Getting Out of Bystander Mode

How do we break through the “bystander effect”? What does it take to get people to act instead of being held captive by the inertia of a passive group? Al Pittampalli[1] picked up a good idea from an effective panhandler tactic:

Some panhandlers have gotten smarter. They work with a partner who pretends to be an ordinary commuter. The partner gives first and we know what happens next…

I constantly fight against this effect when trying to shift ingrained corporate cultures. Too often a team can get stuck in negative attitudes, become passive, and effectively stall out. At which point, the ability to execute successful projects goes out the window.

The more entrenched the (negative) culture is, the more desperate the need for an effective tool to break through and redirect. Leadership by example is an excellent way to do just that. I hadn’t thought of it in quite these terms, but this is exactly what I’ve found to be effective over the years. If I can win over the most difficult person on the team and help them shift their thinking (and actions), they can become a phenomenal asset to helping win over the rest of the team.

As team leaders, it’s our opportunity to focus our leadership efforts on key areas to create tipping points for our teams. We can help shape the culture of our teams and in doing so, significantly help them be more successful. The challenge for me is to keep this strategy front of mind and be more intentional with using it.

Have you used this strategy effectively before? How about other ideas for how to shift a team towards action?

  1. Al’s book “Read This Before Our Next Meeting” is a must read for changing how we approach meetings in the current corporate world.  ↩