Building your workforce into a community and a team

Co-authored by Geoff Hudson-Searle, and Ex-Lieutenant Colonel Oakland McCulloch,

It is always a pleasure to join forces with my good friend, ex-Lieutenant Cornel Oakland McCulloch. I have always said the biggest issues in the world today are Leadership without Purpose, Trust, Community which has an obvious correlation to Societal and its Impact to the World. Geoff Hudson-Searle is an expert and practitioner, discussing the role of leadership in creating trust. I was interviewed on London Live at 6pm a short while ago, discussing the issue of trust and the various elements that create community trust, no big surprise that we discussed Leadership Purpose and why we need to build Community trust to really create a positive change to Societal.

“Today’s leaders have a responsibility to inspire the leaders of tomorrow.”
– Lieutenant Colonel Oak McCulloch

Whether it’s leading a group of people in an office setting, managing teams remotely, or more likely, leading a hybrid workforce, it’s critical for leaders to build and maintain trust with their people.

Leadership trust creates the stable foundation for employees and their organizations to flex, adapt, and thrive in times of continuous change.

The behaviors that build trust are the very behaviors that manage change. Trust building helps teams step into ambiguity, stay committed to managing the unknown with confidence, and embrace change as an opportunity to learn, grow, and do great work together.

• Trust is an essential part of a functioning society.
• Public trust has eroded dramatically in the last two decades.
• Leaders can take steps to build trust and improve performance within their organizations.

Trust is an essential component of a free, democratic society. Faith in the process of laws and elections leads to a decrease in violence, an increase in social programs, and a willingness to sacrifice temporary individual interests in favor of collective societal interests. Political trust is especially important in times of crisis when citizens need reliable guidance from political leadership. For example, in the event of an epidemic, which always carries risk and uncertainty, it is essential that citizens trust the advice of public health officials in order to protect themselves and their communities.

Unfortunately, political trust has declined dramatically in the last few decades.

There has also been a decrease in trust in employer leadership, with workers decreasingly confident in employers’ leadership abilities, and willingness to deal fairly and honestly with them.

This is a problem because trust is associated with better performance. People perform at their peak when they can trust their coworkers to do their part, and they believe in management’s plan, and they think management has at least some interest in their well-being. Trust in the organization encourages workers to invest their best efforts rather than just getting by, and follow guidance from leadership even when they may not see an immediate benefit.

Rebuilding trust is a long-term project that will require a massive collective effort, and long-term policy success. In the meantime, there are some steps that leaders can take to build trust locally in their own organizations.

I reviewed a recent study of more than 140 top leadership teams, team members reported greater psychological safety at work when they regularly shared information and developed relationships of mutual influence with others. Interpersonal trust, information sharing, and mutual influence increases overall group psychological safety — a key driver of team performance and innovation.

A shared understanding and language to talk about the specific behaviors that affect trust can result in more productive conversations about team performance. Those conversations can even create stronger bonds between leaders and employees.

But leadership trust isn’t a one-off initiative. It requires continued effort from all team members. And it takes leaders who are willing to show integrity, change behavior, and take on the hard work of collaborating across boundaries and dealing with differences.

Research shows that trust represents a core human need we all have: to trust others, to be trusted in return, and to trust in ourselves. When trust is present, people align around the purpose of their team, embrace goals and objectives, willingly collaborate, and are empowered to do their best work.

When trust is absent, or made vulnerable, work becomes more difficult and takes longer to execute. With the pace of change in today’s organizations, leaders need trust more than ever before.

Building trust with the communities we serve is critical to living our mission. When nonprofits are initially formed, purposeful missions are created with a desire to fulfill an unmet need. From that point forward, things get complex. The people, systems, and processes that make a nonprofit work can separate us from the very people we set out to serve.

We probably think we spend a lot of time listening to our communities and, in many cases, nonprofit leaders do just that. The key is to move from just hearing to active listening. Active listening requires you to listen not just for the facts being shared, but the values and emotions behind the facts.

Listening creates trust, asking questions, seeking clarification, and encouraging others to share their perspective can help create a sense of belonging by building trust. By centering your mission in your conversations with your community and actively listening to their responses, you build confidence that you are working towards a shared impact.

It is also important to listen to every constituency; not just the people who are easily accessible or who make the most noise. By establishing inclusive communication channels that encourage participation from all viewpoints in service of your mission, you have an opportunity to build trust.

Finally, trust is not just a nice-to-have, but an absolute necessity. It serves as the glue that holds relationships, families, organizations, and societies together. When trust is present, it creates a positive environment where people feel safe to take risks, share ideas, and be authentic. This fosters innovation, collaboration, and growth, making trust a powerful multiplier that accelerates processes, reduces costs, and increases efficiency.

