Every community member is special, of course. But some are extra special.
Today Tony is flying solo, and he's going to be talking about a very, very special type of member in every community. Maybe you are this member, or maybe you know one. We're talking about the super member, the one at the very center of your community culture who plays a huge role in making the community successful—and even making it possible.
To explore that topic, he's bringing in a close friend and former member of the coworking community he ran in NYC, New Work City: Whitney Hess. Whitney started out as a community experience designer and has now become a renowned executive coach.
Today, Whitney shares a bit about her experience as a member of New Work City, and what made it possible for her to step into that space as a super member.
You'll hear about how community leaders can operate in a “power-with” paradigm of community leadership and management. It's a way of empowering members to do what they need to to make the community better.
You'll even learn how the culture of contribution they cultivated at New Work City led Whitney to meet her life partner (really!).
And Tony and Whitney explore how community leaders can nurture super members, like Whitney, who play a formative role in developing a community's culture.
Whitney Hess is a coach, writer, and designer on a mission to put humanity back into business. She believes empathy builds empires.
Whitney helps progressive creative leaders design their careers and accelerate their missions. Her techniques help people gain self-awareness, identify blind spots, navigate obstacles, and bring their whole selves to their work.
For more than a decade, Whitney was a user experience consultant making technology easier and more pleasurable to use. She has been recognized for her work with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Foundation Center, Seamless, Boxee, and WNYC. She is named as a co-inventor on a U.S. patent with American Express.
Whitney is a two-time graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, with a Master’s in Human-Computer Interaction and a Bachelor’s in Professional Writing and HCI. She is a Certified Integral Coach through New Ventures West and a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coaching Federation. She writes on her blog Pleasure & Pain, co-hosts the podcast Designing Yourself, and speaks at conferences and corporations worldwide.
A native New Yorker, Whitney currently lives in Maine with her partner, Fredrick Selby. They are in the early stages of planning their circumnavigation.
In This Episode
- Whitney's journey from user experience designer to executive coach
- Finding connection and community while being self-employed
- Why you should “show your warts” early in the process of community-building
- What Whitney learned about community from her time at New Work City (the coworking space Tony used to run in NYC)
- Stewardship vs control in communities
- What leadership qualities compel super members like Whitney
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb [Amazon affiliate link]
The CX 032: The Life-Changing Role of the Super Member with Whitney Hess
Whitney Hess: You can position yourself as the know-it-all, the best, the leader. And have enough authoritarian kind of lead. Or you can be a servant leader. And you can recognize that you are there in service to the individuals. And then consider that you have to do everything for them.
And then I think that there's some middle ground. Which is maybe a collaborative leader. I've recently heard this refer to as an abundant leader. Which I think is beautiful.
Tony Bacigalupo: Hey everybody, Tony Bacigalupo. Here I am flying solo. No, Jill today, just me. And I'm here to talk to you about a very, very special member in every community. Maybe you are this member, maybe you know one of these members in one of your communities. Of course, every member is special.
But I am talking about the super member, the one right at the very center of your community culture. And this person can be such an incredibly important part of so much of what makes your community possible. What makes your community successful. And so to comment on that, I thought that we could bring in the most super of super members I have ever known, my dear friend, Whitney Hess. Whitney Hess, started out as a Community Experience Designer, and has now become what you would call an Executive Coach. And she is an extremely well-renowned person in her field.
And so in this conversation, Whitney's going to tell us a little bit about her experience as a member of a community. What made it possible for her to step into that space as a super member. And how you can apply some of the same thinking to your own business. So let's get into the conversation with Whitney Hess, my dear friend, can't wait to introduce you to her. Great conversation coming up on this episode of The Community Experience.
Oh my goodness, Whitney Hess.
Whitney: They thank you so much for having me, Tony.
Tony: I can't even finish my sentence. I'm like, "Oh, I'm so grateful to have you. It's an honor. It's so exciting." Yay. We get to catch up.
Whitney: I'm so thrilled to be here.
