How To Build A Community in Your Business

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Communities form in many ways, more commonly through a social setting or a group of people who are coming together with a shared goal or vision. The power of a community can be highly productive and when you think about it, all good things come out of a community… so why can’t communities be built in businesses?

When I first started my research within communities in business, I was looking at the role of the community and how it can power innovation and productivity. The idea of building something which can become so powerful, it would help the organisation to develop greater results was always a going to be a key criterion to my work. I defined this through my community circle model which highlights how a successful community is strongly developed through four foundation blocks of social capital, creative thinking, motivation and a sharing economy. It was later on, whilst looking at building a community of users within my online business that I focused on the fifth foundation of ownership.

When you examine each section of the community circle, they are stand out as a single block yet all work together to support each function.

Social Capital

This is when social networks have meaning, a true community leader is someone who can help people to connect and build up a culture which supports project work and people working outside of their silos and creating higher engagement.

Creative Thinking

This foundation block can trigger greater social capital and some from teams working together to solve a problem. Creative thinking should form how you want to define your community and be the foundation of the change management process. In fact, the whole culture should be involved with the changes through creative thinking processes.

Motivation

People need to have a purpose, understanding their motivation is going to be key and why they are wanting to develop as an individual or a group. Daniel Pink was fundamental in my research to which he states that people are driven by their autonomy, mastery and purpose. When you analyse this, people want to be good at something and they want to have a purpose, the same way a community in a social setting works; It’s now time to drive this philosophy into the workplace.

Sharing Economy

So this word is thrown around a lot in modern day life, however, the sharing economy in the community leads to the sharing of skills and knowledge. You could say that if you have high sharing economy then this leads into greater social capital, you can see why these four foundation blocks of community building play a key role in the development of the organisation’s culture and the sharing economy needs to work to drive more ideas and innovation.

Ownership

Now I’m building communities of active users, ownership plays a key role in the model. A consumer will take active pride when they feel that they own something; this is often achieved through crowdfunding and giving away equity. Equally, if the community in the business feel they own something, they will take a more active lead. I’m not talking about giving away shares but through the development of values and the mission. You can’t expect the management to run a community culture and people to stick to it, this will become nothing more than a poster which is stuck on the wall with no one paying attention. The community members need to actively build and develop it from the start.

And the rest? 

The foundation blocks are key to developing the right community. However, you need to have the right leadership. Remember that when you are developing this project, the leader needs to take an active role to make sure the four elements are all working. After a while, the leader should be taking that step back and watching the seeds grow but still be involved when needed as the role will be to ensure that all the different blocks are still working; when one stops, the community can fall and the high investment of time will be pointless. The right leadership skills will come from someone who is perceptive and is able to show strategic thinking and emotional intelligence. I always say a key role in developing a community in the workplace is through transcultural leadership, this type of leader will have the ability to view different perspectives and develop people’s mindsets by understanding the power of multiculturalism.

Soft skills such as transcultural leadership and emotional intelligence to connecting people and strategic thinking are key skills which are going to forge the community circle together. Not only are they fine ways of making the community work, but also key skills which are needed more than ever in the future of work.

You can order my book on this subject on Amazon Here

 

The Need for Co-Learning in the Workplace

The need for peer to peer or co-learning is needed more than ever in places of work. Current training and development practices are just not reliable or capable on their own; this may sound odd coming from someone with a training based business!

When a group of people are learning from each other, critical advances happen in the work quality alongside the trust and transparency which then grows. Something that would not occur in a traditional learning and development format. Alongside this, the engagement and motivation levels increase. Not just in the person who is now absorbing a wealth of new information, but also through the member delivering the knowledge; the person is being used to their advantage, and that person is now feeling a sense of responsibility through empowerment.

Co-learning is not a new thing in business, people have always learnt from each other in the office. This has usually been to share best practice and specific skills which has been related to a task. However, the development of further co-learning exercises regarding skills that team members have developed from outside the workplace and not directly linked to the functions in the place of work could help increase the innovation and productivity which powers the business forward.

As a leader, you may never have asked your team members what other skills and areas of strength they are developing in their own time. It has never been business related, therefore, why would you? However, those coding skills, language skills, creative skills could be turned into transferable skills or new ways in developing a process. And what better person to deliver it, other than the team member themselves.

