Think back for a moment to a summer of your childhood where you met some new people and became close friends. Maybe it was summer camp. Maybe it was a vacation. Or perhaps it was some team you were part of and you all stuck together and played like champions. The point is, that you were young, the time was amazing and you were going to be best friends forever.
Feeling any warm nostalgic fuzzies yet?
When those moments happen, we seldom look at the bonds that develop through a critical lens. They just are, we enjoy them and accept it as so. We like the feeling of community that develops and there is no need to examine its origin.
Now let’s come back to the office.
It probably doesn’t feel much like summer camp. As a boss, you may wish a little bit of that community you felt sitting around a campfire existed in the office. And you may be tempted to start “creating” community in your workplace and in your social media presence. But, here is a lesson for you to learn. Community is always a by-product of something else. If you try to create community for the sake of community, then you will ultimately destroy it.
Community only develops out of a shared experience. The reason you’re attached to those friends from summer camp is because you experienced something significant together. This is a primary reason that a lot of people who go to team building retreats never really get anything out of it. They know from the beginning that the whole purpose of the event is to bring them together and the experience is really smoke and mirrors.
If you really want to create a sense of community, then you need to forget that you want to create community. What you really need to focus on is creating common experiences. Create events of significance that cause people to get a little off-balance and work through something together. If you’re talking about your social media presence then you need to figure out and tap into the common thread that causes your followers to keep following you.
Last night a former student came up to me in a restaurant to say hi. She happened to mention that she was still friends with another student from that class and that they were reminiscing about how much they got out of it. The deal is, they were lumped into a group of people they didn’t really know to work a hard project for the entire semester. And in many cases they, really didn’t see the point of the exercise at the time. But, she said now she’s really glad she took my class because she’s kicking butt in her advanced classes as a result of the experience. That’s good for me to hear. Former students are still connecting two years after the class and reflecting on the experience in a positive light.