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People want to belong – but not to you!

People want to belong – but not to you!

If you listen to most marketers, growth consultants and business mentors talking about tribe building there’s not a lot of difference in what they say, and it doesn’t sound that complicated does it?

Yet for many business owners, creatives and people who sell themselves in some way (that’s almost all of us BTW), talking about what you sell and building a connected community around you can be a little daunting and is not something that comes naturally to most people. Why? Because your own stuff gets in the way. When something is really important to you, or something potentially exposes you, or is controversial or counterintuitive it is risky to put it out there for criticism, ridicule even, all your vulnerabilities show up and the excuses come out. The result you don’t build connection.

The truth is it takes effort and time to build your tribe, but most of all it takes courage. If you want to get connected you have to show up – consistently. You also have to follow a few basic rules – even if they feel counterintuitive.

 Here are my tribe building rules:

Be clear – understand what you stand for and why you are developing this particular community – if it’s just to sell stuff you may need a rethink!

Don’t try to please everyone – think about who you really want to connect with, who you best serve, (this is usually the people you like working with also – it’s your group you get to choose), and think about how many people you really need to connect with – it’s easy to get sucked into the bigger is better trap, engaged and committed is always better.

Be yourself – nobody likes a fake, they won’t engage if they don’t trust you and will switch off if they don’t believe you. If you have done the first two things, this will be a lot easier. Stick to your values, talk about what matters to you and helps the community you are building – this is not the same as talking about yourself and your stuff by the way. You first have to earn that right, and the continue to use it with respect and boundaries.

Now be the more human version of yourself – it’s easy to get into leader or teacher mode in your community and while it might give you some warped feeling of security or credibility it is very bad for community engagement. So be as personable as you can be, don’t put on the formal, professional, jargony, stuffy or conforming version of yourself, just be yourself – talk the same, act the same, use the same humour, be vulnerable, just be appropriate for your audience – which if you’ve focused on who you want to connect with this should be natural. My guide be you for them.

Create emotional contention – most of your connection investment goes in here, time, energy and vulnerability – so make sure you are building around things that matter to you, that you are committed to and happy to talk about. These things should cross over both content and the experience members get from the community. Remember that people are making and emotional investment in working with you, usually long before they make a financial one!

Provide valuable and entertaining content – there is so much content available that your stuff has to entertain and /or add value if you want people to consume it.

Be consistent and available – just to be clear I am not suggesting you are on social 24/7 – you set the rules of engagement, or how to interact, it’s your community, but remember if you want people to spend time in your tribe, you have to as well.

Humans love to belong, to feel connected and part of that is adding value, not just being given (or told) stuff, this is why interaction and engagement are so key to building successful tribes.

It might be your tribe, but you are only one of many moving parts. You might hold the space – whether it is a business, social or family group, people in that space might recognise you as the leader, they might consume your wisdom, they connect with other members and only truly connect with you when you talk about stuff that matters to them – they don’t necessarily care what matters to you.

 You are only ever one player in the connection game, People are not connecting with you they are connecting with each other.


Once you get this you are on the way to building a community.

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Own Your Presence

Own Your Presence

We all know people who can just walk into a room and own it. People pay attention to them, they might want to be noticed by them – or hidden from them depending on the circumstances. The mood, energy and attitude of these people impacts the room. They are the rapport leaders – for good or bad, they influence how others behave, interact and even what they think. These people are connected energetically, they are noticeable, they have a presence.

When we look at the constructs of our society it is geared towards needing to stand out, needing to be heard and to have an impact – and that is certainly true for business owners. In short, we are geared towards valuing extrovert behaviours.

We see this in the workplace, in schools, in many social clubs and certainly at parties – outgoing, sociable people, ones with lots of friends, ones who ’know’ lots of people. All are considered more noticeable. According to Susan Cain, in her book ‘Quiet’ this happens to an extent that people with more introverted tendencies fear they are at a disadvantage or even ashamed of their quiet natures, and somehow less worthy. She talks about society’s bias towards extroversion and how many introverts feel that in order to progress they need to develop more extrovert styles. She also points out that somewhere between a third and a half of the population favour introversion as their natural style, and by denying the value of this we are reducing the connectedness, the creativity of society, we risk losing some of the great talents that lie within introverts who cannot express themselves in this noisy world.