Tony: Most of you listening, don't know Whitney, and I, have been friends for a good long time, now. We've been dear friends through thick and thin through all kinds of crazy things. And we haven't spoken in a little while. So we have to resist the urge to make this a personal catch up.
Whitney: And we will resist the urge to speak in private jokes, and other things that listeners probably won't to understand.
Tony: There will be inside jokes, I'm just saying. I'm just saying. So, Whitney, why don't we start off, catch the listeners up. Maybe get us to when we first met, where you were in your life and kind of just the brief bio of kind of how your life journey has taken you to where you are now.
Whitney: So, I started my career in 2005, as an Interaction Designer. Which is a highly specialized term, that's now under the umbrella of user experience. And so I was working full-time as a User Experience Designer, at a financial software company in New York City. When you and I first met in the spring of 2008. I had worked for a couple marketing companies prior to that. And I had been doing some freelance work on the side while I was full-time employed.
And when you and I met, I was just beginning to toy with the idea of maybe quitting my full-time job, and being independent. Going solo. And in the years, since, I have never had a full-time job since. I built a business as a user experience consultant for many years. And then in 2013, I moved toward coaching. And I did a year long coaching certification program.
And then in 2014, I started offering my services as a coach. And so my business has evolved. But that business concept, the idea that I would be my own boss, that started around the time that you and I first met has been happening ever since. And now I'm a full-time coach, and still working for myself. And never in a million years could have predicted it.
Tony: Absolutely incredible. And so you have, I know since marking your journey as an independent worker, been a champion for it. And you've shared a lot about your journey. Maybe can you just say briefly what your experience has been like working for yourself? I know we had a conversation a couple years ago where we both kind of had a moment in the midst of the various stresses of being on your own.
There's almost this other dream that starts to emerge of like, "What if I just got a regular job? What if I show up and they pay me and I do whatever they tell me, and then I leave and that's it."
Whitney: Yes. So-
Tony: Do you still have that fantasy? Does that still come up from time time?
Whitney: It does. And what's funny is that when I was first independent, and working out of New Work City, which I'm sure we will talk quite a bit about coming up. And beginning to realize the energy that it takes to be self-motivated every day. And having to make all of your own decisions. And having to really trust that you understand your vision, that you have the skills that it takes to make that vision come to fruition. That you have the stamina to run your own business.
You and I, had a conversation, maybe six months into it, where we realized we needed help. But we weren't really ready to hire employees. What we wanted to do was hire a boss.
Whitney: Someone who would just tell us what to do. Because decision fatigue is real. And so yes. It is true that over the years I have dreamt of what it would be like to have a full time job again. Have someone, or someones — a whole bunch of people perhaps have very clear ideas about what it is I'm supposed to be doing every day. And not afraid to articulate that. And just having those confines to work within.
So if I were to ever have a full-time job again, which I don't count out. Because life is funny and interesting, and you never know where it's going to take you. It would need to be a company that really wants one of a kind individuals who are not going to fit into a box.
Because what I do is very hard to talk about. The results of what I do are typically difficult to measure. And so much of what I do is confidential. So it's hard to talk about. So there would have to be a big leap of faith that would go into hiring me. But if someone is game for that, I mean, maybe I am too. I don't want to shut down any opportunities and paths.
Tony: I completely feel you on that. And I think you're not going to find a listing in monster.com, or whatever, indeed.com, or LinkedIn for something that might be a fit. But somebody might find you to be a fit for what they need. And that's relationships and conversations.
Whitney: Exactly. And I'm very open to that. And I have quite a few clients who go back, and forth between doing their own thing and working full time. And a sort of frame of mind that I work with them is thinking of the full time job as a client. It may be your only client at the time. It may be that you're not also working on other things. It depends on how fulfilling that full-time work is, and how committed you want to be to it.
But if it's a way of expressing your skills, and your passions, then it needn’t feel like a confining thing that I think we've often talked about full-time jobs being in contrast to working independently. It can really be very freeing. And I think that was sort of what you and I had noted early on is that there can be something freeing to the structure of a defined role.
