Why We Need Community

Have you ever been in the same room with someone who is plugged into his or her phone and not paying attention to you? Have you ever been that person?

I have.

Today, more than ever before, strangers on a screen influence people’s minds, molding their beliefs, instilling fear rather than hope. Communication has been reduced to e-mails, instant messages, sound bites, and tweets.

A couple of years ago, I was on the balcony of my hotel room in Clearwater Beach sipping a cup of coffee. Looking down from the tenth floor, I could see an employee of the hotel who was supposed to be washing off the boardwalk with a garden hose. The reason I knew she was supposed to be doing that is there was a garden hose in her left hand with water coming out of it. But in her right hand was her phone that she was much more interested in. Each time she looked at her phone to scroll, the garden hose strayed off course into the bushes, rather than washing the sand off the walkway.

The challenge for leaders today is to make our work more compelling than whatever is happening in the media or what’s happening on a team member’s screen. That’s a tall order, and a big part of the reason why we need a sense of community in our workplaces. Not that we can compete with a person’s social connections, or the seductive power of the media, but we can make our work so meaningful to our team members that they will engage at an unprecedented level. Building a sense of belonging—a sense of community—in our companies is the answer.