Let’s be honest though, introvert/extrovert/ambivert – we all need to have an impact, and we all need to have that impact in a way that suits our style, personality and values – in other words we need to be real and show up as ourselves.

Wherever you sit on the introvert/extrovert spectrum there are challenges and wins for you when we get down to presence. And for most of us we have a natural preference, but move backwards and forwards along the introvert/extrovert spectrum depending on the circumstances that we find ourselves in.

Let’s look at extroverts first – you find it easy to walk into the room and seek attention, you like being in the spotlight, you have something to say, you’re on form and you easily tune in and engage with people around you, you carry the conversation on and on and never tire.

But, and it’s a big but, if you are not given that attention you are quite likely to crumple quickly, feel insecure, try harder to get noticed and probably be more inclined to talk about yourself and your accomplishments, not listen too closely to what others are saying and as a result not engage very well. People around you may tire of you your tales and your Duracell bunny style energy.

We need extrovert behaviour in business to get the conversations going, to start the exchange of creativity, to hold the energy for the room sometimes – just note this is extrovert behaviours, any one of us can learn and adopt these.

If you are an introvert then all I’ve just mentioned forms part of your worst nightmare. You are much more likely to listen, not get your point across, or not even be noticed, while at the same time finding the whole affair exhausting. You’d much rather slink into a quiet corner and have a conversation with one or two like-minded people.

We need introvert behaviours – that quiet introspection, to step back from group think, to allow individual creativity and revelations, which can be later developed or refined by a group. We need leaders who listen and are driven by what they believe is right, and not just a desire for the limelight – and again these introvert behaviours can be learned by any of us.

Of course, these are two extremes and as I said before you are most likely to move around the spectrum with a whole range of learned behaviours that allow you to function reasonably well in situations which are not your preference.

So, let’s come back to having a presence, being that person who owns the room – and just to be clear this is about authenticity, being real. It is not about being an introvert or extrovert, it’s about understanding what behaviours you can step into to have the impact you need to have in any given situation.

I believe there are three things that enable you to show up with conviction – confidence, position and clarity.

Confidence – understanding what value you bring to the table

Position – where are you coming from, what do you know, what do you need to share, what is your opinion.

Clarity – where are the lines, what are you prepared to do or not do in support of this thing or issue, what are your personal values around it?

And your answer to those three questions will vary depending on the circumstances, the issues, and how important a given topic is to you – and that’s ok.

The final piece of work around presence is self-management – and again what you need to do is both circumstantial and dependent on your introvert/extrovert tendencies.

Story, communication and energy all impact on your presence and with some planning and some attention they are all controllable.

Check in on the stories you tell yourself. Do they drive you to greatness or are they holding you back? Where might you need to do some work on your stories (or excuses) in order to achieve what you need to achieve?

Communication – be yourself, if you are not shouty, rah, rah – then don’t try to be. You’ll feel odd, look fake and lose impact. By the same token if you have something to say, say it, your way. If you are more dramatic then go for impact – be yourself.

Here’s the thing with communication, particularly when you really need to make an impact, practice and precision matter. Plan beforehand – even if you prefer to wing it! Know what you want to say and how you want to say it – then practice. This will make you more confident, more able to find a rapport with the people, and more able to lead the conversation in a connected way.

Energy – your energy is a huge part of your presence so control it. Use your physical presence to reinforce your message, not to undo it. Remember, actions speak louder than words – ensure your body language supports what you are saying. And ensure your mood or state does not undermine your impact. In short, think about the energy you are spreading and ensure it matches what you want the people you are with to feel.

We covered a lot her. Fundamentally, presence – or owning a room – is about paying attention, being true to yourself and who you are, while at the same time being mindful of what people need from you. It is about being able to connect, to share energy, and to move people with your courage and conviction. Personality type is not an excuse, or a cop out – it is a vehicle for understanding behaviour and how to show up in a congruent but powerful way, whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert.

So go have some fun with this, pay attention to what you do currently and where you could be more impactful, then practice.

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