IT TOOK ME MONTHS TO IDENTIFY THE SILO IN ONE OF MY DEPARTMENTS. I kept hearing comparison or fairness language, but it was typically third- or fourthhand, so I didn’t give it much credit. I heard about a little bit of jealousy about another department’s budget, and someone even suggested that the department must not be valued since their budget was lower.

But it wasn’t until I assigned a leadership coach to jump deep into the department that I confirmed the depth and seriousness of the silo that had evolved. In an organization that was relatively healthy, this department had developed a toxic environment that became a breeding ground for comparison, gossip, backbiting, and a victim mentality. Something had to be done.It is extremely important to have senior-level leaders who are tuned in to the danger of silos, and who work overtime to tear them down. Here are some tips on tearing down the silos:

Clearly identify the overall objective.

A few years ago at my church we developed a strategy called “Focus on Five.” We chose the five things we were all going to focus on for the next season, and this gave every ministry a reason to work together with other departments to accomplish the goal. More recently, we did this through a five-year vision. Patrick Lencioni warned that if you don’t have a shared goal, everyone makes up his or her own.

Consider office locations.

Sometimes the construction of silos is encouraged because of office location. If you have one team with offices in a completely separate building, isolating that team, it’s likely you will be dealing with a silo department. Not too long ago I changed office locations for 60 percent of the church staff in order to tear down some silos that were beginning to form.

Replace a leader.

I believe the person running a department has the power to build or tear down a silo. Leaders above them can help with training or coaching. People around them can offer help and advice. But there is no one else who can speak up during a meeting that is turning negative. No one else can influence the team to work with other teams. No one else can lead the team to support the leaders or rally around the vision. There have been times when I was unable to coach a leader who had built a thick silo, and my only recourse was to replace him or her.

Communicate your foundational beliefs.

Communicate them everywhere and often. At Granger, every year we spent a month talking about the vision of our organization. Our mission statement was printed larger than life on a prominent wall. Our values were faux etched in the glass along a primary corridor. Every new person had a chance to attend a Discover Granger seminar where he or she heard about these core beliefs from our leader. Jack Welch said, “When you talk about your beliefs so often that you think you’ll throw up the next time you say it—you’re probably just about communicating at the right level.”

Even your most faithful volunteers or most tenured employees will forget why you exist if you don’t constantly communicate it. It’s not that they’re rebellious; it’s just too easy to fall back on what they’ve known or believed for years. Even the systems you use for scheduling space in the building, setting your annual budget, or requesting expense reimbursements can be great opportunities to restate values and priorities. 

Hold weekly meetings with everyone.

I talked earlier in this book about the huge advantages of meeting with the entire team every week. When your senior leaders can hear from every single person on the team, and they can hear each person’s vision, it does wonders to keep silos from popping up. 

Above all, make sure your core leaders truly believe they are serving one organization with one purpose. That will revolutionize how they interact with one another. The feeling will be, “We are all on the same team pulling the same direction."

For more helpful advice on effectively leading change on your church staff, check out my latest book Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace.

Tim Stevens1 Comment