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As a leader are you promoting social capital within your company?  Are you aware of its value, long term?

Simply put, it’s at the heart of company culture. It’s when stakeholders positively contribute building human collateral within their team and company. There are the puzzle pieces that each person contributes to creating the infrastructure.  Here are a few qualities that shore up this term that Margaret Heffernan shared in her book Beyond Measure:

  • TRUST 
  • KNOWLEDGE  
  • RECIPROCITY 
  • SHARING 
  • COMMUNICATION  

Although these ordinary words could describe a culture that is hip and millennial driven, these elements describe a foundation for workplace well-being.  Bricks are important but the mortar is what makes your building stable and robust.

The idea of social capital grew out of a study that looked at how communities survive and flourish in times of stress. Since organizations, like communities, are subjected to frequent change, surprise, and ambiguity, what they discovered is that the communities where social connectedness was cultivated they navigated conflict well and best of all, they thrived.

“HIGH LEVELS OF SOCIAL CAPITAL PRODUCE A TYPE OF TRUST THAT MAKES CONFLICT SAFE, VIGOROUS, AND OPEN”

MARGARET HEFFERNAN

So the next question becomes, how can companies advance their culture without spending a fortune?

Granted, the bigger the company, the more creative you need to be.  But even large organizations that employ thousands in one or more geographical locations, with outsourced support can make a tremendous impact just from an accumulation of small actions.

Here is a favorite example of a conscious leader who focused on the intention of bringing people closer without knowing what the outcome would be.  Apparently, there were silos of his business- geographical regions and technical functions that made it hard for employees to connect and trust one another.

He asked that each make short films about one another.  When he gathered the entire company in a cinema to watch, he and the employees were taken back by what they saw.  There were films of immense passion, inventiveness, and humor that delighted, motivated, and inspired the whole company.  By making the films the employees got to know each other better and by being in each other’s films made them care more about one another.  The CEO was taken back by how this small request ignited a sense of well-being.

Another study shows that invested connections among team members both increase productivity and reduce risk due to the level of trust they built by going through things together.  Heffernan says, “Newness is a liability.”  Without trust, knowledge, reciprocity, communication, and sharing you don’t get the vigor of debate and exchange that hard problems demand.

Here’s a quick experiment that came out of Beyond Measure, it’s called POWER LISTENING.  The next time you are in a meeting, promise yourself you will not speak. Listening requires you to have great courage and be open.  Leaders typically bring all their items to the table and are strategic about interrupting or negating another’s idea/s so people begin to keep to themselves- this is where innovation halts. As a conscious leader, you can listen and encourage to find equality of contribution.

Listening is a form of being present and when you add giving yourself time to think it adds to the richness of the energetic exchange.  If you find yourself wanting to interrupt, it means you think you know where the conversation or argument is heading, but your interruptions actually block new ideas or thoughts.  This is one of the reasons companies are not as innovative as they would like to be.

Social Capital is priceless so begin to inquire with those on your team and within the organization to find creative solutions.  Create the culture you are responsible for.  Allow the people and the organization to become conscious, collaborative, sustainable, and successful under your legacy!

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