Where is the practical experience?
Two extremes plague ineffective community leadership and community developers. Either they nod their heads in agreement with the person at the head of the table. Or a dominant person ends the conversation, and the status quo remains. Disconnected people and businesses need to be brought into the fold.
We all have stories to tell, a skill to share, or a message to deliver. In today’s world, expressing your thoughts, ideas, and feelings have never been more effortless. The thing is to have the right advice at the right time in the correct format. It can’t be carried out forcefully from the armchair or the big city office; you have to become involved and get your hands dirty.
Both extremes result in, ineffective decision-making, squandered resources and lost opportunities. However, at the same time, weak leaders pat themselves on the back for doing good work, while powerful people tend to be unaware of their incompetence.
After all, people make decisions because you think they’re right, not because you believe they are stupid. Confidence in a decision doesn’t mean it is the correct one.
For anyone active in community development, a stroll down a town’s main street will reveal many of the problems and frustrations a community faces. Many are sick of the people who profess to be innovators, strategists, and practical community advisors, propelled by their rhetoric but lacking any action orientation.
Nothing much ever seems to happen?
The lack of practical experience sees new projects started with much fanfare, but either delayed or never finished. Plans and projects always seem to stall before there are any beneficial outcomes.
Rumours of discontent are commonplace around self-proclaimed experts and ‘entrepreneurs’ with no practical experience. Poor advice passed on to gullible people desperate for something to be done created an era of discontent. Even hostility towards community leaders and external advisors.
These self-proclaimed experts have had little or no real world, or business experience. Often having worked in government, big corporates or financial institutions based in big cities. They have likely left their jobs to pursue a life in a regional area with the hopes of either starting an advisory practice and advise others about what is best for them, based on their limited regional experience.
While these individuals may have valuable and valid advice to pass on, they are not prone to getting their hands dirty. Ppreferring to work behind closed doors. They become a bit like the person who borrows your watch to tell you the time.
Without experience, blind spots can be overwhelming
Blind-spots are like rowing a boat full of holes, but you can’t find the holes. If you don’t see the holes, you’ll sink and wonder why. You will bail to the point of exhaustion and give up in frustration, without fixing the disconnected.
Those who think leading or advising on community development is a popularity contest may become popular, but you won’t be a practical leader. There needs to be more emphasis placed on practical experience across all sectors of a community.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to community development, and plugging the leaks. It is hard to make blanket assumptions and statements about what a community needs from advisors, especially when a town or village is in decline.
The illusion of competence can be lethal to successful community leadership. Experience, success, position, and power can give people the noxious illusion they are good at nearly everything. However, they are exceptional only at one or two things and average at many.
Overconfidence in small doses is useful. It enables you to stretch yourself. Overconfidence in large doses is deadly as you can overlook the obvious.
How can you advise entrepreneurs if you are not an entrepreneur?
Well, you can make suggestions to a true entrepreneur, if you have something worthwhile to contribute. You do not have to be an entrepreneur to know how to interact with one; they may be a little different because they have specific attributes, but they are generally practical people who can join up the dots, solve problems, develop a vision and create typically better outcomes.
Entrepreneurs are not maniacs on a mission; they do things differently.
People who aren’t familiar with community development tend to think it’s a money spinner, but it’s not. Entrepreneurs tend, like others in the community to give back because they want to help people, not because there’s money in it.
In achieving better community outcomes, identify and nurture the entrepreneurs. They will be in every community but maybe a little hard to find. Every person interested in community development should have an experienced entrepreneur as a mentor. Everyone needs to have someone who understands their headspace, helping to identify opportunities and possibilities for the future.
Is ecosystem become disconnected and deprived of practical advisors?
Does your community ecosystem have a problem with so-called ‘experts’ from afar? Are the ecosystems disconnected from each other?
I notice most of the practical advisors keep to themselves and use their networks for information and active community development. It becomes more difficult for outsiders to become involves unless they can demonstrate reliability along with practical and useful advice.
The illusion of competence can be a big problem. Sometimes we see mates introducing mates to solve community problems without checking on their experience. A sweet smile might get people in the door, but a good ecosystem will soon sort them out if nothing is happening.
All too often business owners often say they are too busy running their own business to help anyone else. Well yes, they are too busy unless they are introduced appropriately to opportunities to which they like to support or to lend a hand. Most people will find the time to do what they want to do.
Disconnected communities need more action, not rhetoric
There are many making money talking about community development, the great way forward and innovative projects, rather than the doing bit.
If you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to make time to talk and engage with the community, particularly with the people who are disconnected.
It becomes essential to spot the red lights and understand them.
In today’s competitive market communities are looking to create organic growth through operational improvements to maximise the value of their available funds.
One specific area which can drive this growth is to know how to identify the ‘red lights’, analyse them and deliver a solution. The big question would be where you start driving this value?
You will find most of the talking is by people with minimal practical experience in community development and who have never started or run a business.
While digital marketing and content marketing has changed the face of community advisors and allowed external advisors to become more intimately involved, they still need to have the practical experience.
What is needed, is a more critical analysis
An analysis should be followed by better problem-solving and decision-making skills, rather than just repackaging hearsay and what the loud noises are suggesting should happen. The answers are in improving problem-solving and decision-making:
- The person at the head of the table asks questions and talks less than the group
- Get heads turning toward each other, not the head of the table
- Create a more appropriate conversation
- Any disconnected people need more information
- Encourage transparency and inclusion
- Generate at least three alternatives before making a decision
- Invite input from the ‘quiet’ community members
- Explore and test assumptions before making decisions
- Involve a cross-section of people with practical knowledge and experience.
Many community advisors have vision statements which put people to sleep. If you handed your vision statement to a stranger, would they have any idea what you intend to do?
“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines”. Robert Schuller
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others”. Douglas McArthur