"You" are now "They"

One of the greatest pieces of advice I was presented before I took charge of people in the Army was, “You” are now “They.” It made me reflect on my days as a subordinate, complaining about “them,” how screwed up they were and how I and my fellow co-workers could do it better. I was not about to become “They” and it made me think hard about what kind of “They” I wanted to be. “They” has such a negative connotation and I, being an optimist did not want a “we/they” atmosphere. I wanted to work hard to create an “Us” atmosphere. I did this by reflecting on what I disliked about “They” and how I could do it better. I wouldn’t be perfect and I knew there would always be some in the “They” bashing crowd. I connected with subordinates as much as I could to shrink the natural chasm which would form between us. In so doing I was able to increase mutual understanding about our two worlds. For a brief but important moment, I could see the world through their lens and they could see it through mine. It went a long way and it required constant presence to crush this “we/they” mentality which I knew to be unhealthy.

Rob Campbell