Two Bobs Show It’s Not All About Them

Posted 07.19.2010

Don't you hate it when a point you've been making to others on a regular basis is made by someone else and you realize you still have a long way to go yourself on the point you've been making?

If you're still with me after that long sentence, I'll fess up that that has happened to me lately. Twice in the same week actually.

A point I'm always making when working with leaders on next level opportunities is to pick up the outside in view and let go of the inside out view. A big part of that in my mind is making the shift from I to We. Common sense, right?  It's one of those things that's easy to say, but hard to do.

The first wake up call for me in the past week was when I read a very nice article in the Washington Post on leadership coach Bob Rosen and his firm Healthy Companies International. Bob shares a lot of wisdom in the article but the one that hit home for me was what he said in this passage:

When Robert Rosen was developing his consulting firm Healthy Companies 20 years ago, he gave speeches on leadership. The psychologist-turned-businessman interviewed chief executives and wrote books, including "Just Enough Anxiety." His company revolved around him.

But that perspective started to shift after he interviewed Helen Alexander, then-chief executive of the Economist Group, who told him with pride that none of its articles had bylines. "People collaborate in creating articles. It was all about us and we're in this together,' " she told him. "I was struck by that."

"To build a company, you have to move from I to we," said Rosen, chairman and chief executive of Healthy Companies International. "This is a challenge a lot of entrepreneurs have — there's got to be a 'we' atmosphere."

Whack up the side of the head number two came in Sunday's New York Times from 81 year old Bob Moore, the founder and CEO of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods. In the Times "The Boss" column, Moore talks about the growth of his company over the last thirty years. An exemplar of moving from I to We, here's what he said at the end of the end of the column:

I decided this year to give my company to my employees through an employee stock ownership plan. Anyone who has been there three years or longer will have a piece of the business. I could have sold it. We get plenty of offers. But my employees, including the sales staff all over the world, have really made it what it is today. I’ll take credit for being the energy and spirit behind it, but they deserve to own the company.

I’m 81, after all, and I can’t take it with me.

So, those are two Bobs that I'm trying to learn from. What have you been learning lately about moving beyond I to We? Have any good advice you want to share?