Tony: You mentioned your work, you said that a lot of it is confidential. Do you work for the CIA? Tell us about your work.
Whitney: I can confidently say, no. I do not work for the CIA.
Tony: Tell us about what you tell us about your work, because we're definitely going to come back to that, and how that it relates to community as well.
Whitney: So I refer to myself differently in different contexts, but I'll just say for the sake of this conversation, I'm generally what's referred to as an Executive Coach. So, I work with leaders, and teams mostly in one-on-one engagements. And I support them in developing themselves into the leaders that they wish to be.
Whatever is getting in their way, whatever might be a blocker to progress are the sorts of things that we for focus on together. And I help them to clarify their vision, accelerate their mission, design their career, and just generally feel more self connected, more self-empowered to make the decisions, and the moves that are really meaningful to them, and to their businesses.
Tony: Thank you for that. I know it can be difficult, especially for people with a history of independent work. Us creative, multipotentialite types. One of the hardest questions anyone can ask is what do you do?
Tony: But we've also practiced giving different answers in different contexts. We will come back to this topic as it pertains to leaders, and how their growth affects the community later on. But I wanted to just establish that before we go into conversation about your experience as a member of a community.
We talked about how working for yourself, there's all of these ups and downs. And certainly not having the structure of being a part of a company. A traditional company where you have access to all of that infrastructure that you would normally have, definitely, can make things a little bit harder.
And so you sought some of that support in a co-working community, in particular, my co-working community, New Work City, which was a co-working space that I ran along with our dear friend, Peter for a number of years. And can you tell me a little bit about maybe just first off, why was this important to you? What did you see in this community that really made you care as much as you did about it? And what motivated you to go above and beyond to not just be a member, but to be what I'm going to characterize as a super member?
Whitney: Well, when I was first conceptualizing quitting my full-time job, and working for myself. While it was attractive to be able to work from home, and to have flexible hours, and to never get out of my pajamas all day. I also knew that if that was my life day in, day out, it wasn't going to work for me.
I knew that I would probably never leave my apartment. Because I'm naturally pretty introverted. I'm an only child. I'm very good at spending time alone. So, I knew I had to have something built into my life that would encourage me to leave the house, and to be surrounded by people. Because even though I consider myself introverted, I do feed off of other people's energy. I, then need to go home and be alone for a while. But I really do feed off of other people's energy.
And relationships are so important to me. And I enjoyed being a part of a team, when I was working full-time. And I didn't want to lose that camaraderie. So when you and I, first met, I did not know that anything existed that would meet these needs. I had the assumption that possibly one or two of my clients, who were local might have me in their office a couple days a week. Where I could come and go, as I pleased, because I'd be the consultant, not the employee.
But where I would still be able to go into an office, and have a space, and connect with people. And have that kind of social experience around my work. But when we met, and you explained that you were in the process of bringing New Work City into existence, it was like a light bulb went off over my head like, "Whoa, you mean to tell me that there are places where groups of people who are working independently can come together and support one another."
It blew my mind. And so I told you then, "Keep me posted when you're getting ready to open, or when you do open. Because I know I need this in my life." So, I knew that the need was connection, community, variety, support. There were a lot of needs that were very clear to me. But I hadn't yet realized that a coworking community could be a strategy to meet those needs.
And so when you were in the latter stages, and when you were getting closer to opening, you must have had me on a list. And you invited those of us who had expressed interest to come check out the space as you were signing the lease, or about to sign the lease. And that act felt so inclusive for me. It really made me feel like I was a part of something that this was not a transactional relationship here, that I was not going to be the customer. And you were the business owner.
It was clear that you wanted this to be a power with experience, not a power over experience. And that spoke to me, and made me feel great. So in that walkthrough, I was able to see the faces of some of the other individuals who were interested, start to build some relationships, start to see that some of my existing network was sort of tangentially related to some of your network.
