No one’s success depends exclusively on individual efforts. We’re products of the ideas and interactions in which we’re immersed daily.

Greg Reid (far right), one of my strategic mentors, provided an important gift relative to this and the importance of talking about “we” instead of “me” in business.

Why use “we” when you communicate?

Being able to talk from a “we” perspective brings responsibilities, requiring you work with others in developing a recommendation, opening yourself to challenges and different perspectives. Considering different points of view creates stronger recommendations. While it may take more time or work to build broader agreement, the benefits are tremendous. It forces others with a stake in the recommendation to voice their support. Credibly talking from a first person plural perspective also removes a recommendation from standing on your point of view vs. someone else’s.

While there’s plenty of valid emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability in business, the “we” approach doesn’t fly in its face. Instead, it helps mitigate sometimes unwise behaviors attributable to seeking too much personal responsibility.

In making his point, Greg suggested listening to a co-worker’s language. When focusing intently, it was clear how often he used “I,” “me,” and portrayed sole responsibility for a recommendation he was advocating. Unfortunately, “his” audience didn’t support it, and having characterized it as his own, the decision came down to whose individual perspective was deemed more valid. Guess what? He lost. Not long after, his failure to build alliances was cited as a factor when pushed out of his position.

Pay attention to your communication. What’s your frequency of using “I” or “me” when you could have easily said “we”? Even without formally including others, simply dropping self-attribution for ideas creates some mystery regarding how big your support base is.

Among all the gift givers these twelve days, a particular thank you goes to those recognized this week since all of them have helped shape me in such profound ways beyond those shared here.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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9 Responses to “The Eleventh Day of Gifts – Greg Reid – The Power of “We””

  1. Jan L says:

    Another benefit of we:

    When I need someone’s help, even though I’m asking for something that must be completed entirely by another party, I phrase it in terms of We need…. or We should… I find that this often helps accelerate action. The person who will need to complete the task does not feel as if he/she must go it alone.

  2. Mike Brown says:

    Jan – Yours is a great point. Some people get focused on a belief that they belong to a single team, when in reality, we come in and out of various teams all the time.

    Even if it’s a two-person team for a relatively short project, setting it up with “we,” as you suggest, creates a much stronger perception of working together than talking about the effort in individual terms.

    Thanks for sharing this!


  3. Mike Brown says:

    Here are a couple of other comments on this post from mikebrownspeaks.blogspot.com:

    From Jan Harness –
    “And thank you for passing this gift along to me — I am much more aware in my writing of the “we” vs. “me” approach now, and it does make a huge difference. In the copy, and in my perspective.” December 19, 2008 6:59 AM

    From Becky –
    “Thank-you for sharing this ‘way of thinking.’ I recently ran across an article in the NY Times (Dec. 7th, Teamwork, the True Mother of Invention ) that talked about the concept of “group genius,” “collective creativity,” and “innovation is a team sport.” The article even uses Einstein as an example of one who needed group input to hone his insights. The article stopped short of suggesting how to go about creating this type of innovative environment. After reading your blog, Im thinking that the use of “we” is a key factor in moving a team/organization toward ‘group genius.'” December 19, 2008 9:56 AM

    The NY Times article is interesting, but not sure that I buy the contention that a diverse group generating a broad range of ideas from which to narrow them isn’t a valuable process. Guess I’ve just seen it get to possibilities that no single person had envisioned too many times to dismiss it. – Mike

  4. Becky says:

    The article does criticize brainstorming and I too have seen value in this approach, however, I think the ideas that are generated trigger thinking among the diverse participants – and become a means to an end and not the end itself. How to create this type of environment where team players are constantly thinking and sharing ideas is very interesting to me. There is a great scene in the movie ‘White Christmas’ where Danny Kay comes up with an idea to bring guests to the Vermont Inn. Bing Crosby’s character hears the idea, thinks about it and then says “it’s half a great idea!” and procedes to pull together a large production.

  5. Mike Brown says:

    Becky – Your point about getting team members to continually share ideas is a vital one.

    I’ve found that there haven’t been nearly as many BIG innovations at work as the opportunity for an environment where we’re always trying to think of new ways to improve things.

    In a recent meeting, I was reminded that times of challenge often create more willingness to change and do things differently. If that’s the case, creating an environment where people are thinking of new approaches is even more important now.



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