Five Pillars of Community: Shared Responsibility

Establishing the Pillars of Community within member-driven organizations is vital to their success.

Having a strong community encourages and activates the full potential of the communities you are trying to build and serve. How do we create strong communities?

As featured in Why Community Matters series with Kiki L’Italien of Association Chat

Join us over the next several weeks as we answer this question and feature each of the five pillars in JUNO’s Five Pillars of Community: Connecting Humans for Organizational Growth, available for download here.

The second community pillar that can greatly impact the overall success of a community is Shared Responsibility. When starting a business, for example, a group of ordinary people get together to create something impactful; they have a vision. A business requires a group of people with different skill sets to make it function and a shared responsibility to the whole to make it thrive. If leaders of organizations begin to separate themselves from the team, engagement numbers drop. It is critical that leaders reassure the “we” throughout the community. From the person with the most responsibilities to the least, everyone needs to understand the “we” in the team. If employees feel stranded or alone, they will begin to individualize their work and fail to see the overall success that would be possible if everyone worked as a team. Remind the people in your communities that “we” are in this together and there will be increased motivation.      

To increase motivation and encourage “we” in our businesses, it is first important to understand why that may not be happening. Max Ringelmann, an early 1900s French professor, established what is known as the Ringelmann effect. Ringelmann discovered that people exert less effort when everyone has the same role. A perfect example of this is with the game tug of war. According to the Harvard Business Review, “in a set of simple rope pulling experiments, he discovered that people’s efforts quickly diminish as team size increases. He rationalized the decay in effort by suggesting it was difficult for team members to coordinate effort” (Rond HBR). This happens all the time in organizations and associations. If there is no unique role given, people inside of our organizations will start to believe their contributions have no unique meaning. If everyone feels like they are doing what everyone else is doing, what motivation is there to contribute more?  

After Alan Ingham and company from the University of Massachusetts Amherst recreated the tug of war event, more and more studies began to develop over the Ringelmann effect. What these recent studies found was “it didn’t seem to matter whether people were part of a larger team or simply thought they were part of a larger team — they worked less hard” (Rond HBR). Any leader in any organization must define what their community members' roles are in this journey. If they do not, it is crucial to take a step back, look at the company's vision, and reinstate it to the community. When leaders and community members understand the shared vision and responsibility, progress can be created together.  

It can be very difficult to think about the thousands of association members and establish a unique role for all of them. Step back to vision and communicate the direction and desired outcome so that people may self-select how they can play a role in that. Think about the person at the end of the tug of war game; that person is always trying and pulling the most weight. There is a unique role for everyone and all talents can impact the community differently. However, if people don’t understand their role and the vision, there will only be one person pulling as hard as they can from the back. With an established vision, people will find a place for themselves on the rope and begin pulling together because they know their contribution is different from everyone else’s.  

According to Brent Gleeson, leadership strategist for Forbes: “leaders improve engagement by defining and communicating a powerful vision for the organization. They hire and develop managers that are emotionally invested in the organization’s mission and vision and give them the resources to build great teams with the right people in the right roles. They empower.” Engagement means that individuals care about the progress of the business and they understand that their role has an impact on that. If that is reassured, it will keep people motivated. Give credit where credit is due, and really define the importance of team effort within that vision.  Communities that know where they are going and why it matters are successful.