The little girl was the daughter of one of the Italian dignitaries. She spoke every little English. But that one sentence she uttered triggered in my mind how companies can attract and keep top talents in the workplace.

If you are in any leadership position, pay close attention. It’s how successful organizations become magnets to attract the very best in their industry. It can also lift you up to the top of your company.

More importantly, it will inspire your team members to stay and thrive together during the turbulent change. Let me get to the point.

It was 1996. Atlanta was the home of the Olympic games. I was a doorman at a luxurious hotel. We were the host site for several international delegations. The hotel was full of attendees, dignitaries, and volunteers.

Justina was the little girl. She was only nine years old. Her father was a prominent personality in the Olympics. Every day, she would go to the games with her family.

She would always bring back a little gift for me. We became buddies. Through her broken English, we managed to carry some conversations.

But what’s important here is when Justina said,

“Mister, I love Olympics. One big family. You… my family. All people are happy.”

On the last day, it was so tough to say goodbye. I remember the teddy bear hug Justina gave me. We both shed some tears. The volunteers and the hotel employees were hugging each other with tears in their eyes. It was as if we’ve been together for years.

As I look back on Justina’s remark and the tears that were shed on the last day of the Olympics, it dawns on me something magical happens when leaders focus on…

Creating Caring Communities

I believe the planners of the Olympics intentionally engineer each experience to trigger the feeling of community. All leaders at every level in the organization should do the same.

Think about it. There so many breathtaking emotions during the Olympic games. We bond, cry, cheer, laugh, and reflect. We feel inspired and motivated to go for our gold in life. Whether it’s at home or in person, you still feel the thrill.

Then there are the Olympic Villages – the accommodation centers for athletes, trainers, and the officials.

Let me ask you this: What does the word village conjure up in your mind?

That reminds me of my village in Haiti. In a way, it was a caring community. The people were always there for each other.

The Big Takeaway:

If you want to create highly productive teams or zealous volunteers for your cause, inspire them to think, act and behave as one big caring community.

Here’s why:

They come because of the job. But they will stay because of the community.

They will ultimately decide to stick around or leave based on their emotional connection with each other.

As human beings, we have a vital and psychological need to belong. That’s how we are wired. We need to bond.

According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the need to belong is right up there with the need for safety and food.

We desire to connect with individuals who share our beliefs and care about us. We need the encouragement, support, and cheers of others. That’s the spirit of the Olympics. That’s what little Justina meant.

When the need to belong is not met, we break down and experience emotional pains. We feel rejected and isolated. We suffer from low self-esteem and confidence.

Even introverts crave to belong. They may have social anxiety. But they still secretly want to break through their fears for social interaction.

That explains why some people would get and stay in abusive relationship. It’s because they crave to connect and bond.

The funny thing is, we want freedom, independence, and autonomy. But, we also want to depend on each other. We want to mingle.

Whether you are the pastor of a church, the owner of a small business, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, creating a vibrant and caring community should be your top priority.

How do you do so?

Engineer Experiences That Emotionally Connect Your Team Members

When I’m keynoting a conference, one of my top priorities is to trigger a sense of community within the audience. Why? It’s because once they connect, they are more responsive to my message.

I would ask them to do something as simple as “Give someone you have not met a high five and say ‘You are so awesome!’.” Or I invite a few of them to come on the stage to play and ask the rest cheer them up.

Have you ever heard someone say, “My job is my extended family.”

That’s my point!

However, that CANNOT happen organically. You must have meaningful conversations about it with your team members and leaders. Create activities that require them to interact so they get to connect and bond.

The bottom line is, the more people feel connected as an interdependent community, the harder it is for them to give up and walk away.

For some people, the caring family at work may ultimately matter more to them than their own family.

Justina must be about thirty years old. I have no idea if I will ever be able to cross her path again. But in spirit, we are still connected.

It’s the same for your team members. They will stay connected in spirit for years to come.

If done right, you will boost morale, productivity, and stickiness. The word will get out, and you will attract and keep the superstars of your field.