It Pays to be Exclusionary

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Is the membership boundary in your organization tight enough? We hear so much about the importance of being inclusive in organizations, but it’s equally important to know when to be exclusive. When everyone in a business organization is keenly focused on achieving a particular mission or purpose, the energy becomes concentrated and potent. In contrast, if a business tries to be too inclusive, by including people whose roles don’t have a direct tie to the purpose, the bond between the people and the company is loose, and the energy becomes diluted and weak. Unfortunately, most businesses unwittingly deplete their energy by not defining their boundaries tightly enough.

I’ve personally experienced the energetic difference between being tightly bound vs. loosely bound to a company’s purpose. I’ve always worked in Information Technology (IT), and sometimes my jobs have aligned with company purpose and at other times they haven’t. For example, when I was a consultant for a large consulting firm whose purpose was “to help clients conquer the challenges of applying new technology”, I worked directly with clients and my role clearly contributed to the purpose. I felt a strong connection to the company. Similarly, when I was the leader of application development for a logistics company whose purpose was “to provide the best customer service in the industry”, I was directly involved in understanding customer needs and designing solutions to improve their experience. I felt a strong bond to the company. But when I became the leader of IT infrastructure for that same company, and my role was to keep the machines up and running at the lowest cost, I no longer had direct involvement in the specifics of customer needs, and my feeling of connection to the company became much weaker.

This is just one example of a job that didn’t align directly with company purpose. These jobs abound in corporations that habitually encompass support roles that aren’t central to achieving the company’s mission or purpose. The good news is that it’s now possible to procure most support functions externally through contract, cloud, or outsourcing services, from organizations where the personnel is aligned with company purpose.

The difference in the energy can be palpable. I’ve been in many companies where support personnel occupy different space in the same building, and it’s possible to physically feel the difference in the energy levels. It’s not that the support personnel are less capable or have an inferior work ethic, and it’s not that their jobs are unimportant. Often times, their jobs are crucial. The problem is that they don’t get energized by the company’s purpose because they don’t directly contribute to it.

An organization is strongest when there’s a high level of coherence, with everyone aligned in achieving a common purpose. The emotion created by high levels of coherence does more than just inspire greater performance. It also creates an environment in which employees are sharper and more creative. Is the membership boundary in your organization tight enough?

As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.


About the Author:

Jackie Barretta is a writer, speaker and consultant helping organizations strengthen agility and performance by shaping emotional energy. She is a thought leader bringing to light the new science of group emotional energy and connecting it to business performance. She has had a 28-year award winning career as a C-level Fortune 500 executive and Big Four consulting firm professional.
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  1. Angelo Sciarra  July 23, 2012

    Hi Jackie, great article! I have no idea about that on a grand scale but it makes sense to me based on my time in large companies in the past! I’m, however, going through this on a smaller scale! My small business is on the threshold of expanding and my dilemma is finding partnerships with people aligned to the purpose and mission of the business! The motivation for wages and income alone isn’t cutting it, if anything it’s a threat to what we’re out to accomplish because their purpose is aligned to something completely separate from the business.
    This article really got me thinking about who and whom I need to align with in regards to purpose. Thanks for that! Exclusionary? Not in my nature but I can see the benefits for sure, I’m definitely in no position to be carrying unaligned energies at this crucial stage.
    I have a contractor who works with me! He is amazing, I know he’s got my back, I never have to worry about him! He’s solid, believes in commitment, hard and quality work, will stay as long as is needed, is friendly and likes deep and meaningful conversation.. He doesn’t come cheap but what does it matter when the outcome way exceeds the expense. I have the same with our accountant and insurance broker. It so good to know I’m with people who I can not worry about, who’s purpose is aligned to the success of the business through their own purpose.
    Now to develop a system to discern through all that for the next step…. expansion and labour hire, hmmm! Any ideas, anyone?

  2. Iris Sasaki  August 6, 2012

    Excellent article. I’ve never considered the ramifications of exclusion vs. inclusion and when each is appropriate. Thank you for such a thought-generating article!

  3. Daniel Menges  August 6, 2012

    I thought the article was interesting as well.

    I would also like to add that staff members who are not directly involved in a project can still be connected with the organisation’s purpose, though they are excluded from a particular project. This can occur through, for example, socialising, and, sharing other work tasks and projects with these personnel. It is usually good, I think, to let support personnel know that they are contributing to the organisation’s purpose, which supports them to be more motivated, even if indirectly.


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