The sharing of knowledge and learning is a great asset, and I believe the development of co-learning opportunities in the workplace, alongside other sharing economy features, will help any leader to then get the best from the team and the task at hand.

Despite many developments in making formal training more interactive, it doesn’t meet the needs of many styles of learning. Kinaesthetic learning in particular, and, although the co-learning experience can be as equally as visual or auditory, there is a certain higher level of understanding through a personal approach that is engaging and captivating.

The transferring of skills in a workplace can be easy as getting team members to write down what they feel comfortable with and getting them to complete their skill swaps with others. Therefore, eliminating the management levels and allowing employees to feel trusted in a task which will enable them to grow with the business, thus, increasing the empowerment, intrinsic and self-development levels.

When I have helped to put this process into existing businesses, I have often advised the leaders that the content of what is learnt may seem irrelevant to the job. However, this is not a significant concern as the real power of co-learning comes from the new connections which start to form. A clear indication that strong social capital is developing, this is an essential ingredient if the business is then seeking higher innovation and productivity through team members extending internal connections which have meaning.

My YouTube video on Co-Learning

Creative Leadership and Community Building

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This blog is audio, check out the 30-minute recording which covers many key areas including:

Leadership 

Culture 

Community Building 

Listen here:

Is your business in search of high communita?

Communita is a word which you would use when there is high social capital emerging from your community. We all know that a community is when a group of people come together with a strong focus or sense of belonging which they can form from any situation, this being a social or a work setting. What then makes the community stronger and drives high engagement is the social capital which forms within it, and the spirit that comes from high social capital then creates the communita.

So what is the magic touch in creating social capital? The foundation block is that the social connections need to have to meaning. This would come from a variety of events which take place. Some excellent examples of companies which offer high social capital include Atlassian; this is a business which offers their ShipIt days as part of their commitment to employee engagement and community. The ShipIt day is a project where everyone in the business drops tools, and for 48 hours work on whatever they want to develop. Once a project or idea comes into force, they showcase them to the business.

Not all the ideas in the ShipIt days are commercially viable. However, the intended purpose of the projects is to drive social capital which then adds this extra layer onto the organisational culture which then brings in Communita. The significant thing about having a high community in a business or a social community is that it progresses the innovation and the productivity. Partly due to connections which start to form in the organisation which leads into other significant areas such as the rise of co-learning. This is an essential tool for the development and motivation of individuals and something which I believe is going to become increasingly important within the future of work and what an organisation will do to achieve high engagement.

It seems that the key to success is:

Social Capital + Communita = engagement = innovation and productivity

Co-learning is interesting as this forms high levels of communita, and often cheaper for a business to run. Having people learn from each other’s skills set rather than being taught in a formal training situation often causes more inspiration and the perfect place for social capital to form. In fact, anything based on sharing and an internal sharing economy are good for high communita. This is way many businesses looks to change their organisational culture to something which is more task and project-based and allows individuals more freedom and flexibility.

The measurable way of seeing if you have the high social capital within your organisation comes from some simple questions which you could ask your community, these include:

Name three people who you worked on a project with outside of your team?

What are the skills which five people in the office have?

Have you developed or learned from others in a natural setting?

Questions such as this would allow you to understand where your current situation is, and if you are finding that answers are short or un answered, you know that social capital needs to be increased as you need communita. It’s good to then look at the creative efforts from Atlassian and other companies to understand how you can bring this concept in place and what needs to be done. The important thing to do in this is to think both creatively and strategically!

A Review on Leadership

Autocratic Leadership is not a new concept; however, it’s becoming increasingly popular with new managers because it involves trust and develops ethics. Other new forms of leadership are being introduced which includes neuroscience which analyses how the brain responds to different situations and something a leader should consider when implementing any strategic change into the organisation.

It’s important to remember that while some people are natural leaders, others can be taught the skills, but it’s the style of leadership that has changed and keeps evolving. There are also many different theories leaders need to be aware of regarding direction and management techniques when implementing new approaches to the business, which will critically evaluate by reviewing:
• Creativity
• Innovation
• Strategic Change

I’m going to be looking into different leadership styles and what makes them successful alongside the qualities of what makes a good leader. Is it someone who looks at the behaviour of the team? Someone who likes to develop the individual or does it take someone with more a psychology approach such as neuroscience to understand the mental processes?