Trust is more than just about competence and reliability; it also encompasses character, integrity, honesty, and doing what is right, even when no one is watching. It builds bridges, heals wounds, and creates lasting connections within communities. Often, organizational performance issues can be traced back to underlying trust issues

Trust is not built overnight; it requires vulnerability, empathy, and a willingness to extend trust first. When we trust, we open doors to new possibilities and unlock the potential within ourselves and others. Trust is the foundation of meaningful relationships and endeavors, and it serves as the currency of leadership in creating a better world.

Remember that trust is the key to creating high-performing teams, thriving organizations, and harmonious communities. Trust has the power to transform individuals and societies alike.

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing a fellow author, retired Lieutenant Colonel Oakland McCulloch and good friend– he is a speaker and the author of the 2021 release, “Your Leadership Legacy: Becoming the Leader You Were Meant to Be.”

Over to you Oak!

Thank you, Geoff.

I have overseen many different organizations over my 40 plus years of being a leader. Some were well-functioning organizations when I took charge and others were not. My goal taking charge of any organization was always the same – to make it better.

In my experience the best, most efficient and most effective organizations are the ones that become a community, instead of just a workforce. In a work community the people who work there actually get to know each other and care for and about each other. If your organization just has a workforce then people come to work, draw a paycheck, and go home. It should not be hard to figure out which type of workforce you want in the organization you are leading.

The first step to building a community instead of a workforce is to get to know the people you have the privilege to lead. It all starts with you. If you don’t get to know the people who work for the organization then others will not take the time to do it either. You, as the leader, must set an example for the others in your organization.

There are several ways to start building those personal relationships between you and your team, and between the people of your team.

Start by making an effort to get out from behind your desk and out of your office. Everyday get out and meet the people you lead where they work. I tell leaders your goal should be to go out and find one person each day and find out something new about that person. To really get to know them and to start to build the trust that is needed, don’t ask only about work, ask about their personal life. What is their spouse’s name? What are their kids’ names? What sports do their kids play? What are the person’s hobbies? What do they like and don’t like? If you make this effort, you will be surprised not only by what you learn about the people you are leading, but you will also find that others will take your lead and start to talk with each other.

If your organization is like most, the people in your organization may not even know the other people who work there. In many organizations, especially larger organizations, people may know each other’s names but they could not tell you who they are if they saw them walking down the hall. This is because they text or e-mail or call them on the phone throughout the day, but do not have a face-to-face conversation with others in the building. There is an easy way to fix this.

Make every Friday a no text, no e-mail, no phone call day inside the building. If you want to talk or pass a message to someone inside the building you must get out of your chair and go find that person. All communication inside the building on that day must be face-to-face. You will find that your people will start to get to know each other very quickly. You will notice them stopping to talk to each other when they pass each other in the hallway.

The second step to building a community is to turn the workforce into a team. You want the people working in the organization to feel they are a vital part of the team, not just someone who works there, draws their paycheck and goes home. There are several ways to accomplish this.

A way to get started in this direction is to emphasize team collaboration and effort on projects. You can even go so far as assigning projects to a group, a team, that you select to work together. The people on that assigned project will not only feel like part of a team, but will also get to know the people they are working with better as well.

Establishing shared team goals will help you begin to build a team instead of just a workforce. People will start seeing that they are not just an individual who works in the organization, but that they are a valued member of the team. I would also go as far as making sure each member of the team understands their role as a member of the team in accomplishing those team goals.

The third way to build strong teams is to celebrate successes and wins, no matter how small.

Everyone likes, and needs, positive recognition for their effort. When you give this positive recognition for successes and wins, it will again reinforce that they accomplished this as a team, not as an individual. This encourages them to work together to accomplish the project they have been assigned and take pride in the accomplishments of the team.

Lastly, if you truly want to build a team out of your workforce then hold special events.

These special events can be simple or as elaborate as you want or can afford. I would encourage you to have an event at least once a quarter. If you can do them once a month that would be even better. The events that have worked best for me in the past have been a luncheon, catered by the company. This is a great way for people to get to know each other, especially if you make it a requirement that people have to sit at a table with different people at each event. This is also a GREAT place to celebrate, very publicly, those successes and wins.

If you truly want to develop your workforce into a team it takes a conscious decision and effort on your part as the leader. It will not just happen. The ways to help this process along are not hard. The hard part is for you the leader to actually make the effort to make it happen. Once the process is started and starts to take hold you will be amazed at how quickly it happens and the results you will see. Building a team really is the best way to get the most out of your people and to make your organization the best it can be.

Blaine Lee Pardoe American author and military historian once said:

“When people honor each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence, and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices based on what is right, what is best, what is valued most highly.”

