. What can we do now?
  10. Who else can help?

When you start to break down some silos, everybody wins.

And your teams will thank you.

Word of caution: If your working relationships with the other person/team member are extremely dysfunctional or long running, you may need some outside support such as mediation.

P.S. If you’re ready to step up and grow your leadership confidence and results instead of getting sucked into the overwhelming minutiae of day to day ‘stuff’, then joining a select and intimate group of leaders for a programme I’ve put together might be just what you are looking for.

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👉 If you’d like to be considered for a place, please reply with a ‘Tell me more and I’ll be in touch with the details.