Whether you are a leader or a team member, there are practical steps you can take to begin building community in your team.
- Hire community builders. A great way to move a team toward community is to select individuals with a desire for this environment and a willingness to contribute to its creation. While job-specific skills are very important, the most competent candidate may not be the best choice; skills can be taught. Hire for “who” and teach any additional, necessary skills.
- Create space for community. It is difficult for community to grow in the soil of busyness, so take an intentional approach. Try a weekly team or office gathering to share lunch and provide personal updates and announcements. Establish quarterly community building experiences and invite families to join from time to time. Be consistent and trust the process. It may seem awkward at first, but team performance and fulfillment will improve as individual members begin to know and be known by their team mates.
- Model community. The best leaders know their people. Become a master at asking questions and listening to the answers. Look for opportunities to serve each person on your team and connect individual team members who can encourage and support one another during times of need.
- Recognize and reward community builders. People will repeat attitudes and behaviors that are affirmed. Over time, the behaviors that are recognized and rewarded become normal tenets of workplace culture. If you want community on your team, highlight community-building attitudes and reward those whose behavior serves the goal.
- Think differently. It has to start here. Beliefs drive attitudes and behaviors; regular efforts toward building community will not become the norm until team members believe it is critical for individual fulfillment and team performance.
- Start with one. Like any significant culture shift, moving from a group of co-workers to a community is a big change. It requires vulnerability and consistent effort over a period of time. Tackle this in the same way you would eat an elephant—one bite at a time. Choose one person on your team or in your department and ask him or her a question that goes beyond the normal office conversation. Identify one need in a team member’s life and serve him or her by meeting that need. Invite one person to lunch or coffee and share with him or her a bit about yourself. Then, ask one more question, serve one more person, and share one more lunch.
- Open up. True community will never develop unless team members share a bit of themselves with others. No one can know us unless we allow ourselves to be known. No one can serve unless we allow our needs to be known. For some people, this is the hardest part; it will be easier in some environments than others. But, the end result of workplace community is worth the effort!
If community is lacking in your team, where will you start? If community is a desired hallmark of your culture, what steps can you take to enhance this quality within your team?