Here in London, we have just experienced our first fall of snow this winter. It arrived with a vengeance, severely affecting airports and roads. The day after, I went outside into the front garden to clear the path from snow and within half an hour, I had spoken to many of my neighbours all clearing the snow, like me, many of whom I rarely spoke to from one month to the next.
There we were, all sharing in a joint activity, offering cups of tea and coffee to each other. Overnight, we had become a community again because we had a common interest. None of us could get our cars out the driveway, and we were fighting against the weather to try to clear the driveways before the ice arrived overnight.
Now I know that many of my readers live in Dubai where the only snow they will see is at the Mall of the Emirates, which although it is an amazing feat of engineering, is produced by controlled conditions for skiing and leisure activity.
When I came back into the house, I was thinking about the community spirit of ‘togetherness', the type of spirit that came out of the second world war when people came together to support each other in a common cause to defeat a common enemy. Of course, snow is not an ‘enemy', but it does take combined action by everyone in order to keep communications, road and rail links open.
And so I began to think whether this type of spirit could be called upon by organisations when the going gets tough. We know that the current economic climate brings with it challenges that need to be overcome and with less staff available to do that than previously.
If it were possible to somehow call upon that ‘community spirit' in which people feel that their contribution is important. A time when we all pull together for the common good.
A time where the word ‘challenge' takes on a different meaning and value. During the war, in 1944, Londoners never knew if a bomb would demolish their homes during a night air raid or whether they have to sleep in an underground bomb shelter.
I remember my mother telling me of stories of bombs that dropped very near to where she was working but she still wanted to be in London — the city that she loved so much.
Now the ethos of ‘challenge and change' needs to be managed by industry. Maybe there isn't the certainty of a job as there was many years ago in either the public or private sectors that are both feeling the effects of the economic downturn, particularly in those countries tied to the US dollar.
But ‘challenge and change' is something that is endemic in the life cycle of corporations as well as people and we need to learn to manage and comes to terms with it. There is no longer such a thing as ‘a job for life' as in previous years.
That being the case, we all need to learn how to quickly adapt to the different ethos of the communities that we will encounter with each change of direction or job. The way to do this is to endeavour to a part of your new community as quickly as possible, in order to be accepted as a new member of the team, and not as an outsider.
It's all about relationship building and the necessity of acquiring new skills as well as new friends.
Each different organisation will have its own cultural ways of doing things. Many of these will be spelled out in the formal terms and conditions that you will have to accept when you join a new company, but others are unwritten and it will be for you to recognise, identify, learn and practise.
Of course, being part of a community is vital, not only for your economic health but also for your personal wellbeing. A ‘community spirit' is important, as I found out this week as I cleared the snow and reconnected again in conversation with my old neighbours and connected with my new ones. It's the same in your office. Why not try it.
The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London.
- A ‘community spirit' is essential to success.
- Your contribution is important.
- Strength comes from combined effort.