How implementing these three C’s as part of a community of learners can help your teams feel better.
In a society marked by loneliness, our teams also experience a sense of isolation–a feeling that likely resonates with many readers of this article. This disconnection impacts our work environments, as team members grapple with symptoms ranging from a lack of motivation and bouts of depression to untapped creativity. For this reason, this past spring the U.S. Surgeon General sent out a call to businesses to prioritize building social connections as a way to address this epidemic. As leaders, though, you may find yourselves uncertain about steps to take to bring your teams together.
The remedy lies in embracing learning. Business leaders have a unique opportunity to transform their teams into communities of learners, an approach that has existed in one format or another for more than a century. A community of learners (COLs) is typically defined by a collective sense of purpose that fosters identity, trust, and cohesiveness among its members. This method has proven successful for increasing engagement in industries like trucking, where over-the-road drivers spend extended periods alone. The COL approach holds the potential to deepen and reinforce content knowledge while simultaneously strengthening interpersonal connections within the team. Learning experiences have the power to unite us.
Use these three Cs in your next learning experience to transform a group of employees into a community of learners.
Create a common purpose for learning. A thriving learning community focuses on a specific goal that comes to life through discussion or by engaging in activity. Together, they shape knowledge through a mutual construction of understanding. Researchers have documented the positive health benefits of working together toward a significant project, event, or outcome. By coming together in meaningful pursuits, perspectives expand, relationships deepen, and, simply put, we feel better.
Coach with compassion. Convey the message that you are all in this together. Ask the team what they want to get out of the community, and be sure to listen. Invite team members to communicate their intent to participate and share how other members can help them achieve their goals. Encourage them to share resources and perspectives and refrain from dismissing struggles.
Expect a realistic level of participation: The community will not take off if the leader is the only one participating, but requiring too much participation may stifle team members’ desire to engage. Recognize members who take the time to read (online) or listen to (in person) others’ perspectives.
Cultivate a connected culture. COLs happen as part synchronous (same-time) meetings or asynchronous (not in real-time) discussions. Whether online or face-to-face, COLs are created in a safe, private environment. A strong leader builds connections and engages learners by deepening the understanding of a comment, asking divergent questions, or posting new content or different perspectives for consideration. Setting an example encourages other team members to contribute. If they don’t, seek out the hurdles preventing them from participating. Each conversation adds to the depth of the community and builds trust. If the leader shows interest, passion, and investment in the community, the team will draw on this energy, igniting greater involvement.
These learning environments serve as a catalyst for connection and unity. The informal practice of COLs can deepen relationships within your team as they engage in shared learning experiences. I created 52 practical tips to implement COLs in any organization’s environment. Try some of them and see how they work for you.
Article originally published on December 22, 2023 on Inc.com.