This article is the expressed opinions and collaboration between two senior-level industry board professionals on their views and perceptions on the subject matter:

Oakland McCulloch was born in Loudon, Tennessee, and raised in Kirkland, Illinois. After graduating from high school, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point for two years. He then graduated from Northern Illinois University and received his commission as an Infantry Officer through the Reserve Officer Training Course in 1986.

In his 23-year career in the Army Oak McCulloch held numerous leadership positions in the Infantry and Armor branches. He assisted in disaster relief operations for Hurricane HUGO in Charleston, South Carolina, and Hurricane ANDREW in south Florida.

His operational deployments include Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and Iraq as a General’s Aide-de-Camp, the Congressional Liaison Officer in support of operations in Bosnia, and the Operations Officer during a Peace Keeping deployment to Kosovo.
He held instructor positions at the US Army Ordnance School, the US Army Command and General Staff College, the Australian Command and Staff College, the University of South Alabama, and Stetson University. His last position in the Army was a three-year tour as the Professor of Military Science at the University of South Alabama where he led the training and commissioning of Lieutenants and tripled the size of the program in his three-year tour.

LTC McCulloch retired from the Army in September 2009 with over 23 years of active service and joined the staff at the Bay Area Food Bank as the Associate Director. He was also the Vice Chair for Military Affairs at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Mobile Rotary International Club. LTC McCulloch left the food bank in December 2010 to become the Senior Military Science Instructor and recruiter for the Army ROTC program at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. In his 9 years at Stetson, the program grew from 15 Cadets to over 100 Cadets. In October 2013, he became the Recruiting Operations Officer for the Eagle Battalion Army ROTC program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where he has more than doubled the size of the program in 6 years. Cadet Command selected LTC McCulloch as the top recruiting officer, out of 274 recruiters, for 2019. LTC Oak McCulloch published his first book in February 2021 – “Your Leadership Legacy: Becoming the Leader You Were Meant to Be”.

LTC McCulloch earned a Bachelor of Science degree in History from Northern Illinois University in 1987 and a Master of Military Arts and Science in History from the United States Army Command and General Staff College in 2002. He received thirty-one military service awards including the Bronze Star, eight Meritorious Service Medals, and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

LTC Oak McCulloch is married to the former Kelly Smyth of Wauconda, Illinois. They were married at Fort Sheridan, Illinois in 1987 and they have two children, Oakland Vincent McCulloch and Caileigh Nicholson. They also have a granddaughter, Ryleigh Jade Nicholson, and two grandsons Christopher Bryce Nicholson and Oakland Maverick McCulloch.


Geoff Hudson-Searle is a senior independent digital non-executive director across regulation, technology, and internet security, C-Suite executive on private and listed companies, and serial business advisor for growth-phase tech companies.

With more than 30 years of experience in international business and management he is the author of seven books: Freedom After the Sharks; Meaningful Conversations; Journeys to Success: Volume 9, GOD in Business, Purposeful Discussions, The Trust Paradigm and Scars to Stars Volume 3 and lectures at business forums, conferences, and universities. He has been the focus of radio/podcasts and TV with London Live, Talk TV, TEDx and RT Europe’s business documentary across various thought leadership topics and print media with The Executive Magazine, Headspring/FT, Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Raconteur, AMBA, BCS, EuropeanCEO, CEOToday across his authorisms.

A member and fellow of the Institute of Directors, associate of The Business Institute of Management, a cofounder and board member of the Neustar International Security Council (NISC) and a distinguished member of the Advisory Council for The Global Cyber Academy. He holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Having worked for corporate companies Citibank N.A, MICE Group Plc, Enigma Design, MMT Inc, Kaspersky Laboratory, Bartercard Plc, and RG Group around the world, Geoff has vast international experience working with SME and multinational international clients. International clients with which Geoff has worked include the British Government, HP, Compaq, BT, Powergen, Intel, ARM, Wartsila Group, Atari, Barclays Bank, Societe Generale, Western Union, Chase and Volvo.

Geoff has worked in a broad range of industries including software, technology and banking which has given him a range of different experiences and perspectives of what can work, the importance of good people, process and how these can be applied and amplified to deliver results in different scenarios and paradigms. Geoff is known for bringing in a fresh viewpoint and sometimes challenging the status-quo with a strategic approach delivering successful change management programmes and launching companies and products internationally that deliver results. Geoff’s areas of expertise lie in brand strategy, business communications, business integration, business development and improvement, capital raise activities, pre-IPO planning, capital raise transactions, M&A with full P&L responsibility, which ideally equips him to strengthen global companies, develop SME and international business, and marketing strategies.
The trust Paradigm
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