All worthwhile endeavors start with a question.

In a 1962 speech at Rice University, John F. Kennedy famously asked:

“But why, some say, the moon?  Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? …   We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”

That’s the beauty of questions; they have the potential to galvanize one’s efforts with a laser-like focus.   If the question is good enough, you find yourself completely energized to discover an answer.  Can we do this?  Why should we do this?  How can we do this?

When I first started my business, Dr. Clue, back in 1995, my primary question was, “What is ‘team-building’?”   From my initial query 20 years ago arose other questions, such as “What exactly is a team?”, “Can anyone really build a team?”, and “What would be the most impact-ful way to do this while still having fun?”

You see how that works?   You start with a question, and then that query leads to others, and others, in a never-ending string.

And that leads me today’s question:   How can we transform our team(s) into a “community”?

I know what you’re going to say:  “Dave, what exactly do you mean by a community?”  Oh boy. Now that’s opening a kettle of fish!   I typed the question “What is a community?” into a Google search today and got 2,940,000,000 responses! That’s right, nearly 3 billion people think they know what a community is and how to build one.

Call me a slacker but I did not read all 2.9 billion responses.  🙁   I can say this, however — from my experience, you can condense community into 6 basic components namely:

  • Identity
  • Purpose
  • Familiarity
  • Camaraderie
  • Caring
  • Self-Directed Decision Making

–A community has identity.  People know who each other are and what traits they all share.

–A community has a sense of purpose.  People are aware of their mission and what exactly they want to accomplish in the world.

–A community has familiarity.  People know each other inside and out and demonstrate a high degree of vulnerability with each other.

–A community has camaraderie.  People play together, compete together, and celebrate successes together.

–A community is caring.  People show strong empathy for each others’ problems and emotionally walk in each others’ shoes on a regular basis.

–A community makes decisions collectively, jointly creating both their goals as well as the process for accomplishing them.

When constructed intentionally, a community is a wondrous, living thing.  We humans crave community in the worst way — perhaps most especially in this modern era, where we often follow job prospects far away from our extended family/community.

How great would it be if we could experience a sense of community at work, with identity, purpose, familiarity, camaraderie, caring, and co-created decisions.   And how seldom this happens! Most corporate work teams, alas, are constructed in a far more hap-hazard manner, namely.

1) You are given a task.
2) A team is then put together to accomplish that task
3) People leap into the said task without nary a conversation
4) The task is completed and everyone goes their separate ways –barely coming to know their teammates on a personal basis.

This works fine as long as the task is short-term and possesses no major challenges.  But what happens when the s**t hits the fan, when things come completely acropper?  Teams without a strong sense of “community” tend to crack under the pressure, like a house of cards without a firm base, blown to ruin by a stiff wind.

I say we need to start treating our teams like a community, constructing them mindfully, step by step!   We need to:

1) Build identity by discovering commonalities
2) Define our mission and purpose
3) Increase familiarity through time spent together away from the office
4) Boost camaraderie through light competition and cooperative games
5) Cultivate caring by sharing your fears and telling your stories
6) Open up the decision-making process to include everyone, so no-one feels dis-empowered or out of the loop.

Community-based teamwork creates a force to be reckoned with — a group that can weather the inevitable storms…a group that works with true passion and commitment…a team that gets things done.

It took a community of scientists to realize Kennedy’s dream of reaching the moon in less than a decade.  The question is, “Are you and your team ready for the community breakthrough?”