Positive work culture isn’t something you declare. There is no magic wand, no “tinkerbell dust” to make you an instant superhero of collaboration. It happens as the result of an intention-driven set of behaviours. It is the by-product of living and working together in all the right ways.
As a first-year teacher, several years ago, my commitment to teaching to students and to a school included a desire to contribute to and help build a strong culture from Day One. Twenty years later, as a new principal I had a different perspective, but the same passion: Create a place where kids liked to go to school and where they knew they could be successful, and a place where the adults liked to go to work. Safety, affirmation, connections and growth. That’s it!
In the last 16 years, as a trainer, a coach, a presenter and a consultant that commitment has only deepened. In any work setting, people don’t stay or leave because of the work but more so because of where they work and who they work with. Allan Cahoon found in multiple studies that when people left it wasn’t the work-it was the “place”! People can do tough work for a long time if they feel connected to those with whom they work, if they feel that everyone is pulling their weight, if they believe they make a difference and if they can be themselves and laugh every now and then.
The need for connection and belonging in personal relationships, social settings of our choice and at work is a given. We manifest our need for connection and belonging in the way we seek out and engage in relationships. Although this may be different for each of us according to our individual natures, it is a common social need of the brain.
We all fit somewhere on a continuum of comfort with others, with large groups, in new situations, etc. Whatever our personal preferences or preferred setting, we like to feel connected to and accepted by someone.
Putting this in a work setting – it means that we all like to feel a sense of affiliation and affirmation. This can come from a colleague or colleagues or from leaders. The ways in which colleagues relate to and include each other and the ways leaders work to create safe and collaborative work cultures produce this kind of connectivity. It starts out being deliberate, but it becomes who we are. Nevertheless, at all times, the way we value others and consequently the degree to which they feel valued is a constant validation that we are doing things the right way for all. It has always been about what we do more than what we say. Collegiality is a verb! Leadership is a verb!
The ultimate compliment to your work culture is when you hear someone say, “I was going to start looking around but there’s just something about this place…”