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Community Starts With Building Relationships at Work
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Community Starts With Building Relationships at Work




A strong corporate culture is needed to keep employees engaged and committed to moving the organization foward. Developing a sense of community at your organization starts with building relationships at work, whether you’re in the office or virtual.

BIG IDEA:

Now, more than ever, it’s critical to focus on developing community at your organization.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen many senior leaders look back with nostalgia on pre-pandemic office culture. On some unconscious level, it’s like they believe that everyone was engaged in their work just because everyone was in the same physical space, and occasionally ate cake for someone’s birthday. 

But the statistics on employee engagement prove that engagement was dismal in the age of free cake in the breakroom. And research is proving that employees have responded really well to remote work. They’ve been just as productive at home. And now, about 65% of employees who can work remotely say they’d take a pay cut of up to 5% to be able to continue working from home.  

It’s clear that employees don’t want to go back to the old way of working. Leaders are going to have to adapt. And with more people working remotely, it will be more critical than ever to build a community to hold organizations together and enable collaboration.  

WHY IT MATTERS: 

We need community to accomplish great things. For this, we must be deliberate in building solid relationships at work.

In today’s complex world, collaboration and innovation are more important than ever. As Gina Bianchini, CEO of Mighty Networks, says in episode 2 of Lead the Future podcast, “If you look at any great movement or moment where people decided that there was something new and better, it comes out of a physical scene of people coming together and pushing each other towards that goal, towards that new culture with those new norms and new expectations. It’s been everything from music or political movements, philosophy, art – every single one of those tremendous steps came from communities, not from individuals.”  

Research has proven that companies with diverse leadership, in terms of both inherent characteristics and diverse experiences, are 70% more likely to capture a new market than companies without diverse leadership. 

Companies today are also far more likely to be global than ever before, and global teams must work together remotely regardless of the state of the pandemic. The challenge for leaders is to learn to build community in this new, remote environment—and stop looking back to an imagined office culture that’s not coming back and was never as strong as they imagined, anyway.  

THE IMPACT: 

The organizations with the strongest communities will win.

The research I conducted for my book, Accountable Leaders, showed a strong correlation between culture, performance, and accountable teams. For example, when employees see managers are aligned towards common goals and support one another, their engagement rises to 72%, but when they don’t see a strong culture around them, only 8% are engaged.  

Our research also found that high-performing companies have more accountable teams than their competitors and that teams in high-performing companies score higher on all measures of accountability than teams at average or poor-performing companies.   

Accountable teams have a high degree of clarity about what they must accomplish, and a strong commitment to doing what it takes to do the work. Similarly, communities of leaders have clear expectations, so leaders know what they are called upon to do, exhibit a high degree of trust between colleagues, and hold everyone accountable to do the hard work required in their role. 

Building strong communities is more challenging in an age of remote work—there’s no getting around that. But your company’s leadership culture can either be an asset or a liability. The choice is yours, and it starts with your ability to build genuine work relationships with your direct reports and your colleagues. 

WHAT TO PAY ATTENTION TO: 

Community starts with relationships.

Community can feel like a big, amorphous concept. But it starts with something simple: relationships between colleagues. My research shows that in a strong leadership culture, leaders share a common aspiration to be great leaders; they lead with a united front and a one-company mindset; they celebrate success and hold one another accountable; they keep politics to a minimum and collaborate effectively. All of these characteristics of a strong culture require relationships to flourish. Now more than ever, you need to prioritize building relationships with your peers and your direct reports.  

You don’t want to be trying to rebuild or repair a relationship in a time of great stress. Focus on building relationships and connection at work now, so that those bridges are there when you need them.

  • Be deliberate about thanking your colleagues and praising your direct reports—a little appreciation can go a long way.
  • Make time to connect for coffee, lunch, or a quick check-in, whether in person or remote.
  • Look for creative ways to keep that community spirit alive despite geographic separation.

Your team, and your organization, will be stronger for it.  

What are you doing to grow a strong community of leaders at your organization? 

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