Thursday, June 10, 2010

Creating Caring Communities

Recently, the son of a neighbor was diagnosed with cancer and our neighborhood support network immediately sprang into action. Family support was coordinated, communication channels were set up, and trees throughout the neighborhood were decorated with ribbons.

Surprised? We weren’t. This is standard fare for our neighborhood. It’s just that kind of place. But can employers create these types of caring communities in the workplace? Absolutely they can, and here’s how great leaders do it:

1. Know your employees: Make it a priority to know your employees, by name, and to know something about them personally. If yours is a small organization, this part is easier, but the need doesn’t go away for larger groups. Maybe you can’t know everyone, but you should certainly make the effort to try. Set aside time every week to go talk with them.

2. Be human: While they don’t want you to share every detail, people will feel closer to you if you open up to them about your personal life. Sharing key milestones and proud moments helps to create a bond and build trust.

3. Lead by example: If you want your employees to care about each other, start by caring about them. Provide support for them when they are in a difficult situation. Attending the funerals of employee’s loved ones and celebrating their milestones will send a strong message about your concern for them.

4. Don’t start a committee: Having a person to coordinate support in a crisis is a good thing, having a committee that provides flowers for every special occasion is generic and half hearted. Keep it genuine, keep it unique. Does this mean everyone will get the same treatment? Probably not, but what two situations are the same?

5. Focus on the positive: Look for the good things that happen everyday and your employees will start doing the same. If they feel good about the work they are doing and aren’t afraid of being punished for mistakes, they will be more likely to apply energy to helping others.

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