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Are You a White Blood Cell?

White blood cells (WBCs), or leukocytes (also spelled “leucocytes,” “leuco-” being Greek for white), are cells of the immune system involved in defending the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials… Wikipedia

Are you a white blood cell? When it comes to an organizational community on the move, white blood cells are pretty indispensable. They are the individuals who are not afraid to attack “disease” and disfunction in an organization. They will consistently go the extra mile to say the extra 2% that needs to be said. The term passive aggressive is not even in their vocabulary. Some of the most influential people in my life are white blood cells. If you are one of these leukocytes then good for you…you are a gift to your organization.

But…hold on a moment…not so fast. There is a thin line between what you might perceive as being a “disease fighter” in your organization and being a “cancer” to your organization. Sometimes white blood cells confuse good tissue from diseased tissue. They might even say to themselves…”it is acceptable to damage a little good tissue for the sake of the team.” To be clear…It is never acceptable to damage the good fabric in an organization for the sake of growth. By “fabric” or “tissue” I mean people. Every healthy part of an organization is extremely valuable. Ask any talent manager and the will tell you that it is extremely difficult to get the right people in the right positions of an organization.

So…if you are someone who can identify with being a white blood cell for your organization and you really want to be helpful…here is what I would suggest.

1. Learn how to communicate with tact… Use phrases like…Help me understand why? As a general rule I would suggest that you ask questions first…If you are new to this whole white blood cell thing, I would recommend asking ten questions to every one suggestion you may have.

2. Check Yourself…Many times organizational disease fighters gets tunnel vision. They attack a problem and are absolutely convinced that they know how to fix it without taking the organization as a whole in view.

3. Check Your Impact…Many leukocyte wannabes hammer away relentlessly without pausing to examine their impact. Remember…your good intentions could also become a cancerous growth to your organization. When you are ready to move on to a new problem to solve, the results of your work should be characterized by organizational health and wellness. However, if the “organizational tissue” left in your wake is characterized by complications and even woundedness…Frankly you are probably a cancer…

4. Take you eyes off yourself… Even if you are currently a cancer to the community you serve, don’t fret. There is hope for you. However, you have to take your eyes off yourself. If your are honest with yourself, you may find that the actions you intend to make things better for everyone at work are really only about making things better for you. The true and mature white blood cell knows that its only real purpose is to make the whole body healthy. Therefore, many who say they are a white blood cells are really only regular cells on a search for their own significance.

If you are are someone who is gifted with discernment. If you are a person who can easily see the problems that plague the world around you. If you are a person with a passion to bring solutions to huge problems to light in your organization, you can be a gift to the people around you. However, be careful with your gift. You are not helping anyone if you are destroying the good with the bad.

I close this post with a similar question to the one I opened with today. Are you a white blood cell or are you a cancer to the people around you? The bad news is that you might be a cancer, the good news is that you don’t have to be.

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