And it made me feel like I wouldn't be an outsider if I were to just show up. Because it's a radical act to walk into a space where you don't know anyone, where you don't really technically have to be there. It's not like a meeting that you have to show up for, or someone's seeing when you arrive and when you left. There's no boss, there's no teammate, no one expecting you unless you tell them to. It's really all sort of self motivated to go into that space.
And so to appreciate that this is a space that I can help co-create, really shifted the dynamic for me. And it helped me feel I'm not entering someone else's space. I'm helping to make this space. And so my showing up is essential. So it got me out of the house many days. It got me to dress nicely, and bring my best self, and walk into that room, and be ready, not only to work, not just to be heads down, and to move my work forward. But also to be available to other people who have their own needs, and their own work that they're trying to move forward. And that was so beneficial for me.
So when it came time to invest myself, it wasn't just a matter of wanting to invest in showing up. But I also wanted to invest in some financial capacity, to ensure the health, and wellbeing of the community. Because I became reliant on it in so many ways. And I recognized that it was very much an experiment.
And I think even all these years later, it really does remain an experiment. Because of how against the grain it has gone. And thankfully it's becoming the norm.
I needed in that moment to trust that this place wasn't going to go anywhere. And I also didn't have my own long term financial security yet, because I was just starting out. And as any consultant knows, you get paid erratically, big checks come in at unpredictable times. And so when one of those checks came in, I knew that I needed to commit to my membership dues with New Work City, for an extended period of time.
Where it wasn't this, "Oh, I'm going to drop in for the day kind of model." But it was more, "How do I express through my showing up. Through my co-creation and through payment. That this is a community that I intend to be with for the long haul. And I want to do everything in my power to help it succeed."
Tony: Yeah. For context, we were not a business that was in a position to take on traditional investment. We didn't have collateral that a bank would need. And so we had to turn to the community. And we needed the money. We needed the money or else we might have gone away. And then you might not have had us. And that was apparent to you. And I think you calling out the earlier experience with having gone on that tour. And I still have that fuzzy photo somewhere from us standing in the hallway outside, what journeys we've all gone on since then.
But one of the things that I see in business, and in community is that a lot of times people think that they need to build something perfect, and then unveil it to the world. When in fact, your story really illustrates in very important detail, how important it is not to do that. And that all starts with how do people like me in invite people like you into the process, when it's being developed. When we don't have all the answers. So thank you for that story. I think that's super, super useful and instructional to other folks, when they're tempted to kind of not share their process early on.
Whitney: I was so grateful at how transparent you were. And I saw it as a strength. I saw it as an invitation. And I have a couple anecdotes that I can share for how it made me feel even more embedded in the community. I had only ever worked in super mature companies that had fancy offices, and the supply closet, and all that jazz. And so there was a time in the first couple months that I needed a bandaid, or I don't even know what, but it was something of that nature.
Tony: Oh my God. This story's great.
Whitney: And I went to you. Because I also had that sort of hierarchical structure in my mind from having worked inside companies that were more traditional. You're the person in charge. So whenever I needed something, I went to you. And so whatever it was that I needed an aspirin, or bandaid, or whatever it was. I went to you and I said, "Do you have supplies, or things like this, a first aid kit or something?"
And you were like, "No, but feel free to create one." I was like, "Oh, okay." So either that evening, or the next day I went to Duane Reade, which is like the Walgreens, now, Walgreens owns them actually. But Duane Reade, for all of you New Yorkers, and I just went on a big shop. And I got all the things.
And I had a pretty small, clear container with the snaps on it. And I put everything in it. And I wrote, "Help yourself or something." I don't remember get well. I think I called it the get well box.
Tony: Yeah. It was like, Whitney's get better soon box. Yeah.
Whitney: Something like that. And just threw it all together. And put it in a corner somewhere. And for years, years afterwards, people would tell me, "Oh, I got something out of your get well box, recently. Thanks so much for putting that together." Now, obviously other people were replenishing it. I wasn't the only one who was then responsible for taking care of it for forever.
