9. Habit #3: Clarify References to “We”

This page is part of the Holacracy Habits series.

Today you have a new habit to experiment with—it's called Clarify References to “We”.

In most organizations, people are comfortable saying things like, “I'm trying to figure out what we should do about this,” or, “What do we think about this?” but there's a problem with this. Is it clear who is making the decision? Is it clear who needs to take action?

Unconsciously, the word “we” is used to defer to authority to the group. The speaker isn't sure who is supposed to do what. It's actually hiding individual accountability.

Said another way, “we” can’t sense a tension. “We” doesn't have roles and accountabilities. “We” can't be asked for a projection on a project. In general, “we” isn't a reliable team member.

So, remember, this habit is about becoming more conscious of the word “we” and clarifying its meaning when you hear it. And please note: This habit is not about banishing the word “we” from your vocabulary. There are many appropriate uses:“We had record sales last month. Go team!”; or, “This Circle is starting to work well together. I think we are hitting our stride.”

So, obviously “we” isn't a bad word. It just needs to be clarified. This habit is for you to become more conscious and curious, not about becoming the speech police. For now, when you hear someone ask, “What should we do about this?” Take the opportunity to ask, “Which roles or individuals do you mean?” or “Who do you mean by ‘we’?” It's a great way to get clear on who is doing what.

Video: Beware of “We”For more on this habit, check out this short video of HolacracyOne cofounder and Master Coach Brian Robertson.

The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally—not a 20 percent traitor. —Ronald Reagan