Last week, I had a two-hour conversation with the one and only Phil Klein, one of the founding members of TEDxRainier and an incredible conversationalist and community organizer.
One of the topics that we stumbled upon was interpersonal traumas and community building: people often try to work out their personal problems through the communities they lead or join.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that notion for a week. I’ve come to the conclusion that, when you boil it down, this is the root of so many communities gone astray.
My guess is that I could take a look at how you run your community or participate in your most cherished communities, and I could tell you (with nothing but kindness and understanding) a little bit about your insecurities. And I say that because I know that just because you operate this way today doesn’t mean you can’t change how you see yourself – and transform your community – tomorrow.
Building a community is an opportunity to create a world we wish existed. In fact, that world already exists if you operate as though it does. But that requires you to work out your own interpersonal traumas to some degree before you begin to lead others.
At CMX, I’ve learned this lesson time and again.
I had always wanted to work for a company that was supportive, for a boss who cared about my personal life but also saw how hard I worked 9-5, for a team who was united behind a shared mission, and for a group that was flexible in its approach but determined in its focus. I wanted our culture to be about caring for one another as humans as much as we cared about the impact we had on the world.
For a while, I guess I thought someone else would do this for me. But some time in the last year, I realized that if I simply operated as if our internal community already had this culture, we simply… would. And when I arrive “at work” (I work remotely), I fully believe we now do.
Take a moment and look around your community and ask yourself:
- Would you want to spend the majority of your life in this community?
- How does the way you manage or participate in this community reflect how you see yourself?
- Are you fearful of how others perceive you?
- Do you lack confidence in the mission you’re standing behind?
- Do you lack trust in others, for any number of totally valid reasons?
If you work out those personal perceptions outside of your community, you can create a better world inside of it.
As human beings, we used to have no choice in our community: our neighbors and family and neighboring villages were what we got.
With the vast infinite possibilities of the Internet, now we can come and go as we please. We can participate in person or in any number of imagined, online spaces.
As a result, the standard for our communities is far higher than it ever has been before. People don’t need to stick around to feel solidarity. They can go elsewhere to find it.
As a community leader, you can see this as a threat to your power. Or you can see it as an opportunity to raise the standard for everyone who chooses to join you, to create a better world inside and outside your community every single day. I hope you choose the latter.