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How To Get Away From 'Me' And Get Into 'We'

Organizational culture is everything. It serves as a defining brand that attracts or detracts future talent. A positive culture will either compel employees to get out of bed in the morning and walk through the rain while being cold, wet, and miserable or, be the decision point to throw in the towel in search of a new, bright and shiny career-ball.


In organizational cultures where entitlement, selfishness, and ego are the daily specials on the menu, how can you—as a leader—create the special sauce that turns a “me” culture into a “we” culture? How can you switch people’s point of focus from the individual level and shift it towards one that considers the overall benefit of the company?


Here’s how: You add another ingredient. That is, you need to interject the special team sauce into everything you—and your people—do.


No Place for “Me”

“Me” people suck. The best example of a “we” culture I can think of is that of the SEAL Teams, for two reasons. First, it is what I know best after having spent thirteen years there. Second, after enduring eight deployments, getting shot on two of them, surviving four parachute malfunctions, and losing more friends than some people will ever know, it was the culture—the people, the purpose, the mission—that kept me going.


You see, from day one of Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S), each trainee is exposed to a sense of higher purpose—an aspiration to reach beyond oneself and focus on what will serve the entire class rather than his own personal need. Trainees quickly learn that selflessness is the foremost metric for personal worth as it immediately shapes one’s reputation. In fact, there are three priorities against which SEALs measure selflessness:

  1. The mission
  2. The team
  3. The individual

The mission always comes first, followed by the team that supports the mission and then the individuals who comprise the team. A shared purpose is what bridges the gap between good and great, mediocrity and superiority. It turns a group of ordinary individuals into an extraordinary team of professionals who share the same focus, same mission, same purpose. In essence, there is no “me.”


Everything in the SEAL Teams is built around a Team culture. See for yourself:

We’re called the SEAL Teams.  

We do everything together. Beginning day one of BUD/S, each student has a “swim buddy” (which is just another student in the class) everywhere he goes. If he needs to take out the trash, he grabs a swim buddy. If nature calls and he has to use the bathroom, he takes a swim buddy. If he has to face a SEAL instructor for punishment, he solicits a very unhappy swim buddy and they both endure punishment together (misery loves company, right?).

Everything is done together because that’s what a Team is about.

We refer to each other as 'Team guys.'

We don't refer to each other as “SEALs," “friends,” or “coworkers.” It doesn’t matter one’s age, background, or previous arrest record (Hey, it happens). Everything and everybody he currently serves is for the betterment of the Team. 

We work in Team rooms. 

At each SEAL command exists Team Rooms that house the smaller teams that comprise the larger command. Each room is one large, open, shared space that—by simple design—fosters transparency and inclusion rather than silos and separation. Each Team Room has its own personality depicted by team pictures, memorabilia, quotes, and upcoming team trips that all serve to create the unique identity of the operators within.

We share a Team motto. 

A common saying among the community is “Teams ‘n’ Sh*t,” which refers to two things that determine our focus:

1) The Team.

2) Everything else.


If you want to interject more of a “we” culture, you simply have to do it...

  • Find reasons for more collective forums.
  • Consult each other in group settings.
  • Get rid of the cubicles (For Heaven’s sake, PLEASE get rid of the cubicles!).
  • Refer to each other as teammates.
  • Have team lunches, team forums, team barbecues.


I realize this might all be new. It might be uncomfortable change and people don't like change (actually, they don't like change when they don't understand why--the best way to get "buy-in" is for people to "weigh in"). 


The fact is, there's no secret sauce to embracing newness other than courage and belief.


Here’s an example. Let’s take creativity. If you want to become more creative one way to do it is to set a goal of generating five new ideas every day for a month so your mind starts developing the habit of creativity. Similarly, by interjecting a “we” focus on every aspect of the company, people’s minds begin to search for that team component, and teamwork becomes the habit; it becomes the priority of focus rather than a nice focus to have.


If you want to build a team culture, align your incentives around we rather than me. Work together. Eat together. Hang out together. Only then will your people’s mindsets begin to shift away from “me” and more towards “we.”

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Every week I share news, articles and insights on mindset, leadership, and teams designed to help you grow as a person, as a team and as a company.


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