On a Friday evening, late October 1981, I was sitting in a bar with my brothers and some lifelong friends. In one hand was a beer, and in the other was a cigar. We were celebrating the birth of my first-born son, Dan. Being with those guys made it even more special because they accepted me as I was, flaws and all. It multiplied my joy that evening. A celebration by myself would not have been the same.

September marked the 15th anniversary of my father’s passing. He and mom had been living in a retirement community for about two years. As you would expect, it hit mom the hardest. My brothers and I couldn’t fix the loss. What helped mom was the women in the community, many of them widows themselves, who visited her regularly, allowing her to cry, making certain she got to meals and activities. Their presence helped divide her sorrow.

My good friend Vern placed a high value on community, because he said it does two important things.

It Multiplies our Joys

It Divides our Sorrows

He was so right and these days I believe we need community even more in the workplace too. Great leaders create great workplace communities. You know what it feels like to be in a great one, the positive energy, great relationships, and engagement. You also know the difficulty when it’s lacking, where work is drudgery, there is no trust, and everyone is alone.

The world and especially the workplace is challenging these days. When things feel out of sorts and unsettled, we want to place blame somewhere. Trust me, working from home isn’t the cause, just as working in the office isn’t the solution.

If you want to create a great workplace community, accept that it comes through relationships with you (their leader) and among the team. I’ve found five key elements are essential in a great workplace community.

  1. Personal – Great relationships are personal, which start with knowing each other. That means not just knowing their name, but who they are, what’s important in their life, their family members, etc.
  2. Shared commitment – A team without a common purpose is a group of individuals. It must unite around something, e.g., service, quality, innovation, etc.
  3. Trust – When you trust, you believe their intentions are for good. It allows everyone to be honest about what is or isn’t working. It also allows you to share fears, concerns, hopes, and dreams.
  4. Listening – It’s the foundation of a relationship because it says, “you’re important to me.” Listening means making time to hear what someone has to say. If I have a relationship with you and trust you, I’ll share my joys and sorrows.
  5. Encouragement – Life is hard, work is hard. We need others to encourage us, to keep us going when things are tough. Encouragers lift us up, they are the “wind beneath our wings.” They help us soar when times are great and help us to fly again in times of disappointment.

Focus on developing these within your team. It’ll take time, but it’s worth it because when you have these, your team will help each other to multiply joys and divide sorrows, no one will want to leave, recruiting will be easier, and all while doing amazing work for your organization.

I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the spirit I have given you and give it to them. Then they can help you bear the responsibility for these people, and you will not have to bear it alone. Numbers 11:17

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