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Creating Community

July 18, 2023

Leaders are responsible for fostering community.

Community has become a buzzword in recent years. We’re told it’s important. We’re told that we need it. And as leaders, we’re told to foster it. But if we’re honest, most of us don’t have any idea where to start. 

Let’s begin by defining it. Oxford English says community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

This fellowship provides an outlet for mutual encouragement and support. It also provides a platform to solve problems, innovate, create, and impact. Strong communities of people can leave a lasting impact on the world around them, but strong communities don’t form overnight.

Know this: The conscious cultivation of community requires the conscious commitment of time. 

So, in addition to time, how do you tangibly foster, create, and cultivate community? Let me suggest two places to start: prioritize in-person connections and establish trust.

First, prioritize in-person connections over virtual ones.
Our smartphones and the internet make it possible to connect with people from all over the world instantly. We can host meetings from the comfort of our homes. We can text a hurting family member. We can get a life update about a friend from social media. We can watch a church service online.

These things in themselves are not bad. These virtual connections can be helpful. However, if we as leaders suggest that virtual connections are as beneficial as in-person ones, we’re creating a barrier for the people we lead to experience deep, meaningful, and productive relationships. Encourage your teams to meet in person. Encourage your family members to have meals together around the table (without devices!) and talk! Ask your friend to go out for coffee, so you can catch up.

There is no substitute for in-person relationships.

Second, establish trust.

Stephen Covey has identified these five ways to build trust in relationships:
Talk straight. Tell the truth, and don’t mince words. As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind.”
2. Demonstrate respect, by showing you genuinely care about the person in front of you.
3. Listen first. Avoid assumptions and seek to understand.
4. Right wrongs. If you make a mistake, own it, and work to make it right!
5. Deliver results. Be reliable. Get the job done without excuses.

Modeling these actions to the people you lead will help set the stage for trust building. After all, your team needs to trust you first before they will follow you and be active participants in the vibrant community you’re seeking to build.

Don’t forget; leaders need community too. In seeking to help the people you lead form a strong community, be active in creating community for yourself to thrive personally at work, at home, and in your other spheres of influence. Prioritizing in-person relationships and working to establish trust are great places to start.


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