One of the features of inspiring leadership that truly differentiates good bosses from average ones is their knack for building community.
On these teams, it's the level of genuine care and concern team members demonstrate towards each other that really gives it a competitive edge. Sound too soft? Stick around and I'll explain how this concept translates to results.
People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to leadership guru John C. Maxwell has been attributed with coining the phrase above. Whoever said it (and you can leave me a comment if you know), this is what we call community. This is why it works.
This is no cake walk. Arriving here takes a ton of work, starting with leadership setting the wheels in motion. Reason being is that, building community doesn't come from a to do list, and it's not a system or process to implement.
It's a leadership mindset.
It's having leaders in place who have a level of faith to say, "I'm going to foster the environment for such a culture of caring to develop," and by example, others catch on, and it spreads outwardly.
So what does building community really look like? How do you turn this idea of building community into action?
Building community through developing relationships.
First of all, for work communities to stand strong and thrive, it has to be founded on a culture of personal relationships. This means leaders have to invest time with their most valued team members to learn who they really are and what makes them tick.
In turn, this produces great collaboration. It's a team effort, and nobody wins at the expense of the team. Leaders guiding such a team make sure that differences are valued and respected; that there's diversity of opinions, ideas, and perspectives.
Lets dig deeper and take a look at some examples.
I can't stress enough the importance of listening in developing strong relationships. Here's what happens: somewhere along the way into adulthood, we tend to stop listening and learning from others. In fact, it's worse than that. We start telling everybody what to do -- and then we call it leadership. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
If all you do is organize, plan, and implement your systems and tell people what to do, you have a problem. That's not leadership -- it's management. That approach removes the need and the opportunity for your team to contribute -- to participate -- and collaborate on the outcomes.
And the only way you're going to extend that opportunity and open up the door for these relationships to flourish, is to listen -- listen to the contributions of others.
Robert Greenleaf, the founder of the modern servant leadership movement, mentions in his teachings that leaders have to have a profound respect for silence. He said, "don't speak... unless you can improve upon the silence."
I'll never forget that quote. I had never thought of silence as anything except that awkward space you need to fill, because it's uncomfortable! Our natural instinct is to interrupt and jump in with a thought or opinion.
Greenleaf teaches that servant leaders listen first, and speak last. Something magical happens here: as you listen respectfully, and slow down to summarize what the other person wants or needs, they begin to listen respectfully; over time, people learn it as a valued skill.
Let me ask you a question: How well do you know the people in your teams? Do you know the events of their lives that have shaped who they are today? I mean, if you're going to be spending the better part of the week working on a project, you might want to get to know them well. Do you know their dreams for the future? Their strengths, their passions, their gifts, and what they bring to the table beyond what you were sold on in the interview process?
You'll be surprised at how much more talent you may have under the roof that will benefit the company in new ways. Your IT Director may be a closet blogger with brilliant contributions to further your brand promise.
What this means is creating margin in your daily routine to spend time with your people, and not for your own personal gain. This is about investing time with your most valued employees to learn who they really are.
But don't just get together over a Latte to hang out and share hobby stories. The focus should be to deepen relatedness -- by sharing information about yourself and the organization, expressing that you appreciate them and their work, and discussing your intentions openly about performance goals and work strategies.
There's also tremendous benefit in building personal relationships in a community when someone moves to a different company. When you need a favor, a resource, a contact, you can reach out to others and they will reciprocate -- there's history, respect and trust there from previously working together. There is tremendous networking power when you establish community that will last for years.
You need to celebrate. You can't have strong communities if you don't celebrate accomplishments along the way - big and small. Celebrations can be personal or professional in nature -- it can be individual or team celebrations.
Never stop looking for ways to celebrate life together -- that's the essence of community. Think about it now: What have you, or what will you accomplish together, that's a cause for celebration?
We have to accept that we live in the digital age and people work remotely, so it's important to consider how building community extends to connecting in a virtual community, whether through collaboration apps like Slack and Hipchat, a wiki within a company's intranet, or on your company's Facebook page or on LinkedIn.
Whatever your medium for connecting with others, it should be a place where you talk about work and share wins, ideas, challenges and concerns, and get as close as you can to replicating the experience of being in an office together. There's a sense of togetherness there.
But here's the thing: Transparency and trust are key in developing virtual communities. What you share with one, you share with all. And it starts with leaders modeling the behaviors of trust and transparency.
Hubspot, the global digital marketing automation company, redefined what it means to be transparent in business. They are now being recognized as having one of the best company cultures.
HubSpot co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Dharmesh Shah once published an article on his wiki page called "Ask Dharmesh Anything." And that's exactly what "HubSpotters" did -- engaging in a slew of discussions directly with their CTO.
The HubSpot company wiki is a perfect example of HubSpot's internal transparency, offering a platform for cross-departmental collaboration and encouraging communication between any employee and upper management.
Bringing it home
There's tremendous power in building community at work. And the reason it's so important is because people are naturally wired for relationships -- it's what science has proven to be the catalyst for driving human performance. When leaders pave the way for close community to happen, expect this cycle to happen: Trust increases, morale improves, collaboration soars, and productivity will reach new heights.