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Everything we need to know about a successful work environment, we learned on 9/11

In the wake of marking the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, last week, and as we follow the recent post-Arab Spring developments around the globe, we are provided with yet another opportunity to contemplate what lessons we learned from Sept. 11 and how those lessons might apply to our everyday lives in the here and now.

One place those lessons can be applied is our day-to-day work environment. The following are some examples.

We are all in this together

More than anything, the events of Sept. 11 reawakened us to a sense of community. Though thousands of miles away, people across Idaho shared a collective need to reach out to loved ones and be reassured of their welfare as we reminded ourselves how important those people are in our lives.

Likewise, at work, we need to remember how each member of our workplace family contributes to our individual and team success. Take time to reach out to your co-workers and let them know just how important they are.


Instantly, the people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pa., that fateful day fell in together to help one another and minimize, to the extent possible, the damage. First responders eventually took charge of the situation, but the instant reaction of those in the midst of the falling debris and ash-darkened skies was to look around them and see what they could do to help their fellow humans. The brave folks aboard Flight 93 epitomized that collaborative response.

Cooperation is key to a healthy, productive workplace. In addition to telling co-workers that they are valued, show them that value by looking out for their welfare along with your own. Look around; assess the work environment daily. What can you do to advance the welfare of the organization and the everyday people that embody that organization?


In the aftermath of Sept. 11 it became clear that the effectiveness of the many emergency response agencies that responded to the unfolding events was hampered by the lack of interagency communications. While each agency was well equipped to respond from the context of its unique training, their ability to marshal
their collective effectiveness was thwarted by a communications divide that prevented each agency from benefiting from the perspective and on-the-ground experience of the other agencies.

Communication is essential to an organization’s ability to quickly and effectively respond to day-to-day issues that may arise, whether regarding internal operations or external relationships. Regular interdepartmental communication helps facilitate a “we’re all in this together” mindset, and makes an organization more nimble and accurate in its responses to unforeseen events.

Appreciate diversity

Dare I say it? The seeds of Sept. 11 were sown in our country’s perceived intolerance for other worldviews and lack of respect for divergent cultures, while, in turn, the Muslim extremists behind the Sept. 11 attacks took their intolerance toward our worldview and culture to the extreme. For many of us, Sept. 11 was a huge “wakeup call” in terms of beginning to comprehend how much misunderstanding exists between our culture and that of those who have become willing foot soldiers for al-Qaida. All the security measures in the world won’t bridge that gap.

Workplace diversity is a popular buzz term in today’s business environment that often ends up sounding like just so much political correctness. But whether you view the term through the lens of racial or gender diversity, or through the much broader lens of acknowledging that our personal way of doing things is not the only way, the truth is that the more diverse our workforce, the more perspectives we will be able to call on when trying to remain competitive and relevant in a changing landscape. The days of being able to succeed by simply selling our product or services to others who look, act and have the same beliefs as us are fading fast, as the world we live and do business in becomes increasingly smaller.

Expect the unexpected

Need I say more?

Recognizing, at a cellular level in your company that change is inevitable is key to being able to respond to that change. When we become too invested in “business as usual,” we limit our ability to be open to new ideas and the people who have them, and we limit our company’s potential to grow and evolve.


Molly O’Leary represents business and telecommunications clients throughout Idaho, and is a managing member of Richardson & O’Leary, PLLC, in Boise (www.richardsonandoleary.com). In addition, Ms. O’Leary serves as President of the Idaho State Bar Board of Commissioners, and on the statewide advisory council for the Idaho Small Business Development Center. You can follow her on Twitter: @BizCounselor.

About Molly O'Leary

One comment

  1. Ms. O’Leary, dare I say it? Yes, you are a fool–or at the very least have been fooled. You state “the seeds of Sept. 11 were sown in our country’s perceived intolerance for other worldviews and lack of respect for divergent cultures….” This is not true, not even remotely true. We were attacked on Sept. 11 by Islamic “true believers” who are perfectly representative of the intellectual and moral leadership of Islam, and whose goal is to either kill or convert to Islam every damn one of us. Why do I say this? Because this is precisely what the most respected Islamic leaders worldwide state repeatedly, clearly and succinctly. Their stated goal–their only goal– is to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate living under the strictures of Sharia law (you know, women as property, killing homosexuals, stoning girls for being raped, that sort of thing); to accomplish this you, and I, and all of us, must be either killed or converted. Your choice. It is they who are intolerant, and this intolerance is at the very core of their religious beliefs. This nonsense about our supposed cultural insensitivity, the suffering of the Palestinians, insulting cartoons, or any other number of stated grievances, is simply a tactic employed to rally the masses to fight in the broader war. Repeating such nonsense simply assists them in the war against us. This is a war for our very survival, and we should take it seriously, and fight aggressively, unless of course you like the Sharia lifestyle. Again, your choice