Month of Learning

Please enter email and password to continue

Step To The Side To Find Community Leaders

If you are building a community and want it to progress, it has to take on a life of its own. It pays to step aside and let others lead. 

Nurturing community, in fact, goes beyond you and your involvement. It’s about keeping the entire effort relevant in the eyes, hearts and minds of others.

This article looks at giving up control to make the whole effort better by making and welcoming community leaders. You build your community in unison withpeople, not away fromthem. 

For the record, community development cannot be based on the efforts of one person:

— If a community is dependent on one person continually at the front, it is at risk of collapse

— If the leader loses interest, it dwindles. For instance, a yearly subscription would feel less worthy in month 11 than it did in month one

— When everything is led by one person, it can start to become an agenda

Why Does It Pay To Step Aside To Look Forwards

When stepping forward with an initiative, someone has to start it and be continually present. This is how you build familiarity and buy-in from other people. Once there is momentum and a sense of companionship and belonging (read this article), there should be an opportunity for others to lead and deliver.

Building community, but having the ease to put that community in other spaces, is becoming a very real thing. 

This is what we did recently with the YATM Lunch Club Bristol and a lunchtime event led by others from the community (and of which I had no direct involvement in the day). 

When you put an initiative in another location, it goes beyond delivering a familiar format. It’s about new people coming on board and others leading from the front. In essence, building community is about finding the others (connected by interests, ambitions and goals that are similar to yours). 

The YATM Lunch Club events, since 2016, have been about ways for people to connect, learn and apply ideas.

Why I Had To Let Go

I want to prove that YATM can work in other locations and be delivered by others who feel a part of the whole initiative. It is about the people, not a person (me).

I am starting to find ways where geography should not limit people and we should find ways to connect these islands and people to congregate in places that feel convenient and relevant. For instance, we have an online space where everyone receives the Thursday YATM newsletter and also the new YATM Club, which is becoming our digital campfire.

Around this is the real-world activity that brings people together. It has predominantly been in Dorset, but why can’t other locations work?

The downside when you are building location-driven in-person activity is that it does involve a huge investment of time. This is something we experimented with in February 2020 when YATM Bristol launched and Gordon Fong and I went to help set up the Bristol launch. It was great but with the travel and organisation it was effectively two days away. 

What happened on November 3rd was Catherine Adams and Fleur Cook delivered and hosted the entire event.

A big lesson for me here was not to be fearful of giving up control. You have to reframe in terms of others stepping up to lead and make the whole effort better. This had already been proved by Matt King and YATM Learning in 2021 and Liam Toms with YATM Game Nites in 2022.

It also shows that if you want something to happen and aspirations to widen your net, inaction is the worse thing you can do.

The following section is what needs to be done to encourage the leadership of the team to find the others.

Can Anyone Step Up?

It sounds good putting an invite out for others to lead, but it doesn’t work that way. 

It only works when others are a part of the whole effort. This is where the reward can be found. People with different skill sets shine and who may have been overlooked or not been applied elsewhere. For instance, Liam Toms is a talented presenter when it comes to incorporating a gaming element to work. 

It works like this:

— Create the environment where people want to be

— Be persistent and deliver

— People make themselves known

— Opportunities arise for them to lead

A lot comes down to trust. If it is someone you are not too familiar with, doesn’t participate (or doesn’t even subscribe), or isn’t a part of the group then you could make a step into uncertain territory.

How Can It Be Different But Still Feel Similar 

The Bristol event had to be different as I wasn’t involved. This means the style of delivery had to vary. For instance, I am energetic and lively, and the Bristol event had a sense of calmness about it and felt composed and relaxed. Perhaps a more steady and quietly assured format to progress?

The reason it felt similar was that for our events, we have segments (almost like a show). Even though we have a central theme and the main guest (our topic was writing with Sarah Townsend), it still has sections for people to contribute to and people to get involved. This is so important as it puts the YATM stamp on the occasion.

You can be different but feel similar, it all comes down to recognising issues, themes or topics that people are interested in: creation, business, creativity, independence, cooperationand learning.

For any initiative that wants to grow, the ability to hand the torch over is what keeps a continual pulse. We need to find and create more leaders and give them the support to take the whole effort to the next level. It also means you celebrate as a team.

What I Learned From Stepping Back & Others Leading

The Lunch Club event was in a new location, I was away from the activity, it was delivered by others and it worked.

Here is what I learned from this exercise of not being present and other people welcoming others.

You can’t be protective, let go 

If you hold on too much to what you have started, it can become suffocating, such as every decision is on you. If you can see progress, let others put their own interpretation, when it feels right. Catherine Adams, who co-hosted the event shares her thoughts, “Having others to support me made it much less daunting. I like the fact that YATM isn’t some fully formed prescriptive organisation, and that it’s an open space to offer ideas and evolve seemingly organically.”

Others can develop and deliver 

The Bristol event was presented by people who are a part of the area, which meant they have an attachment to the location. It’s a part of their life so felt easier to make their own stamp in familiar surroundings to keep going and develop their skills.

You can’t micro-manage 

Whilst I helped shape the event from afar, I wasn’t there to deliver. I have done it where I was in the room before, but that can perhaps detract from someone else saying ‘leave it to me, I’ve got this.’

Everyone can build in confidence 

The YATM Lunch Club could have been cancelled due to lack of interest (that happened in 2019 when we wanted to start), it could have happened again, thankfully it didn’t. What this meant was that it felt good and riding the wave of encouraging feedback from attendees on LinkedIn proved that it can work.

The whole effort becomes energised 

When people feel bolstered from delivering something new, it becomes the catalyst to do it again. We’re going to work to a bi-monthly schedule for 2023 and the year is more or less planned. It feels motivating to want the event to work in Bristol and know others are cheering you on. Catherine said, “The tone and feel of the event really matched my own, and I think YATM is attracting some like-minded people who are in turn bringing others into this space.” 

New opportunities and options presented 

Stepping back and handing over to other leaders can mean that the whole effort is noticed alongside the capabilities of others. For instance, someone else’s influence is noticed as well as a particular skill such as presenting. Catherine shared, “I’m not a big loud personality but I’m confident and have my own style, happy to help others feel comfortable. We can grow the community and all find our place, and the confidence to explore a little further within that safe space.”

Let’s Round-Up

A growing community is something that can start to take on a life of its own, it still needs to be managed but perhaps not as direct as you once thought. 

When people feel like they belong, then their contribution and involvement matter, it’s how we can all move forward. By feeling a part and knowing that the door is open to experimenting with ideas, it can become empowered to act independently but still connected to the overall cause. 

It makes you realise that community is not about people gathering around the space you build, but a valuable resource of talented people who are prepared and willing to step up and make their own mark. It helps to allow people to gain status and take from and give back to, the group.

Putting trust in others (the community) means the whole effort has greater relevance that can be bigger than your business. Allowing others to lead gives greater value by new activities being a part of your ongoing activity. 


Get the
Thursday newsletter

The YATM Weekly helps you build a loyal audience so you become the leading voice in your marketplace. All yours every Thursday.

Find out more

    ‘You Are The Media is powered by We Are The Media. We turn your expertise into clear, compelling messages, then build those messages into the kind of content people value —and come back for.

    Visit We Are The Media