If I was the last person to use something, and it ran out, then I would go get it and put the refill in the box.
Tony: But you filled in that blank when I was not in a position to fill it myself. And you saw that opportunity. We see that sometimes. I remember in the later years, we had a whole conversation about a K cup machine in the office. Because there were certain segment of the membership that just preferred that kind of coffee over the big urn of drip coffee that we offered.
And that's the beauty that like a community is... I'm a guide and a steward of a community, but I do not control it.
Whitney: Exactly. And that's as it should be the power with paradigm. It's not your space or your community, it's ours. And if what I need to make my day the best it can be is X. Then it is up to me to bring that into the space, and for others to accept it so long as it's not causing harm to anyone else. And that's a great example of that.
If people just taking the initiative to give themselves what it is as they need, it's not a matter of needing permission. It's just acceptance. It's co-creation. Everyone's needs matter. And I just have to share another anecdote, which I think is even more critical. And I'm glad that you hadn't figured everything out before opening, and left room for improvement. And that is with our very first day, in our very first space where we were subletting, it was a former sort of warehouse type building with really high ceilings. And there was an echo.
And we wanted to figure out how to dampen the sound. And it was literally day one. And we were noticing, yeah, with a bunch of us in here are working at [inaudible] especially if someone has to take a phone call there's some noise, what are we going to do about it? And I just threw out the idea of floor tiles. They wouldn't be permanent. We could just throw a bunch of floor tiles down that might absorb some of the sound, their modular, whatever.
If someone spills something, we pull one up and put a one another one down. And another person who was there that day, who was sitting diagonally from me, kind of heard that, and then started looking on Craigslist for floor tiles. And that person was Frederick.
Tony: Very handsome. I was going to say the very handsome, charming individual.
Whitney: So, here is this person I don't know, who kind of took my notion and ran with it. And then before I knew it, he had sort of made a deal to buy a bunch of used floor tiles from some guy in the Bronx, and he was going to go get them in his car. And I thought, "Wow, what a mensch." For anyone who doesn't know that is like a very nice person who does nice things for people. And he-
Tony: Sounds like a real catch for whoever.
Whitney: And yeah. So of course, where the story is going is that Frederick and I have now been together for over 10 years. We met at New Work City on that first day, we were friends for several years. And it later became a relationship. And now a partnership. And we're each other's person. And it would never have happened. I am convinced, never have happened.
Had it not been for the way that you, Tony, had left space for people to contribute? Because I was able to see something in him in the way that he showed up for the community, for the space, for you in his contributions. And that there were space for my contributions. It felt like such a joint effort. And it exposed me to the qualities of people around me that had everything been done for us. I never would've seen. And it would've been a less rich experience by many miles. So thank you.
Tony: I don't know that I've ever thought of your relationship in terms of that specifically. The space for contribution made that room for those opportunities to emerge. Which is just really, really cool to see. I want to touch on a couple other things, you and I could talk for a million hours. We could have our own podcast. We probably talked about that at some point.
So you were a super member to me in my community, indispensable in so many more ways, we have time to even discuss. For those who are listening, who are running a community, or maybe even members of a community, from the perspective of the super member, what would you want to see a leader of a community do to be able to kind of nurture super members in their community?
What's something a leader does right? Or maybe even know that a leader could do wrong? That could affect their relationship with super members or prospective super members.
Whitney: I think we've really highlighted that acting as if you have it all together. Like you're the one in charge. Like it's your venture and everyone else there is just there to benefit, or to benefit you in some way is the opposite of what it needs to be. That does not engender trust, and co-creation.
So the qualities that I want to see in a leader of a community to compel me to feel engaged, and responsible, is openness, trust. And I would say honesty and integrity, the clarity that it is about the collective. And not about yourself. There are different kinds of bosses out there. There are the bosses who hire people that they're confident that they can control. And then there are the bosses who hire people, who they think are smarter than them. Because they want to be surrounded by the best.
