Did You Know Your Workplace Pecking Order is Killing Your Production?

Chickens live in flocks. All flocks of domestic chickens will establish a pecking order—a hierarchy establishing status and used to maintain control over the flock. For centuries, this top-down hierarchy has been observed and we’ve seen it implemented throughout human history from social status to military ranks and even within the workplace. Being the youngest of ten children, this environment of hierarchy is easily relatable to me. But does this top-down power flow breed the greatest environment for creativity and production within your company?

According to Margaret Heffernan—an entrepreneur, CEO, and author—it doesn’t.

One of my favorite childhood memories growing up on the banks of the Mississippi in Davenport, Iowa, was driving out of the city and seeing the endless miles of rich, dark soil, and the perfect grid patterns of the farms that make up most of the state.

It was a different time back then, we didn’t buy pasteurized milk and eggs from the grocery store. We drove out to a dairy farm and bought eggs that were laid that morning. We bought gallon glass jars full of whole, raw milk that when you opened them, had a nice thick layer of cream.

While the farmer was getting our order ready, I loved to walk over to see the barnyard animals. From the cows and pigs that provided our bountiful supply of food to the chickens and roosters. My dad taught me all about the chickens and their pecking order. He explained that when a rooster crows, he is showing his dominance as the alpha male. He pointed out how the larger chickens chased the smaller ones out of the way of the water bowl. We even observed the chickens fighting for the fluffiest dust to bathe in. Is it truly possible that this culture exists within your business?

Believe it or not, the answer is almost always—yes.

With time, comes seniority, and the presence of a super chicken emerges. Has a particular manager established that things will be done his/her way or the highway? You’ve got yourself a super chicken.

There’s a better way to lead your team than following the same hierarchy used by poultry.

The answer is social capital. Building social capital is the key to unlocking powerful growth and skyrocketing profits.

Social capital can be described with these components:

Trust. It’s developed between team members by consistently setting and obtaining small achievable goals. Obtaining these goals allows each team member to work with one another and feel like their contributions matter.

Time. There is no substitute for time. Just like a sports team performs better at the end of the season compared to the beginning. Your team will perform better as trust deepens, roles are established, and a sense of team is built.

Communication. The key in all relationships—both personal and professional. It needs to be given and received quickly without drama or misreading between the lines. Efficient communication, void of emotion, allows adjustments to procedures and projects to be made on the fly.

Creativity. When every team member feels comfortable expressing his or her opinion freely and without impending criticism, creativity is cultured. Create an environment that establishes trust, where every team member counts.

A great company no longer needs a great leader to throw on a superhero suit and show up to save the day, because no one else can survive without them. A great company has leaders of today that inspire and bring out the best in their team members. Meanwhile, creating a culture that rewards productivity and creativity.

Now the real question. Are you working in a chicken coop? — Click to Tweet

For more on this topic, enjoy Margaret Heffernan’s Ted Talk on “Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work:”