A Community of Effort: Inspiring People to Do Their Best Work

Fred Miller Glenn Tilton, the CEO and Chair of United Airlines once used a phrase that crystallized both the work and challenge not just for United, but for all organizations:

A Community of Effort.

What a beautiful phrase...it says it all.

Individuals with a common goal working together in community to accomplish a goal. If they are only a "group" or only a "team," they will not reach the Highest Levels of Performance possible and they will not be able nor will they feel inspired to Do Their Best Work.

It is not an accident that people talk about their workplace with phrases like: "this place is like a family" or "my best friends are at work" or "I spend more time with my co-workers than my real family." It is not an accident that people often tell their co-workers more about their personal lives than they tell friends outside of work, sometimes more than they tell their significant others. It is about the need for community.

It is not just about doing a job, or sitting/standing next to a co-worker all day or putting in your hours. Many of us have had those jobs — summer jobs, part-time jobs, passing-through jobs. For those jobs we often see others as just a "bunch of people I work with," not a primary group or association in our lives.

Being with a high performing workgroup is much, much more than that. When most of us put down roots in a job, whether it is for two years or 30 years, that "bunch" takes on much more meaning.

What is clear to me is that if you want a High Performing Effort, you need people to want to give their discretionary effort. And for people to want to give their discretionary energy, many people need to feel part of:

1.) something they feel good about. 2.) a place where they will be noticed and rewarded for giving their discretionary effort, 3.) a workgroup they feel good about working with.

Most people want to do their Best Work and most organizations want and need people's best work. For many people to do their best work, they need to feel known and cared about as human beings.

"Being Known" has many components. Two are:

Feeling that the people around you know what you need to Do Your Best Work and are willing to help you achieve those conditions. Of course, to be known, you have to bring your voice to the situation and tell people what you need. (“You guess what I need” behavior doesn't work nearly as well as “This is what I need” behavior.)

Most people want their colleagues to know some aspects of their lives outside of work, beyond name, rank and serial number. I once consulted to a company in which people were known more by their badge numbers than their names.

Someone I work with had a dog that died recently. That was important to her and it was important for me as one of her team members to know that: 1. She had a dog; 2. that the dog was important to her; and 3. the sadness of that day was because of the death of her dog.

Some people want you to know where they live, about their social life and major activities outside of work. Finding out about these parts of a person's life takes minutes and yet the value is large: people feeling "Someone cares about me beyond this task."

Community — a feeling of being known and belonging and Doing My Best Work; the conditions being present to do my best work, my willingness to put forth the effort combined with the effort of others to do more together than we could do apart.

A Community of Effort.

In that spirit, we see this blog as a place to create a Community of Effort. We will be sharing ideas and asking questions, but we know that what we think is only one part of the bigger picture — we want and need to hear what you are thinking, too. We invite you to add your voice to this conversation and many more to come.

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