And those are very different personality types. And I think that the very same is true for someone who's leading a community. You can position yourself as the know-it-all, the best, the leader. And have enough authoritarian kind of lead. Or you can be a servant leader. And you can recognize that you are there in service to the individuals. And then consider that you have to do everything for them.
And then I think that there's some middle ground. Which is maybe a collaborative leader. I've recently heard this refer to as an abundant leader. Which I think is beautiful. A notion that you as the leader, do have tremendous expertise to offer. And you do have a vision. And you do deserve to be a voice that is heard. It was very important to me, Tony, that you were clear that your voice mattered. That you would get on top of the ladder, and speak to the whole crowd with your bears hat on to inspire us.
Because I did need that inspiration. I still do. I wanted to feel a part of something meaningful. So when the leader has a voice, and uses it, it's wonderful. It's inspiring. It's a critical part of the experience. But it needs to be in doses. And it needs to be used in the right ways, in the right moments. And in the day-to-day, that voice needs to be quieter, to make space for the voices of others. So, that other people can step forward and be leaders.
There were a lot of leaders at New Work City. There are a lot of leaders in all of the communities that I'm a part of. That really mean something to me. Where it really feels like community. There's many leaders, and there's a lot of self leadership. And in order for that to occur, there must be a culture of trust, of partnership, of mutuality that is cultivated by the leader who has founded and is running this community. Because it isn't holacracy where there is no one in charge.
There is someone in charge. There is someone who needs to take care of logistics, there is someone who needs to manage the money. There is someone who needs to set the vision of what it is we're all really doing here.
And the leader of the community needs to be able to speak to that in such a balanced way that I believe you, and I'm inspired by you. And you remind me of what it is we're all here to do when I forget. Because that happens. But that you also recognize that it takes all of us to get there. And you want each of us to step forward with our own voices, and stretch ourselves in new ways, and develop ourselves and grow as people. And you want to make the space for that to happen.
Tony: This is good stuff, Whitney. You've got me so inspired. You're really reminding me so much, or even helping to bring to light things that I think I instinctively felt. And sometimes articulated better than others. But yes. Yes. A community creates culture.
Whitney: And it's still happening. It's still happening. I mean, that culture that you helped to cultivate, infused in itself into the cultures of all of our individual businesses. And many of those businesses still exist, and have evolved, and shifted, and transformed. But that seed that was planted at New Work City, in community, has taken root in companies across the world.
Tony: Yeah, it can't be overstated. And the reverberations, and seeing some of these communities and relationships, partnerships that go on that's the stuff. And I try to tell community leaders who are running communities currently, you're not going to run your community forever. And it's important to recognize that amidst all the stresses, and ups and downs of running your community, sometimes you have to soak it in. Sometimes you do have to kind of like get up on the ladder, and give the speech, and have those special moments to remind yourself of what you're doing.
Because at some point, one day, not that you're too teary-eyed with it, but at some point the community is going to be more about memories, and the stories that you, that you take with you onto the other phases of your life.
Whitney: And it's important to realize that whatever manifestation that the community may be in any moment. It's not as if the better version is in the past. The best is yet to come always. And that is the power of this thing. It's hard to talk about. It's hard to put words to. But the abundance that it cultivates is endless. It just keeps going and going.
We don't have time, but we could rattle off 10 names of people who came together in our community who run businesses together now. And the jobs that they've created, and the clients that they've helped, and the knowledge that they've spread, it's endless. It's infinite. And that's what the power of community really is.
Tony: It's amazing to think back on it just so many years out from having closed the space. And just to see how everybody's evolved and grown over the years.
Whitney, I am dying because I want to keep talking to you about so many things. But I want to respect your time, we got our busy lives. How would you feel about us transitioning into our closing rapid fire?
Whitney: Let's do it.
Tony: Yay. I'm so glad you said that. All right. So the way this works, I'm going to ask you a question. You're going to give me an answer one sentence, or sentence fragment. I'm going to do my very best to resist asking follow up questions. And we're going to zip through this. And then we're going to get your links and send you on your way.
