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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Building Community

That old saying “no man is an island” still rings true today. We are all connected with others in myriad ways, and we all depend on a large network of people to do our work, enjoy life, and, frankly, to survive. The CEO of a company might receive most of the fame and recognition, but that person’s success is intrinsically linked to others—their mid-level managers, the company custodians, the IT support team, the customers who believed in the company and its offerings.

This interconnectedness extends to our personal lives as well. We rely on the farmer to harvest food, the construction crew to repair our roads, the teacher to educate our children. I often see this community and interconnectedness at play with my grandson. He and his parents rely on care from a network of people. It truly “takes a village” to raise a child.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of community.

A strong community offers support, resources, and guidance. It not only provides us with necessities, but uplifts us and motivates us to keep going.

Today, we might find a sense of community and belonging in a variety of places—through work, family, online forums, volunteering. However, while it’s possible to be more interconnected than ever before, people are now lonelier and more depressed than ever. In the U.S., loneliness has been steadily increasing since 2015 (especially among younger generations), and that trend has been noted across the globe, as well.

Why is that? Why is our highly networked world lonely?

From my observations and research, I believe this has to do with the quality of our connections, rather than the quantity. One of your Twitters posts might be liked by 5,000 people, but do you really know any of them? You might engage in a webinar with 200 other individuals, but are you really talking to each other and getting to know one another on a deeper level?

At this point, you may be wondering, “So what? Why does it matter if people are lonely?”

Aside from the mental and emotion toll loneliness can cause, it has been linked to many physical side effects such as an “increased risk of mental health issues, heart disease and even death.” The Campaign to End Loneliness reports that, “Research shows that the impact of poor social relationships on mortality is comparable to the impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and consuming alcohol, and exceeds the impact of physical activity and obesity. Lonely individuals are at higher risk of hypertension, poor sleep, and the onset of disability.

So, what do we do?

I challenge you to seek out meaningful, real-world connections. Get to know your neighbors, host a barbeque, volunteer in your community, join an in-person networking or hobby group. If you are already connected with a number of other people, I challenge you to strengthen those connections by making an effort to be in touch, sending the occasional greeting card, or arranging a lunch or coffee date. You can also go the extra mile by reaching out to those who you suspect to be socially isolated (elderly friends, those who have limited access to reliable transportation, new parents!) and offer your support.

Community is created through conscious connections, not just through liking someone’s social media post in passing. It’s made by asking others about themselves and reciprocating by opening up and being a little vulnerable. Let’s dare to strike up conversations and make connections! Let’s strive to consciously foster community.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Last week I talked about the importance of community, tracing it all the way back to our first ancestors. This week I’d like to follow up on the topic and focus in particular on how empathy is the “glue” that binds all successful communities together.

Empathy itself is great, but it is empathetic action that makes all the difference. A team of psychologists and researchers recently came out with a book titled, “The Compassion Instinct.” Among many other interesting insights, they lay out some active steps to making a community truly grow:

1. Plug in! 

“People who give to others give healthier, happier lives to themselves.”

Service is key to any successful community. Join a cause you believe in, volunteer at a food shelter or be a mentor to young people. Don’t just send checks in the mail to a charity. You need to actually get out and get your hands dirty in order to cultivate strong bonds between other people. Community is based on this type of service, and you will feel more alive when you take part in other people’s lives in your neighborhood, your church and your workplace. And, speaking of workplaces…

2. Break the rule of leaving your personal problems out of the workplace.

Many workers assume that they are supposed to check their personal problems at the door when they enter the office.” 

The book mentions how employer-employee relations have steadily declined since the 1980s due to increased globalization and competition between companies, which led to more lay-offs across the board. Thus, it’s common to be suspicious and distrustful of your boss nowadays, and you certainly don’t want to bring your own baggage into the office, lest you want to risk appearing unprofessional.

However, the research shows that companies do better when their employees feel connected, cared for and appreciated. Therefore, it is not only healthy for you to become close with your co-workers, it also will make a difference in productivity and innovation. The challenge is the risk you take by attempting to create community at work: for it to be successful, you must let your guard down. Which leads to the final point…

3. Trust in others!

“Trust is an intrinsic part of human nature…most simply defined as the expectation that other people’s future actions will safeguard our interests.”

It’s easy to see why trust has declined in the country for some time now. We are skeptical of politics, companies, advertisements, banks, and even our neighbors. And for good reason, I might add. How many Watergate-type scandals, corporate fraud news headlines and stories of mild-mannered folks becoming violent are we expected to endure and still put our faith in others?

Yet the solution to these problems, horrible and scary as they are, is not to shield ourselves even more. Quite the opposite, actually. We need to put faith in our peers enthusiastically, not reluctantly. We won’t think they’ll pull through, we’ll expect them to! Trust is the one ingredient above all others that enables us to thrive in our communities. And it starts at a person-to-person level.

Keltner, Dacher, Marsh, Jason and Jeremy Adam Smith, eds., The Compassion Instinct (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010)

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