Tricia Karp Tricia Karp
23 March 2015

How to build a thriving community at work

Don’t ever invite me to talk about diversity at a conference.

I’ll say yes, and then get up on stage and deliver something completely different (like I did at a leadership conference a couple of years ago).

We need more women in senior leadership positions. I have a problem with the word “diversity” being used to refer to 50% of the population. Having worked with hundreds and hundreds of women, I know they have hurdles to jump that most men don’t.

And, I’ve also witnessed a dark side to the diversity debate that’s created a bit more of “Us” versus “Them”. And that’s never a good thing.

I’ve learnt that I do my best work helping men and women develop their power and leadership. Because that’s good news for all of us.

So, if you want me to talk about diversity, this is what you’ll get: Let’s go beyond women and men and talk about what it takes to create a culture of connection that takes into account differences and capitalises on strengths.

Here’s how you do it – and why.

Connection creates positive bonds between people. It brings out their best by energising them, increasing their productivity, and reducing their stress levels.

There are three elements of connection:

1. Vision

Vision comes from a shared mission and values, and taking pride in an organisation’s reputation too.

Back in my media days, I loved it that I worked at the number one rating radio and TV stations. There was something special about being seen as the best news providers, and I proudly wore the badge on my sleeve.

I watched the staff at one of the other TV stations that struggled in the ratings, and they struggled too, knowing they were third-best.

Being part of a winning team creates a strong sense of belonging.

Ideally though, it’s built on a firm foundation of a shared mission. It’s what provides meaning, but what’s more, it’s the anchor that keeps people going when times are tough.

As Viktor Frankl says in his multi-million copy best seller, Man’s Search for Meaning, the How doesn’t matter when you’re clear about your Why.

A united purpose – within an organisation, teams and individuals – creates powerful bonds of connection. And productivity.

2. Value

My daughter has been blessed with the most wonderful school teachers. All different in their ways yet all committed to bringing out her best.

I reckon one of the greatest gifts is to be seen for who we truly are, have our strengths fed and watered, and be honoured and appreciated for what we bring to the table.

Last week, I walked away from a parent teacher interview at school with my heart bursting with appreciation. I emailed my daughter’s teacher, and thanked him for his presence, humour and care. He emailed back with “Wow. Thank you for your kind words. They really mean a lot”.

And words like that do, right? I have a “forever box” at home with handwritten cards and letters from people who’ve expressed their appreciation to me over the years. I doubt I’ll ever throw them away.

Last week I received a beautiful card from a woman who’s read my book Media Talk. The impact the book has had on her – and continues to have – made writing it absolutely worthwhile for me. I will treasure that card in ways she’ll likely never know.

We all need to be appreciated for our contribution. We all need help to achieve our potential. We also need to be protected from abuse at work.

We all need to feel valued. A bonus or pay rise will never touch our hearts nor motivate us like a handwritten note or sincere words expressed.

3. Voice

When was the last time you felt truly heard? When was the last time you shared an idea that was not only received, but deeply appreciated? When was the last time you felt like your input really mattered?

At school, I wasn’t so great at putting up my hand and offering answers to questions unless I was certain I had them right.

It was no different in meetings at work. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself (and I had plenty of colleagues who were always quick to make smart arse comments and give people a hard time. “Politically correct” didn’t exist in newsrooms in my day).

Connection requires that people are heard. It means creating open, safe, honest environments in which ideas are shared and recognised.

It means knowing one another’s personal stories, as appropriate and comfortable, as well as personal and professional hopes.

It means finding out what people are thinking, what’s made them happy or disappointed, and meeting to clear issues.

It means understanding and appreciating differing and competing views.

What’s on your agenda to connect more powerfully with people at work?

“Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there” ~ Rumi

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Want to be a more inspiring leader? Check out my public speaking program for inspiring leaders: Wise Talks!

 

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