Today’s post is the feature article  from the April 2004 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1It was a Sunday night. I wasn’t at a retreat or a church service, although the spirit of genuine community at this meeting made me wonder. I was at LensCrafters in the mall. Just after the mall closed, the store was transformed into a wonderful meeting space. I was scheduled as the guest speaker. I entered into a room of coworkers. After the welcoming exercise of this meeting, I knew I was in the midst of a community. It was a simple exercise with a powerful result. After the opening comments, they provided each participant with a BLANK “thank-you” card and asked them to write a note of appreciation to a fellow employee that had done something nice for them for which they were grateful. The pens didn’t start moving immediately, but once they started there was no stopping. Once completed, they asked each participant to come to the front and read aloud their message to whom they had written the note. The next 30-minutes were priceless. There was laughter and hugs. It was fun, funny, inspirational and touching. A few even had to get a fellow worker to read their card aloud because they were choking up every time they started to read it. More than once, I even started choking up just seeing the spirit of their genuine community. I knew the spirit of community would greatly impact the fulfillment they found in their work. I also knew the impact it would have on their store’s employee retention and customer service.

Community is an evasive thing — but we know it when we see it and feel it when we are a part of it. And the impact on a business can be significant. Last month, in our survey, the Front Porch readers gave high ratings to their organization’s sense of community. While only 17% strongly agreed, a full 58% agreed that their workplace feels like a genuine community. Furthermore, 96% strongly agreed or agreed that their workplace encourages a spirit of community. But there were also strong indicators of roadblocks. The respondents noted, in this order, the following obstacles in their own organizations: silos (88%), time (54%), physical locations (50%), hierarchy and internal competition (42%). Other roadblocks mentioned were the staff vs. mgmt (us/them) mentality, poor communication and clients always taking priority above ALL else. The respondents sent a clear message on how much they think the depth of community impacts business issues. They strongly agreed, by the percentages shown, the positive impact of community in each of these areas: cooperation (88%), retention (83%), productivity (71%) and efficiency (54%). At the same time, only 21% rated themselves as excellent in being a community builder. When asked to provide the most important thing a company can do to create community, the survey respondents gave us some food for thought:

~treat people with respect
~create an environment that values honesty and trust
~create situations for team-building and celebrations of success
~ask for input/opinions/thoughts even when you think you know the answer
~embrace diversity
~communicate a clear and singular vision
~encourage supporting relationships
~talk about community and provide time to value it
~create a culture that values community
 ~show appreciation
~empower individuals
~welcome each team member’s contribution and position everyone to contribute beyond their job description
~make an effort through communications, rewards, and time allotment to show being a community is a priority
~value the individual, so in turn the community values each other
~gather the community for events with their coworkers and with their families

How would you rate yourself? How can you become a better community builder?

Action Idea: Make a commitment to become a Community Builder. You might just start by getting a bulk order of thank you notes and passing them out. Your group may just be surprised how much appreciation and community sits unspoken and possibly unrecognized. Top down appreciation is critical, but once a community begins to truly appreciate each other, the possibilities are endless!