How To Build A Community of Collaboration

What is a community?

Can you have one at work?

Should you?

If you want more of a community feel, how do you create it?

Whose job is it?

Senior management? Frontline leaders? The employees? HR?

Do programs produce community or do people?

Today, I raise more questions than answers.

Community Can Happen

Some of the teams and organizations I have been part of have become a community. Some have not.

You know it when you are in it. I was recently reminded of the great community we had built in an organization I worked in years ago. On Saturday, I walked into a funeral home to support Maria, a woman who worked for me many years ago whose mother had passed. I was surprised to see the parade of familiar faces coming in the door, most of whom hadn’t worked with Maria for years. Many of them were retired. The community had spread the word, and they were back to help Maria deal with the loss of her mom. The conversation was important and rich. We hadn’t missed a beat. That’s community.

I watch my husband grow in his firefighter community. They all come in well before their shifts so the person they are relieving can leave early. It’s unspoken. They are always wiling to trade shifts to help one another manage work and family. There is always someone cooking for the group, and everyone contributes to keeping things clean. Watching this gives me a whole new perspective on the word, “union.” If someone isn’t contributing to the community, it’s noticed, but isn’t a large topic of conversation. There is a feeling it will all work out in the end. As far I can tell, the behavior has little to do with someone in management leading the charge.

And so, I’ve been asking everyone I see:

Have you ever worked on a team that had genuine community? What did it look like?

Here’s what I’ve collected so far, what would you add?

  • We trust that everyone’s doing the best they can
  • No one keeps score
  • We have each other’s backs
  • No blindsides
  • We share best practices
  • We don’t let one another fail
  • I can feel safe asking for help
  • We talk well about one another to our boss and others
  • We surface disagreements and fight when needed don’t take conflicts personally
  • I know their families (or at least about them)
  • We celebrate
  • We eat (and drink) together
  • We do volunteer work together
  • ???

Saturday Salutation: The Cairns of Strangers

This week, my husband and I scrambled up the boulders of Mt. of the Holy Cross one of Colorado’s spectacular 14ers.  The trek was a beautiful journey of cairns, challenge and connection.

The most tangible beauty came from the dramatic 360 views on this clear, cool summer day.

There was also intense beauty in pushing through when the summit seemed unattainable.

And, I was ironically warmed by the connection I felt with my husband as he looked at me and said, “we are losers if we don’t finish this.” I knew he was right, and I also knew he wouldn’t push me past my limits, (after all, this is the man who once said, “honey, I know what you said, but you really need that epidural).

Mostly, I found beauty in the community of strangers– some of whom we connected with on the trail, and others whom had come before. As the trail became most obscured and the trekking became most treacherous, hikers had built large cairns that seemed to surface from nowhere– beautiful monuments to the support and teamwork of like-minded adventurers.

Finally, as we were nearing the end of our descent, there was the beauty in the hearts of the 2 men hiking back up in search of some strangers they had met along the way (a task that seemed unfathomable to me at that point).

“It’s getting late, and they seemed tired, and it’s just taking too long, we’ve got extra water, we are going up to find them and see if they need help.”

Thank you God for the Cairns of strangers.



Saturday Salutation: Postcard from the United Nations Youth Assembly

This quote set the tone for the 11th Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations sponsored by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, which I attended this week. The focus was on youth empowerment, and how social networking can be used to create change.

“This is a guest post from my son Ben Evans, 17. Ben is a youth envoy to the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Organization, and recently served as a delegate to the National Youth Assembly at the United Nations. He holds a variety of leadership roles at school and church, and enjoys music and drama.”
“Youth are problem solvers, not problems to be solved.”
~Jasmine Nahhas di Flori

All of the panel speakers are fantastic leaders with truly amazing stories. Some were ambassadors from countries like Romania and Kenya. I also met Jacuqes Cousteau’s grandson and teens my age who have made big changes by starting something small. For example, Talia Leman began a trick or treating campaign when she was 10 years old, and has now raised over 10 million dollars for relief efforts around the world.

Each attendee was given a rubber bracelet with a personal QR code on it. When the code was scanned, all of my social networking information was immediately transmitted to my new friends and connections. Empowering simple networking with peers around the world.

I strongly encourage you to check out the following organizations which impressed me throughout the conference.

Education for Employment Foundation: (provides cellphones to connect Middle East youth with jobs)

Pavegen (harnesses the power of footsteps to create green energy)

Two Degrees (college campus-based programs selling energy bars to provide a 1:1 donation of food kits in third world countries)

Liter of Light (creates light in poor countries using only soda bottles, tin, and water)

“Being a leader of tomorrow does not exclude you from starting today.”