Make the Shift from ‘Me’ To ‘We’


The most listened-to radio station in the world is WIIFM, which stands for “What’s in it for me?” Some people throw this question like a trump card: answer with enough for me and you win my cooperation, but if I find your answer insufficient I may ignore you and your request completely.

I’m tired of this question being used so often and with such depressing power. Here’s why: Small children live for individual attention and immediate gratification: “Give me,” “I want,” “It’s mine.” But we’re not little kids anymore, and “it’s all for me” is a pretty narrow place from which to participate in the world.

When you make the shift from “me” to “we,” as in “What’s in it for us?,” other people become as important to you as you. His frustration counts as much as yours, so you listen more carefully and offer better help. Her needs make a difference in your life, so you pay more attention and do a better job.

When you make the shift from “me” to “we,” other people feel taken care of, appreciated and understood. They feel good, and you feel better, too.

A colleague’s good mood brightens up your own. Your customer’s satisfaction leads to your success. You achieve your goals by helping others reach theirs. “What’s in it for you” is fulfilled by creating what’s in it for them. Business is like that. Life is, too.

Categories: Service Culture
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14 Responses

  1. Vinay Kumar says:

    Most excellent. I live by 2 simple rules:

    1. Play Nice.
    2. Take Care of Others; Help Them Succeed.

    When these 2 rules are applied, it’s amazing how you are taken care of in return. Love your posts Ron. Thank you.


  2. John McCurdy says:

    Indeed, Ron, I think that this exact shift, from “me” to “we,” is what will soon transform our world into something amazing and wonderful. In fact it is already happening, and I believe that those people and organizations—everywhere and in all walks of life—who are unwilling to make this shift are soon to find themselves on the outside looking in, as surely as certain Arab leaders who have been in the news of late.

    The one caveat, for me, is to remember that “we” is not about debasing “me.” In capitalism “me” becomes more important than “you,” and in socialism “you”—or the collective—becomes more important then “me.” Neither work, as history has amply shown.

    In “WE” you matter just as much as I matter, and so does the collective. But I also matter just as much as you matter, and just as much as the whole collective matters, and when we start to understand that we will indeed have a grand new Earth! In “WE” everyone’s voice matters, everyone is respected, and everyone is free to live as they wish, as long as they allow that same freedom and respect for everyone else.

    Sorry to get philosophical on you, but you asked what we think and you reminded me of something I am very passionate about.

    I love your articles Ron, and have followed them for many years, for though I am a small one-man business the things you teach are how I choose to live and to do business.

    All the best to you!

  3. Dan Haygeman says:

    I like Vinay’s 2 simple rules. I’m reminded of the 2 rules from ‘Nomad University’:

    1. Honor the local customs.
    2. Clean up after your camels.

    I see these as another take on the switch from ‘me’ to ‘we’. . . not me about my game rules (local customs matter). . . and not ‘what can I get someone else to take care of for me?’

    What I notice in my own life is that the focus shift to a ‘service orientation’ really does produce a very different experience of my life. The issue for me is establishing enough support for that shift that I can keep it in mind when life presses in. In that way, I see the value of a ‘Service Culture’: I don’t need to keep it in my mind exclusively, ‘our’ culture takes care of keeping ‘my’ service orientation present.

  4. Andrew Cohn says:

    Thanks for your post, Ron. A very important distinction, to be sure.

    This is not “consultant speak”. It’s the difference between engaging employees and not, between leading and simply occupying a leadership position. So in addition to the altruistic and simply helpful aspects of moving to “We”, the shift is extremely practical.

    The industry in which I worked earlier in my career, in law practice, was well known for “Me” consciousness, which in my opinion explains the very high level of turnover, burnout and mistrust law firms are known for.

    Since then I have had the privilege of working with and supporting leaders who recognize that engaging, including and leveraging the talents of others is critical to success- particularly in the current environment of limited resources and market pressures.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  5. says:

    Yes it is true the strength of “me to we” is almost as strong as “you to us”. Even though sometimes the purpose can be to manipulate another by assumption. For example, if we tryng to sell something to somebody that mostly weighted by something else, I mean not almost 100% honest but in the sense of marketing by over-promising it is manipulation, even it is not illegal.

  6. Tango Balraj says:

    Absolutely agree. ‘We’ is a powerful word, and when complemented with the right actions brings great results.
    It had great impact on our team…people just volunteer to do task, share ideas and knowledge, take blame when things go wrong, going out of the way to do things.
    No need to supervise….just set the direction. We had a great year as a global team in 3 locations with 4 nationalities .

    Your articleas are great Ron. Take care

  7. Narendra says:

    Dear Ron,
    I completely agree with you. It is high time we start looking beyond WIIFM and most important FM radio. It sounds silly. I feel talking about WIIFM concept very contradictory as all over the training program and workshop we as trainers then talk about teams and collective approach.
    It has to be Me to We shift.

  8. Siu, Hong Kong says:

    A personal experience though not really related to service quality.

    In my previous promotion interview, I start most of my answers with WE rather than “I” …. Panel Chair’s comment was I am taking the whole department’s perspective rather than personal – which showed my commitment!

  9. Johanna says:

    As a Canadian of a previous generation, I was raised to make decisions designed to be for the good of many over the benefit of one.
    Sadly, we are losing that focus.
    Customer service and employee satisfaction requires more than friendly or collegial approaches. It takes real thinking about what would be in the best interests of others and then making corporate decisions designed to benefit all.
    Sadly our Wall Street Barons have set the greedy “me” model and “we” have followed. However, as we see around the world… change can happen.

  10. Vinay Kumar says:

    Most excellent. I live by 3 simple rules:

    1. Show Up.
    2. Play Nice.
    3. Help Others.

    When these 3 rules are applied, it’s amazing how you are taken care of in return. Love your posts Ron. Thank you.

  11. Ray Bigger says:

    Never was that more true than those in sales or should I say selling. For the millions who would call themselves professional sales people and engaged in selling a multitude of goods and services the really successful sales person is the one who actually stops selling and takes on the mantle of a business person. not a sales person, who first understands business. only then can that business person really engage and enthsue a buyer as someone who can solve an issue then everyone wins. in the same way that managers at every level should stop managing and caoch their people at the same time give them the space to perform the tasks they enjoy doing well. That requires a mind set transformation and there in lies the real challenge. Finally Ron is absolutely right

  12. Juline Singorahardjo says:

    There is nothing wrong with WIIFM really. the problem lies with the interpretation of the question.
    WIIFM becomes ugly only when the “Me” stands for “My selfish benefits”. What if the “Me” stands for “My becoming a better person”? is that not a beautiful question?
    In a nut shell, there are different ways of seeing the question WIIFM, it could either be positive or negative, depending on what is important to you, and you want out of yourself.

  13. Ker Bee Lay says:

    You are absolutely right, Ron.

    However, the world is filled with so many selfish individuals who always think of “me” first and “me” only.

    Those of us who tried to convert them by applying the “we” and “us” almost always get brushed off as fools.

    In the minds of these selfish individuals, anything suggested by someone is suspicious – they want something from me, this will inconvenience me……


  14. Markus Reuter says:

    It sounds so simple and is yet so elementary.
    It is just the truth.

    All religions (I know of) value this truth in their inner values.
    All people who follow this truth find themselves to ‘end up’ happy and success comes out natural as a secondary effect.

    It takes wisdom to put a simple truth into simple words everyone understands. Thank you for finding the words, Ron.

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