Note: A version of this article was originally published on Forbes Business Council.
How can it be that when technology has allowed us to be more connected than ever before, so many of us feel more disconnected and isolated?
Most of us are aware that the absence of social interaction that accompanied the pandemic eroded our health, productivity and sense of fulfillment. The continued post-pandemic shift to hybrid working models may add to those feelings of isolation. We need to find work environments that foster a greater sense of connection and belonging.
It’s a huge challenge: how can we combat this sense of isolation while still enjoying the freedom and flexibility of the hybrid era?
The answer comes down to one word: community.
The word “community” may 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 belonging with their colleagues. 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 because, in my global work as a leadership advisor, I often find this to be one of the greatest areas of neglect.
But when companies establish strong communities of leaders, the results and impact on employees, customers and the business can be amazing.
So how do you do it?
Here are 15 ways to be a community builder as a leader at the organizational, team, and individual level.
The Organizational Level:
How you collaborate across the organization
- Assess the status of your relationships. Think about the colleagues you work with most frequently. Are these relationships strong? If they are, great. If not, you need to take immediate steps to build stronger connections.
- Reach out to peers. Reach out and connect with your fellow leaders. Be deliberate; don’t sit back and wait for chance meetings. When you do reach out, make a point of sharing your challenges and asking for advice on addressing them.
- Repair strained or weak relationships. Connect with a peer where you know the relationship needs to be better. Ask to have a conversation about how you can work more effectively together.
- Break down silos. Silo thinking is one of the biggest barriers to effective execution in organizations. Be the leader who actively breaks down silos between teams, departments, functions and divisions.
- Reorganize your time to prioritize relationship building. Relationship building will be even more critical as we transition to a new world of hybrid work. Do you have time in your schedule to connect with colleagues and direct reports? What do you want those check-ins to look like in this new world of work? Be deliberate about learning how to organize your time so that you can prioritize building relationships.
- Be a unifier, not a divider. Ultimately, being a community builder is about committing to being a unifier, not a divider. Organizations are filled with leaders who create division, unnecessary internal competition and rivalry. Decide to be the leader who brings people together, not pulls them apart. If you do, you will set yourself apart as a truly extraordinary leader, and your peers and colleagues will rally around you.
The Team Level:
How you lead your team
- Connect your team to your company’s purpose. Research has shown that people who work for a purpose-driven company feel much more connected and engaged than people who cannot identify a tangible purpose in their work.
- Make work meaningful. As a leader, you must make your team’s work as significant as possible. A simple way to do this is to ensure that each team member knows how their day-to-day efforts contribute to its success.
- Conduct pulse checks during team meetings. You can check for clarity on meaning and purpose by asking your team to identify how a specific project ties back to the organization’s larger strategic goals.
- Review strategic priorities together regularly. My research reveals that one of the critical behaviors of accountable leaders is that they effectively and regularly communicate strategy to their teams. Help your team draw connections between those big-picture priorities and their job priorities.
- Tie praise back to purpose. When you celebrate an accomplishment or compliment someone, tie your praise back to the purpose. For example: “Thanks again for your hard work on that design. It looks great, and it will help us achieve our goal of reducing waste in the manufacturing process.”
The Individual Level:
How you show up as a leader
- Commit to being a community builder. Think about how you approach leadership now. Are you obsessed with your self-interests? Do you waste a lot of time and energy on office politics and protecting your turf? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you have some internal work to do before your peers trust you.
- Develop a one-company mindset. Do you spend all your time focused solely on your team or department? Push yourself to think bigger. Sometimes all it takes is one leader sacrificing time or resources to help a colleague to shift a whole company’s thinking.
- Celebrate the success of peers and colleagues. With a one-company mindset, your colleague’s success is your success. Take time to invest in relationships and support your peers. Make sure you are a good leader and a good follower.
- Cultivate credibility and trust. Community builders work tirelessly to cultivate strong credibility and trust with their colleagues. What about you? How can you strengthen your credibility and, in so doing, build trust?
More Leadership Resources
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