I spent last week hosting a wonderful group of Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program alumni and faculty for a retreat here in Santa Fe; the theme was "Land of Enchantment: The Magic of a Coaching Community." The whole experience got me to thinking about what exactly is the magic of a community, and why it is important for leaders to create and sustain community in the workplace. We often talk about leading teams in organizations, based on the power to influence the team members, but I believe there's an important distinction between leading teams and communities, and especially for leaders at the top, both are key competencies.
What is a community? The dictionary gives us two relevant definitions: a social group whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage; and a social, religious, or occupational group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society. We all belong to multiple, and often overlapping, communities by virtue of place and heritage, although we may feel varying degrees of connectedness to them. For most of us, our earliest powerful communal experience was in school, and we later graduated into a workplace community, and perhaps into a professional community.
A team, as you'll recall, is a group – usually fairly limited in number – united in pursuit of a common purpose or goal. At work, that's usually some kind of specific goal – product development, sales, production, research, for example, or some special project in one of those areas. The leader's role is to set a clear goal and develop some rules of engagement for the team, then keep it moving in the right direction at the right pace. Some teams succeed in being self-directed, although that's not common, because it's very difficult. But a community is something larger and more amorphous, and a well-functioning community does produce something akin to magic.
Community in the workplace depends on a few key elements: a shared set of values, a shared sense of identity, a shared concern for the welfare of its members. Perhaps a shared set of quality and behavioral standards as well, and an understanding of what makes this particular community unique and distinct, even if its membership is diverse. Signs of a strong community at work include an engaged and motivated workforce, a culture of caring for one's fellow workers, a willingness to pitch in and pull together when times are tough. Dysfunction in the community would mean the opposite – a pervasive attitude of "what's in it for me," high rates of absenteeism and "presenteeism", low rates of productivity and innovation.
The leader's role in creating community is simple, if not easy – to articulate community values and not only individual expectations, to inspire a sense of "we're all in this together for the greater good," to model what it means to be a good community member in both good times and bad. The payoff is a healthy organizational culture that supports effective teamwork in the service of achieving the organization's goals. Human beings seek belonging, and community, whether in the larger society or in their work and professional lives. If you can provide that for them, you have created a very powerful draw.
Sustaining a strong community over time is equally important, and requires constant attention by the leaders of an organization. There are strong pressures, both internal and external, that contribute to the destruction of good communities, and you have to stay tuned in to the culture to counter their effects. Paying attention to prevailing values and attitudes, and maintaining practices and policies that support a strong community are critical aspects of "sustainable leadership." The magic doesn't happen – or last -- by itself.
Do you want to instill a strong sense of community in your organization? A coach can work with you to become a more inspiring leader. Let's talk! Call (505)992-2675, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S., Germany and Japan have the most multimillionaires, according to an analysis of high-net-worth individuals. The U.K. follows, then several emerging markets, including India, Brazil and China.
American states with the highest percentage of entrepreneurial personality traits are located in the West, according to research that included online surveys of hundreds of thousands of respondents. And indeed, most business entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. takes place in these states. Some researchers think it's because of the frontier gene pool.
Two-thirds of working adults surveyed said their companies would accommodate their requests for flexible working arrangements (such as taking time off for a child's illness), but 47% said that asking for such flexible benefits would hurt their chance of advancement. Seems there's a disconnect here.
A tech startup firm envisions the day when there will be "hands-free reading", without heavy books or clumsy Kindles, with a device akin to Google Glass. You'll be able to lie on your back and look at the ceiling, with the "reading experience" projected in front of your eyes. It's still a few years off, though.
"So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World", by Margaret J. Wheatley. What I like about it: I heard the author speak about her latest book at a conference last winter, and she says it best: "This book describes how we can do our good work with dedication, energy, discipline, and joy by consciously choosing a new role for ourselves, that of warriors for the human spirit."
Executive Coach, Strategy Consultant
Principal, Bloomfield Associates
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Check out the new e-book version of the second edition of On Becoming a Leadership Coach: A Holistic Approach to Coaching Excellence, edited by Chris Wahl, Clarice Scriber, and Beth Bloomfield. You can order it now on Amazon. Written by faculty members of the Georgetown University Leadership Coaching Program, it contains more than a third new content and an update of most of the original.
It’s a wrap! The Georgetown Leadership Coaching Alumni Retreat held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the first week of October was declared a great success by participants. We enjoyed a good balance of learning and fun activities. There’s already some impetus for doing it again next year, same time, same place. Next year we want a lot more people from the West to attend! If you’re a Georgetown alumnus or faculty member, and you want to stay informed, contact Beth Bloomfield at (505) 992-2675, or email.