I experienced hyper-community belonging and it then went a bit sour.
I recently attended a 5-day life transformation course called The Landmark Forum. It was utterly fascinating. I learnt a tonne about myself and the past I’ve been living in, the stories I’ve created and the limitless possibilities I now have with my life. It was transformational. I had conversations with my family I probably never would’ve had. It was all about taking action.
I was inspired by everyone who attended. Folks would get up on stage (including myself) and share their personal stories and the action they were taking during the course. Lots of pair-sharing and a lot of bravery. I could see the formation of a community coming together, at hyper-speed! Everyone had tasks to call their important people, to have authentic conversations and just go for it. It’s referred to as “getting on the court”.
It had a lot in common with my experience of being a member of a brilliant community. The premise is that sharing with others will inspire folks into action. I see this in my role as a community manager and the community I advocate for. I encourage folks to get involved with the community by sharing my thoughts on various topics. For example, I’ll share a reflection on my experience and ask a question about theirs. Or I might let someone know that something they shared would make for a good article, talk or forum post.
I encourage in a non-pushy way. I aim to highlight possibilities that work for a particular individual based on where they appear to be in their life and career – and what they’ve told me they need. And when community members encourage someone new, they do so to be helpful and make that person feel welcome. Pushy doesn’t even enter the language.
On the final day of the Landmark Forum course, I joined an unofficial WhatsApp group with about half of the attendees (about 80 people). It’s amazing. A good number of us have been sharing and reflecting. Plus we now actively encourage each other when one of us “gets on the court”. People share and it has an instant community vibe. I’m super grateful for it.
Here’s the sour and confusing bit. The community leaders are super inspirational and super pushy. These are people who are employed by the company behind the course and non-employees who are die-hard volunteers.
Throughout the course, we’re upsold an advanced course. And after five days I received a call from the course leader. I was flattered to have them call me given there were about 160 people on the course. We had a helpful chat and I got some extra coaching, which I’m grateful for. Yet deep down I knew this call was an upsell. I was asked “Why aren’t you going on the advanced course?” and after saying “I choose to not go right now for reasons x and y”, I was told again how amazing it would be and “You’ll call me up in the future and apologise for not doing it sooner.” I felt pretty shit after that. Like I was being guilted into making a decision. And I totally get that, as it’s the point of the Landmark Forum to not focus on someday or take anything personally.
Yet for a community professional, it stung because I believe such pushy behaviour can lead to resentment. Particularly for someone who is finding their way having been thrown into the community with a bunch of other people who are new. And right now I feel a slight bit of resentment towards the community leaders. This is a strange feeling because I like them and they genuinely want the best for humankind. I also got another text from another community leader (employee) to call them back. I’m yet to call them back as I know I’ll be pressured again to sign up for the advanced course. I reconciled that I shouldn’t take it personally, these people are just doing their job in their own direct way.
I’ve felt “Landmarked” and I’m not Landmark. I feel the brand is pushed onto you and is in conflict with the community I’ve become part of and look forward to continuing to contribute to. And it’s too early for me to become a community advocate because it takes time for me to do that – like with any community I join. And I place a heavy bet that most people who join a new community also like to find their way first before jumping in. The odd thing is, I’d recommend the course to anyone because it really is transformational yet it’s the immediate and ongoing upsell that’s caused tension. I’ve never experienced this before with a community and I don’t like the feeling.
The folks who run the course have amazing intent. They genuinely want the best for people so for them it’s a no-brainer to go to the next stage and pay for the next course. I’ll probably go on the advanced course at some point when I don’t feel pushed to make a decision. Yet for me as a community member I know they’ll soon be “the advanced course people” and those who aren’t. And maybe that member differentiator will feel strange. I guess I’ll find out. I choose whatever the outcome is and whatever the outcome isn’t.
I’m super curious about what you make of this. Have you experienced a community that you’ve rapidly felt belonging to where the community leaders were pushing you too fast and in turn were pushing you away? A real juxtaposition!
How pushy are you as a community leader/advocate/manager and what do you think that means for people new to the community?