27 September 2023

Getting connected: The need for workplace community

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John Eades* recalls a Starbucks moment that made him realise the importance of community, both at work and in life.

Almost every day I just have to have it.

On my drive into the office, I pass the first one with ease, the second one gets harder, but by the third, my car pulls in seemingly on its own.

Starbucks’ Americano is a powerful drug.

On one particular day, after picking up my coffee, I walked out of the store only to run into a gentleman I see there daily, engaged in conversation with other regulars.

As I passed him, I noticed something odd. He was walking in already with a full cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup.

At first, I didn’t think anything of it, but then it hit me.

He doesn’t go to Starbucks for the coffee; he goes for the connection and community.

The need for connection and community isn’t confined to your local Starbucks. It’s important at work too.

Facebook Executives, Lori Goler, Jane Gale and Brynn Harrington conducted research in 2018 to uncover what their employees valued most.

After examining hundreds of thousands of answers they identified three big buckets of motivators — career, community, and cause.

Ms Goler described community as “feeling respected, cared about, and recognised by others. It drives our sense of connection and belongingness”.

Other research has shown that the quality and quantity of social relationships are linked to mental health, morbidity, and mortality.

Solid connections and belonging are as important to our health and happiness as food, water, and shelter.

If you find yourself in a position of leadership, part of your responsibility is to create an environment where people can feel connected because when we are connected, we are committed.

Connection is the key to commitment, and committed teams perform better.

Here are a few ways to create connection and a sense of community on your team.

Allow people to connect with you.

The old school style of leadership believed the manager was supposed to keep an arms-length distance from people.

Executives had reserved parking spots, exclusive coffee makers, and closed-door policies.

The best leaders today allow themselves to connect with their people by being vulnerable.

Let people know the real you.

This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends, but put down the masks and share your challenges and passions as well as your strengths and weaknesses.

By allowing people to know these things, you set the bar for connections amongst your team members.

Change your mindset from efficiency to effectiveness.

If you are a high performer at work, there is a good chance you have an efficiency mindset.

You are driven to be efficient and productive in almost every moment of your day.

This will hurt you when it comes to relationships and being connected with others, according to author, Scott Miller.

He told me on a recent episode of the Follow My Lead podcast: “People are not the company’s most important asset. It’s the relationship between those people.

“You have to move from efficiency to an effective mindset when it comes to relationships.”

You can’t rush connection at work, it is going to take time, and it’s your job to be patient and create an environment where people feel like they belong.

Start your weekly meeting with a ‘moment of connection’.

There is so much time wasted in meetings, why not start your weekly meeting with some real and honest connection.

On a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast keynote speaker, Rachel Druckenmiller shared a concept she learned called the ‘inside scoop’.

“For the first five minutes of a meeting, one person gets to share pictures that show how important their life is to them,” Rachel said.

It’s amazing what happens to teams when they know there is soul beyond the role.”

This powerful exercise will bring people together on your team.

Even if you lead a remote team, or only get together a couple of times a year, start your meetings with a moment of connection.

The ripple effects will go far beyond the immediate time you spend.

What are the best ways you create connections on your team or in your organisation? Is connection as important as research suggests?

*John Eades is the Chief Executive of LearnLoft a leadership development company. He can be contacted at johneades.com.

This article first appeared on John’s LearnLoft blog.

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