Do you work in an organization where you feel included, empowered and supported by your peers and superiors? Do you believe in the organization’s vision and understand your role in achieving that vision? We all have times when we feel unsupported and undervalued. But, the best places to work know how to translate burnout into engagement. Leading organizations today create organizational community: a sense of the organization as an interdependent entity in which all stakeholders’ needs are taken into consideration and win-win solutions are supported. It is possible for you, your co-workers, and your leaders to create and work as a powerful organizational community if you invest in following eight basic principles.
Creating a sense of organizational community requires setting a clear vision. Do you have a clear roadmap or just a general sense of direction? A clear vision serves as a source of inspiration and alignment for all employees, a daily reminder as to why they are getting out of their warm beds at 6 a.m. A consensus vision also creates accountability throughout the organization, pushing everyone to fulfill his or her responsibilities and goals. But, creating the vision is only half the battle. The other half is in knowing where you are. Having an accurate understanding of current operational realities allows people to make the changes needed to move forward.
When people feel safe and valued they can produce. Successful organizational communities create financial gains, job security, and results. Financial security creates organizational stability, momentum, and greater return on investments. Employee success exists in seeing the positive results of their efforts, feeling that improvement is possible, and feeling that their work matters.
Values and respective behavior may differ from one company to the next, but those that practice organizational community model their values on a daily basis in positive ways. One organization may value individuality and seek to spur creativity and innovation by encouraging all of its employees to dress in a way that best expresses their personality. Southwest Airlines encourages its employees to develop the “Warrior Spirit.” The Google corporate culture emphasizes working together regardless of rank. To promote collaboration, Googlers share cubicles and “huddle rooms” – they have very few solo offices. Whatever values and behaviors express your culture should be clearly articulated and shared.
Leaders are expected to embody the organization’s values. But their main role is to steer the community in the direction of its vision while embracing uncertainty and leading by example. Creating authentic organizational community requires leaders to rethink the way they operate. This can be difficult for leaders, as they have to let go of certainty, acknowledge limitations, and commit to constant examination of their blind spots. When practicing organizational community, leadership does not begin and end with those at the top. All employees are required be proactive and innovative in their search for success – in that sense, everyone is accountable.
Information is power. Information is a tool without which we cannot effectively do our work. While this seems simple in theory, organizations struggle to develop structure for effective communication. This communication includes the way in which information is shared, how well people listen, how clearly the information is delivered. One size does not fit all when it comes to effectively communicating. Is the language free from bias? Are leaders making clear requests that everyone can understand?
Yes, it is important to win, but leading organizations do not focus inwardly. In fact, a company that practices organizational community is incredibly service-oriented. Serving the customer in a caring, culturally competent way is a top priority for these organizations.
Organizations may practice knowledge sharing on a need-to-know basis, but those practicing organizational community are transparent with each other. Transparency between managers and employees creates trust and also allows the employee to understand how their role impacts the greater business. People who think that their work makes a difference in the organization are inherently more invested. Break down barriers that create artificial separations between people and create obstacles to productivity and success.
The more leaders can share, the better. Employees are found much more likely to support their leaders’ decisions if they are included in the original decision making process. This process creates a more engaged workforce as well as better results. Full inclusion means bringing all people together in decision making as well as conflict resolution. Many associate having conflict as a negative thing, but constructive conflict is powerful. Discussing differences as they occur and resolving them promptly allows the organization to continue to take steps forward toward success.
A final thought: Structure creates behavior. A robust organizational community requires investment not just in shifts in attitudes, but new systems, policies, and procedures that ensure inclusiveness and engagement of all employees. The cultures of our organizations and the larger sense of community that we share will ultimately determine the success or failure of our organizations. How do you change a culture? Start with your commitment and then, step-by-step, move into action.
As the founder and chief learning officer of Cook Ross Inc., Howard Ross is one of the nation’s leading diversity training consultants and a nationally recognized expert on diversity, leadership, and organizational change. He is the author of “ReInventing Diversity: Transforming Organizational Community to Strengthen People, Purpose & Performance.” For more information, please call (301) 565-4035, visit http://www.reinventingdiversity.com/ or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.