Different theories suggest that various types of leadership are more useful in different situations, but which is the right one to choose and can people be developed in leadership? Goleman (1995) has written about the importance of Emotional Intelligence  (EI) and how it plays a critical part in team development which managers and leaders need to take seriously. In his findings, he writes that a person’s emotional intelligence can be developed and can be more fortunate to team development instead of IQ. This could be argued, as many people comment that someone’s IQ could be increased with the appropriate learning and development to support the individual. However, Goleman states that by developing EI, it raises the performance of a person with motivation and self-awareness and it would influence different leadership styles which would become more visionary with coaching and pace-setting.

In agreement with Goleman’s theory is John Adair whose work in his action centred approach to leadership model suggests that the development of the individual is critical for a leader to focus in. However, a strong leader would also need to look at the elaboration of the team and achieving the task.

By reviewing this action centred model, John Adair suggests that by focusing on just one area will not accomplish the task and a leader would need to look at all three consistently. Action centred leadership suggests that motivation is at the core of a high-performance team and this is reflected in the direction style. Thoughts on this theory include; the leadership model having an impact on the motivation of the team and the development of a better wage also creating motivation.

Management Today (2014) recently published an article claiming that the UK’s poor productivity rate reflects the businesses which are directly paying their workforce the minimum wage. The report suggests a labour force should be paid fairly and it is up to the leaders of the organisation to avoid losing jobs if this happens. The report directs itself into the case study based on Kingsmill and demonstrates a contradiction because the bread business writes that as well as high wages the leaders need to ensure the productivity stays high through training and innovation which is linked to the action centred model to drive the best from team performance.

Building a team

Building and maintaining the team cannot be achieved unless the individual and the group are professionally developed. If a leader leaves one area of the overlap untouched, then the whole project wouldn’t become successful. This approach demonstrates a different way of working compared to previous management styles which might have suggested a more autocratic, controlled workforce.

Looking back, the 1990’s saw the shift from hierarchy to a flatter organisational structure. The Chartered Institute of Management developed a report which looks at the removal of domination and more coordination styles of leadership alongside the introduction of more team work and more empowerment to the individual, but does this happen in every workplace? No, in some work situations a more controlled environment needs to be considered such as a call centre where strict regulations and targets are in place.

Leadership in Travel

Harriet Green (former Thomas Cook CEO) compliments the removal of domination theory by stating in a recent interview that before her starting at the holiday giant, the board was run by typical male English and German businessmen who had no reflection and now there are three women sat on the board the leadership reflects the business. Green’s comments could come across as sexist. However, she is only making the point that she and her leaders were in tune with the operation of Thomas Cook, its employees, and the customers.

This report by Saunders comments that before being CEO at Thomas Cook, Green went after the leadership roles in her career that the average person striving for success didn’t want as she felt that in those roles, she could relate to the business more as a leader who helped her to develop. The dictatorship days have gone, and management in a 21st-century office need to be more aware of the social skillset required within the job. “Human skills help the leader to work more efficiently with subordinates, peers, and superiors to accomplish the organisation’s goals” Katz (1955).

Great Person Theories

Katz’ study that all these skills (human, technical and conceptual) need to be implemented for a leader to succeed, the study illustrates the skills of a leader are very different from the traits (which is what a leader is) this gives us the impression that skills can be taught. The key area that we are looking at in this study is that at all levels of management and leadership human qualities are essential and when you review his studies, it’s hard to understand why social skills would not be necessary.

One of the most common types of leadership is authentic which demonstrates that the leader needs to build trust, have ethics and self-awareness. These skills involve sociable skills and relate to the human skills that Katz introduced and would be the foundation to management leading a team with Adir’s action centred leadership model.

This is a very different approach to the first stages of leadership which included “Great Person Theories.” Upon researching this method, Potter (2014) suggests this style of leadership has lost significant popularity as it often followed the theme that the leader is always right. Referring to the previous research in this paper, it seems appropriate to say that some environments are more controlled whereas other workplaces need to be developed under great person theory style of leadership.