Energy running vertically in your organization doesn’t serve your customers. Verticals are formed by business units, departments, functions, and other labels meant to define roles and responsibilities.

Energy flowing within vertical is created and measured by:

  • Power of authority (your boss)
  • Information flow (your meetings)
  • Channels of decision making (your confidants)

Energy intensifies within verticals when employees experience these 5 energy amplifiers:

  1. Relationships: Humans operate with affinity bias. You unconsciously choose to be around people who have the same labels as you.
  2. Goals and agendas: Strategies are built at the top of the organization, after which priorities are cascaded to – again – the verticals.
  3. Performance evaluations: Your worth as an employee is determined by your contributions to your team’s (read: vertical’s) ability to deliver on its priorities. And who evaluates your performance? Your boss: who’s not-so-small bonus and career aspirations are contingent upon the performance of their vertical.
  4. Incentives: Your compensation (and thus your ability to own the home you desire and send your child to college) is contingent on pleasing your boss. (The result: Loyalty to boss over organizational mission.)
  5. Career advancement: If you want to earn the right to have more influence in an organization (i.e. climb the ladder) the person who you must impress the most resides at the top of your vertical.

You’ve been told that the organization chart is built to establish role clarity for employees. And this is also true: Org charts are created to determine who has control.

Neither of these motives, however, are directly correlated to why the organization exists: to funnel energy to customers and create greater value in the market.

As we’ve supported organizations in moving from deficient cross-functional teamwork to thriving seamlessly, we’ve learned some important lessons, including:

Lesson #1: Those with control in organizations must acknowledge and honestly discuss the causes and consequences of vertical energy flow in their organization.

Lesson #2: If they wish to increase value creation, the same leaders must act quickly (read: make changes) to alter the current amplifiers and strengthen the flow of energy to the market.
– With a focused and diligent effort, you can circumvent the 5 amplifiers of energy by equipping colleagues with three things: awareness, a common language, and methods for creating daily alignment.

Lesson #3: If these leaders don’t make the necessary changes, then we encourage them to retain their credibility by immediately discontinuing the rhetoric of telling employees to “work together.” Employees aren’t stupid: They can see where and how the energy flows within their company.

We’ve also discovered this: Most organizations have enough employees motivated more by creating value for customers than they are by big paychecks and control. All you need to do is connect them.

Activate Your Greatness.

Activate Your Greatness.

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