An artistic photograph of a head with a heart as the brain.

Community Mentality

My guesses are that you are here either because you are a passionate community builder or you want to learn about building a community you love. You see yourself as someone who has a lot to offer to the others by building a place for people to be seen and understood, connect and grow.

I am also guessing that you are here because you have tried to build a community, but people are not engaging as much as you thought they would. Many have passed by, but only a few are really staying. There might be many reasons why this happened. Among them all, there is one that I would like to address in this blog: the community mentality.

When stepping in as a leader in a community, it’s crucial to understand the common expectations of the role, what works and what’s not.

The community mentality includes the following aspects: 

   The reason to start– your "why".

*    The promise – Be clear about what you offer and what people can expect from you and the community, and let people decide if this is for them or not.

*    The shift – From the common definition of the leader role to a community leader.

The start

You love people and you love doing what you do. Isn't that enough already?

It depends. Loving people and loving what you do are part of the foundation for building your community. But more importantly, articulating (this is the one thing worth your time and effort) why you started this initiative is equally important as the north star and to be understood by the others for real connection.

When it comes to community, it can go both ways: transaction based community, aka, business, or non-transactional community. Understanding the differences among them is important to decided which one works best to suit your vision. Do you build a community to make profit, serve the others, or the both?  

Akimbo is the a learning organization (brand community) that serves students and community by creating revenue to self-sustain so it would allow the organization to keep doing what they love. This is an important concept to understand, and requires the delicate dance between the two. The vision of changing culture in the society is the beacon that guides everything happening in the community.

In another words, are you building a community as your ultimate goal or a strategy for your ultimate goal such as personal gains? It’s subtle but this is the clear distinction on your “why”. The reason to start a community shows through everything you do: the promise you make, the structure you create, and ways to connect with members and members connect with each other.

People can tell if something is built for them or not, because they notice it everywhere in the community you build.

Have your idea centered on people, you will create something that attract others to join.

The promise

Why other people should join you? Members join a community because the experience is expected to enhance their personal growth.

For everything we do, there is a need behind it whether we realized it or not. What’s the promise you are willing to make for your community? How would you deliver this promise to people who expected to receive it.

For many communities, people start with what they enjoy doing, and they are clear about their passion, their promise for the community and deliver it to people who trust them.

I am using an example from our podcast interview practice group. The promise is: through practice, we will be less worried about million important little details, feel relaxed/confident and skillful with the tasks, and more importantly enjoy the conversations with our guests.

We are delivering this promise by organizing a group practice every week for members to join and practice with each other. The feedback we have received so far? It works. What’s more? It’s fun to practice this way and connect with the others who are on the same journey with similar goals.

The shift

A community leader is less of a power representative but more of a supportive and caring partner.

The traditional definition of a leader with power doesn’t work in the community world. Inaccessible is the a barrier for some to overcome, and the unwillingness to consider building everything centered around members is another.

Many community leaders found it’s extremely difficult to build trust among members, especially for brand community where the relationship between members and community leaders are transaction-based.

Akimbo community also have the transaction element during the enrollment period. But the community leadership team not only recognized the importance of creating the learning environment for members to experience, but actually spent huge amount of time, resources and effort to create a space that is centered around members’ needs with support of generosity and trust. The value that members received from the community is overwhelmingly remarkable that members believe the transaction (cost) at the beginning is negligible.

Based on the value and experience that members received from the community, people not only have learned the skills on their creative journey, but also experienced and learned how it feels when interacting with others in a generous and trustworthy community.

To build trust, leaders are trusting members in the community. To create safety, leaders feel safe being with everyone in the community. To build cooperation, leaders cooperate with members in the community. This mentality is the reflection of leaders’ deep belief about the community and how this belief is communicated through everything we do.

With the above 3 points, you learned the basics to be a community leader. As a community builder, I love seeing people put the others as the center of their care instead of themselves. This one single act says a lot about you being a community leader, and what a community is truly all about: serving the members who chose to join you on this journey.  

Check out my upcoming podcast!
The "Duct Tape Rocket Ship" Podcast thumbnail.