Community or Clique?

Or more appropriately – Are you building a community or a clique?

We are all a part of many communities, both on and off line.  We are inundated with constant buzz about “building communities”.   How often though do we stop and look at whether what we are building or joining is really a community or is it a clique?

There are many different definitions of community.  Some having to with interests and some having to do with geography.   What we seem to have accepted as one definition of community (especially offline ones) is a group of people with similar interests and an agreement as to goals.  The question arises when do we cross the line between being an inclusive, supportive community to a clique (a small exclusive group of friends or associates).

So what do we really mean when we talk about building communities? What really differentiates a community from a clique?  In every community that we belong to, we have those who we feel more comfortable with, those we have more in common with.   But just a like a family, there is always that old aunt or uncle who tells the bad jokes or insists on pinching our cheeks.  There are the people we have less in common with, that we are not as comfortable being around.  When we talk about building a community doesn’t that mean including those people?  If we do not, aren’t we just building a clique?

Communities are multi-facted. If we accept that a community is a group of like-minded people working towards similar goals, doesn’t that mean we have to accept the ones we have less in common with, but who still meet that definition?  In your community, how often do you reach out to those people?  How often do you take the time to find out about them?  Do you reach out and try to help them?  If you are the “leader” of the community, isn’t it your responsibility to foster that environment?  If you claim to want to build a community, shouldn’t you be doing everything possible to foster communication, acceptance and cooperation among your community members?

Are you taking the time to learn and share the negative as well as the positive?  It is easy to share and celebrate all of the good things, but are you also willing to commit to helping your community members through the bad ones?  Do you have a community member who is having a hard time personally or professionally?  Do you even know?  If so, what are you doing to draw the community together to help this person?  Are you using all of the avenues and tools available to know what going on with your community members so that you can act on the good things and the bad things?

We all have our buddies, our friends within our communities and this is not to say that we should not have those we hang out with, socialize with and support those individuals.  But when we revolve our actions around those individuals and not everyone in our community, then we are not really building a community.  If your stated objectives include anything about togetherness, support, sharing or communication and you are not actively reaching across your entire organization and beyond with these concepts, then you are not building a community.  You are building a clique.

How are you building your network?

I was honored to be one of the speakers on the Networking panel at Spark Networking.  The other panelists and I had compiled a list of tips, such as,

Do ask thought-provoking questions that won’t have a yes/no answer.

Do have an elevator pitch.

Do be engaging; develop relationships.

Don’t try to sell your product or service when networking.

Don’t request or provide contact information until you’ve talked to someone.

These and the other tips were meant to aide the participants at Spark in taking their networking skills to the next level. The tips varied on topic, but there was one consistent message = Networking is about having conversations that develop into connections.  Networking is about using these conversations to share the information that develops relationships.  Networking is like weaving a spiderweb of interconnected people. spiderweb2 And like a well-built spider web, that network that you are building needs to be strong and “sticky”.  It needs to branch out from it’s center – You – and continue to grow with each interaction.

When building your network, it is important to remember that the integrity of the web will only be as solid as

– the work you put into building it

– the relationships that you build to connect it

– your honesty, integrity and authenticity that give it strength and stability

My friend and business coach, JJ Reich, put it very well in his post “How Strong is your Network?”

Networking Is All About Building Trust

What most people fail to recognize is that networking is about trust more than anything else. And trust requires that people “feel” that you care about them – not just their pocketbook. They need to feel that you understand who they are and what makes them tick (at least at a cursory level).

You don’t build trust by telling people who YOU are.
Instead, you build trust by understanding who THEY are.

Effective networking not only makes a contact, it makes a connection.  It requires you to utilize your communication and your organization skills.  More importantly though, effective networking is accomplished through honest, authentic curiosity.  Take the time to learn about the other person, develop a relationship with them and build trust between you and them.   These things develop the kind of connections that can be weaved into the strong, sticky spiderweb that will “trap” and hold your business growth.