I love meetings. I know it's not the norm. Like many, there was a time when an Outlook meeting notification used to change my entire attitude for the worse. What changed? I started contributing to the conversation. Before that, I was afraid to speak up. I was terrified that I might say something stupid and look incompetent. I operated under the belief that it was better to remain silent and seem inexperienced then to open my mouth and prove everyone right. Luckily, I've been blessed with managers who make me feel like my opinions, founded or unfounded, matter. This experience isn't unique to me. 

Gallup an American research-based, global management consulting company, found that just 3 in 10 workers strongly agree that at work, their opinions matter. They also found that by increasing the ratio to 6 in 10, organizations could realize a 27 percent reduction in turnover, a 40 percent reduction in safety incidents, and a 12 percent increase in productivity. 

A more recognizable term for this concept of "opinions matter" is psychological safety. Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor, who coined the term describes psychological safety as "a shared belief held by members of a team that the group is safe for interpersonal risk-taking." 

Since her research, psychological safety has become a driving force behind employee engagement and productivity. In fact, Google (through its internal research on effective teams) found psychological safety to be the most important trait of its high-performing teams. 

Cultivating an environment that encourages risk-taking doesn't happen overnight. For employees to let down their guard, you'll need to create stronger relationships with a feeling of security and camaraderie -- or in other words, a sense of community. 

Here are five leadership tips that can help you build better relationships and foster a sense of community inspired by Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life.

1. Speak the truth out of respect. 

Be honest. As a manager, it's critical that you relay feedback critical to your team's growth and development -- and encourage them to do the same. Although it's much easier to remain silent and avoid uncomfortable situations, it's a true act of respect is when you're honest with your team. Glossing over issues will only temporarily create a false sense of peace. 

Every manager needs to create a culture that encourages candor. Until you care enough to confront and resolve underlying issues, you'll never create a real sense of community. It's counterintuitive, but when conflict is handled appropriately, you'll grow closer as a team. 

2. Think of yourself less. 

Egotism is a quick way to destroy a community. If we're not careful, pridefulness can drive a wedge between us and others while simultaneously closing us off from vital feedback. But, if we can practice humility by being upfront about our weaknesses, being open to instruction, and being willing to share the spotlight, we will foster more meaningful and trusting relationships.

Anytime you serve others by putting their interests before your own, you inspire loyalty -- a critical component needed to uphold a healthy community. 

In the words of Rick Warren, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it's thinking of yourself less."

3. Practice un-common courtesy. 

We all have team members that can be a little "difficult" to deal with. Different work styles cause friction, friction leads to waning patience, and thin patience leads to irritation. Although a team member may be a little "quirky," they're still an essential member of the team. 

And, if we're completely honest, we all have little idiosyncrasies that drive others crazy. Luckily, in the words of Warren, "community has nothing to do with compatibility." A community is formed when a higher purpose overshadows individual views and unifies members under a common goal. It's a managers responsibility to encourage authenticity by being considerate, respectful of differences, and patient with employees.

A community is formed when people feel safe enough to be themselves and do not fear the judgment of others. 

4. Maintain confidence. 

Only when employees feel safe and accepted, will they share their opinions. What may first seem like vent sessions, are actually a sign that you've created a safe environment where employees confide in you. However, make sure that you maintain a fine line between openness and hearsay. If there are any issues brought up in private, then make sure you address them while preserving confidentiality. What happens in the team needs to stay within the team. Also, don't let unresolved issues turn into bash-sessions or escalate into gossip. 

Inspire a sense of community by having your employee's backs while setting an example that rumors and slander won't be tolerated within the team.

5. Focus on frequency rather than intensity. 

Developing camaraderie and community takes times. You can't miss meetings and blow off team events. A community is built on confidence and the impression that to you, your team matters. The best way to show that something is important to you is to participate. Yes, this means meeting even when you don't feel like it. 

This paragraph from Warren's book sums up the ideal community, "We will share our true feelings (authenticity), encourage one another (mutuality), support each other (sympathy), admit our weaknesses (humility), respect our differences (courtesy), not gossip (confidentiality) and make the team a priority (frequency)."

Published on: Feb 20, 2018