Whitney: Let's do it.
Tony: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Tony: We'll leave it at that. How do you define community?
Tony: Something on your bucket list that you have done?
Whitney: Lived on a sailboat.
Tony: Jenny. Something on your bucket list that you have yet to do?
Whitney: Go to Tahiti. It's really far away.
Tony: A book that you are loving either currently or all time?
Whitney: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb.
Tony: If you could live anywhere else, other than where you currently live, where would it be? I have a guess.
Whitney: New York city.
Whitney: Isn't that? I miss my friends in New York so much. Miss my family. New York or Paris.
Tony: [inaudible]. How do you want to be remembered?
Whitney: Kind. Kind, loving, generous, giving, present.
Tony: Well, I'd say you've cemented it already. But amazing. Thank you so much, Whitney. How do folks who are listening, find you on the internet?
Whitney: Well, thank you, Tony. I can be found at WhitneyHess.com. I'm Whitney Hess on all the socials. I'm [email protected]WhitneyHess.com, if you want to send me an email. I am eager to connect with anyone who wants to chat more about anything that they heard. And I'm just so grateful to you, Tony, for this experience. For inviting me into your space, and for everything that you do for all of us. Thank you
Tony: So grateful to you too, Whitney. This has been a very heartening conversation for me. As it always is. You lift me up. Thank you for that. And let's talk again real soon.
Whitney: Ditto friend. Okay.
Tony: Thanks Whitney. Bye.
Bye. All right. Thanks so much for joining me for that conversation with my dear friend, Whitney. I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did. But some really, really valuable lessons in here for you as a community leader. First and foremost, recognizing the need and the incredible power of creating space for people to step in, and be a part of the process, before it's all shiny and done.
The more that you can involve people in what you're up to, when it's still under construction, when you need help. The more that people are going to be in a position to help you, and then to feel bonded to your project, and invested in its success forever.
And then I think another major piece to this, is that you still have to be a leader. This doesn't absolve you of leadership, by asking other people to do stuff for you. What you actually have to do is actually be quite assertive. What Whitney pointed out is that what she needed to see in the leader of her community was somebody who was practicing those values of openness, and trust, and honesty, and integrity. But who was also, I want to say forceful, who was resolute in their commitment to a vision that people can resonate with.
And so I cared very deeply about the community I was building. Whitney saw how much I cared about it. Believed in what I believed in. We believed in it together. And that gave us the alchemy of being two people who work together to make this mission a reality. And so there's this balancing act of leading, and being decisive, and being passionate, being committed, without being overly confident, acting as if you have it all together. When maybe you don't.
I think we have a lot of unlearning to do as far as maybe the way that you would think of a typical CEO would carry themselves. Where everything's always wonderful. They're the best. What they're building is the best. That they're casting an image of confidence, and reliability. Because that's the image that they have to cast in the role they have to play. In a community setting, you're not trying to impress investors. You're trying to recruit collaborators.
And so it's a very different thing. And it's a bit of a tightrope to walk, to be vulnerable while also being strong. But it's something that's really worth practicing, and something I think, or conversation today highlighted in a way that I don't think I've ever really experienced before. So I hope this conversation has been as enlightening to you as it has been to me.
Let me know what you think of the episode, tag us on Twitter, we're @TeamSPI. And we'd love to hear what you might be doing to work with your super members, or how you are being a super member in a community that you're a member of. So tag us on @TeamSPI. Otherwise, we'll catch you at the next episode where we'll have Jill back. Thank goodness.
And in the meantime, keep being awesome. And we'll see you next Tuesday.
This has been the Community Experience, for more information on this episode, including links and show notes, head over to SmartPassiveIncome.com/listen.
You can find Whitney Hess at WhitneyHess.com. She’s also @WhitneyHess on Twitter.
Tony: Our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Our series producers are David Grabowski, and senior producer, Sara Jane Hess, editing and sound designed by Duncan Brown, music by David Grabowski.
Jillian Benbow: See you next time.