What do we gain from being connected and engaged with other people? Marianne Williamson wrote, “People crave comfort, people crave connection, people crave community.” So, what does it take to build and maintain a sense of community in the workplace? As a leader, what role do you play? Why is it essential for a good leader to understand the importance of community focus? How does a strong sense of community support employee engagement and retention?
In the workplace, the level of diversity in life experiences, work background, age, and overall thinking can potentially make building community difficult. Effective leaders build, maintain and sustain community within an organization. After all, we spend a lot of our waking hours at work or engaged in work related activities. Research indicates that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. That’s a lot of time! But a leader who can drive team members to collaborate, communicate, and focus on common objectives is one who will go far. As goals are achieved, conversation, celebration, and other activities come into play, providing more opportunities to engage and retain team members and grow the community. Leaders who understand the broader purpose of their organization, how it relates to the general community, and how to instill that same sense of appreciation in the team are winners!
The impetus for having community focus can be driven by internal factors, external causes, or both. Internal factors can include such things as industry demands, regulatory requirements, corporate goals, employee-generated ideas, the desire to just do something good, and even C-suite “pet projects.” External motivators can include various community concerns such as education, hunger, housing, financial literacy, social justice issues…the list can go on.
No matter what the drivers are for embracing a community focus in the workplace, achieving this goal can positively impact employee engagement and employee retention. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately three and a half million people voluntarily leave their jobs every month, costing the company on average 30%-50% of that employee’s annual salary. The cost of not retaining good team members is a hinderance to the team’s productivity, organization’s culture, and it has a negative impact on the bottom line.
Whether you are working to create an organizational culture about community, maintain the existing momentum around community, or shift or broaden your organization’s community focus, here are five behaviors that will help you stretch your community leadership muscles:
- Empower others – There’s nothing like the energy exuded when someone feels they have a stake in the outcome of a situation. Empowering employees to be a part of the process to identify community activities as well as lead activities allows them to feel connected to project outcomes.
- Be a people champion – A strong community focused leader not only empowers the team, she also champions their efforts. When your team members feel supported, they feel confident, inspired and they are more likely to stay with the organization.
- Listen – It’s important to understand the needs and interests of your internal and external audiences to determine how best to build and support the community. Have you ever seen a news story about a city having issues with a new proposed building or development? Residents attend city council meetings to express concerns and oftentimes, that is the first indicator to city leadership that people are unhappy. They hadn’t done their due diligence and taken time to bring community members to the table to see what they really want and what they really need.
- Be inspirational – Inspirational leadership is about energizing the team and creating direction. An inspirational community leader can get buy in and support from team members for the community vision and create a sense of direction and purpose. Another way of putting it is to be motivational.
- Be Authentic – If you’re faking it, they will know. If you want your team to go all in, you must be willing to do the same. No matter if it is a new product launch or a house building project, the leader must “walk the walk” he expects his team members to walk. Have you ever seen someone from the leadership team show up for a community project dressed in business attire when the project calls for jeans, sneaker, and elbow grease? Did he give the impression he came to work, or did he plan to pick up the shovel for the photo op and walk away once the cameras disappeared? What message did that send to the rest of the team?
Do you have what it takes to build community in your organization? If you would like to learn more about Community Focus and other leadership competencies, contact MSBCoach for our coaching opportunities, webinars, and leadership training.