dr. Vince MolinaroCEO of Leadership Contract Inc., is a bestselling author and advisor to the NY Times on scaling leadership responsibility.
How come when technology has enabled us to be more connected than ever before, many of us feel more closed off and isolated?
Most of us are aware that the absence of social interaction that accompanied the pandemic has affected our health, productivity and sense of accomplishment. The ongoing post-pandemic shift to hybrid work models may amplify those feelings of isolation. We need to find work environments that foster a greater sense of belonging and belonging. It is a huge challenge: how can we counteract this sense of isolation and still enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the hybrid era?
The answer comes down to one word: community.
The word “community” can come across as a big, amorphous, and abstract concept, but it starts with something simple: the ability of leaders to build strong relationships and create a sense of purpose, meaning, and connection with their peers. These relationships create a culture of accountability, which in turn inspires employees to deliver results.
I’ve written extensively about the importance of building a community of leaders in my books, as I often view it as one of the biggest areas of neglect in my global leadership consultant work. But when companies build strong communities of leaders, the results and impact on employees, customers and the business can be staggering.
So how do you do it? Here are 15 ways to be a community builder as a leader at the individual, team and organizational levels.
The individual level
1. Bet on being a community builder. Think about how you approach leadership now. Are you obsessed with your self-interest? Do you waste a lot of time and energy on office politics and protecting your property? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you have some internal work to do before your colleagues trust you.
2. Develop a one company mindset. Do you spend all your time solely on your team or department? Challenge yourself to think bigger. Sometimes it only takes one leader to sacrifice time or resources to help a colleague change the thinking of an entire company.
3. Celebrate the success of colleagues and colleagues. With a one-company mentality, your colleague’s success is your success. Take the time to invest in relationships and support your colleagues. Be a good leader and a good follower.
4. Build credibility and trust. Community builders work tirelessly to build strong credibility and trust with their peers. And you? How can you strengthen your credibility and build trust?
The team level
1. Connect your team to your company’s purpose. Research has shown that people who work for a purpose-driven company feel a lot more connected and engaged than people who cannot identify a tangible purpose in their work.
2. Make work meaningful. As a leader, you need to make the work of your team as important as possible. An easy way to do this is to make sure every team member knows how their daily efforts contribute to its success.
3. Perform pulse checks during team meetings. You can check for clarity on meaning and purpose by asking your team how a specific project aligns with the organization’s larger strategic goals.
4. Regularly evaluate strategic priorities together. My research shows that one of the most important behaviors of responsible leaders is to communicate strategy effectively and regularly to their teams. Help your team make connections between those big priorities and their work priorities.
5. Link praise back to the goal. When you celebrate an achievement or compliment someone, link your praise back to the goal. For example, “Thanks again for your hard work on that design. It looks great and will help us achieve our goal of reducing waste in the manufacturing process.”
The organizational level
1. Assess the status of your relationships. Think about the colleagues you work with most often. Are these relationships strong? If they are, great. If not, take immediate steps to build stronger connections.
2. Connect with peers. Reach out and connect with your fellow leaders. Be intentional; don’t sit back and wait for chance encounters. When you reach out, make it a point to share your challenges and ask for advice on how to tackle them.
3. Fix tense or weak relationships. Connect with a colleague you know needs to improve the relationship. Ask for a talk about how to collaborate more effectively.
4. Break down silos. Silo thinking is one of the biggest barriers to effective execution in organizations. Be the leader actively breaking silos between teams, departments, functions and divisions.
5. Reorganize your time to prioritize relationship building. Building relationships will be even more important as we move into a new world of hybrid work. Do you have time in your agenda to connect with colleagues and direct reports? What do you want those check-ins to look like in this new world of work? Be mindful of learning how to organize your time so you can prioritize relationship building.
6. Be a unifier, not a divider. Ultimately, being a community builder is about committing to being a unifier, not a distributor. Organizations are full of leaders who create divisions, unnecessary internal competition and rivalry. Decide to be the leader who brings people together, not tear them apart. Doing so will set you apart as a truly extraordinary leader and your peers and peers will rally around you.
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