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“Due to the uncertainty and unwelcome disruption to our business created by the effects of both the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the significant decline in worldwide oil prices partially due to Saudi Arabia’s price war with Russia, effective 4/3/2020 your position is being eliminated.”

That was the first sentence of the letter from human resource letting me know that I was no longer employed. I love the oilfield. I loved what I did and the people I worked with and supported. It should be noted that the letter was preceded by a phone call; one that was difficult to both receive and make. I’ve been on the other end, and I know how difficult it is to tell someone they no longer have a job.

But I lost far more than my job that day.  I lost my community, and that was the toughest loss of all.  Yes, I still have friends and close relationships from my time at Superior Energy. I value those tremendously.  But I’m not standing alongside them anymore, working tirelessly day in and day out, fighting the good fight, celebrating the wins and analyzing the losses.  I am no longer in the arena with them, and that hurts. I loved the Superior community and still do.

But in every loss, there is something to be learned.  The key takeaway from this experience is a valuable lesson for all of us: community is a critical. When we build a strong, healthy community in our business or organization, employees become more than just employees. They become community members.

There are five important shifts that occur in our organization when we transition from a place of employment to a community:

  • Trust at all levels begins to build.  Members of a community trust one another on a fundamental level.  As the community becomes established, trust grows and members become more and more comfortable being open and honest with each other about mistakes, concerns, behaviors, etc.
  • Results become important.  Individual needs and agendas take a back seat to the needs of the community.  Collective results, not individual achievements, begin to define success.  Everyone becomes invested in everyone’s success.
  • The fear of conflict evaporates.  As trust grows and community success becomes important, the fear of conflict becomes less and less.  People began to challenge each other’s ideas and question each other openly, all in the spirit of finding the best answers for the community.  When the fear of conflict is no longer present, the best ideas surface.
  • Accountability is embraced.  The community leaders are no longer the primary source of accountability.  Community members start to hold each other accountable for their actions.  Community standards no longer have to be championed solely by leadership as all members become champions of community standards and best practices.
  • Commitment skyrockets.   Community members who trust each other, are focused on collective results, and unafraid to disagree with one another, are able to achieve genuine consensus and buy-in.  They may initially disagree, but once a decision is made, they have confidence in that decision, and their commitment to the chosen course of action is authentic.

As those five things begin to shift, it doesn’t take long to see the positive impacts on turnover, absenteeism, morale, job satisfaction, productivity, and ultimately, the bottom line. 

Creating this type of environment in our business or organization takes effort, authenticity, and time, on everyone’s part.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and it requires planning.   There are organic components to its development, but it is purposefully built.  In addition, maintaining a healthy, high-functioning community requires focused effort on the part of leadership.  But the long-term benefits far outweigh the pain that invariably accompanies growth and change.

These are beyond difficult times.  But rest assured, normalcy will return.  Economic engines will restart.  When they do, what will our businesses and organizations look like?  Will they be united, healthy communities comprised of members who are doing everything within their power to ensure collective success?  Or will they be something else?  As business leaders, the answer to those questions depends on what we are willing to create.