Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science.
I love this post by Seth Godin that outlines 4 traits of entrepreneurs:
1. They make decisions.
2. They invest in activities and assets that aren’t a sure thing.
3. They persuade others to support a mission with a non-guaranteed outcome.
4. This one is the most amorphous, the most difficult to pin down and thus the juiciest: They embrace (instead of run from) the work of doing things that might not work.
Reflecting on this, doesn’t this also describe what it’s like to be a community manager, at least in the very early stages of bringing together a new community?
- We make decisions repeatedly every day – whether that’s prioritising and re-prioritising the endless to do lists or making a tough call about how to moderate a difficult conversation. Despite having momentary doubts, we know that ultimately action is preceded by making a choice.
2. We also invest in people, events, materials that may not always advance our overall goals. Sometimes a coffee chat is just a fun, interesting conversation and a chance to meet someone new; sometimes attendance at an event we organise is a disappointment; and sometimes we didn’t get the tone quite right for our audience. You rarely know at the outset of a community whether everything is going to come together such that the group can reach its full potential in ways that the individuals could never achieve alone. And yet getting to know one another, and trying things along the way is a large part of the fun.
3. We’re champions of our members, ambassadors for our organisations, flag bearers for the community and listeners for anyone who needs it. We learn about our members’ interests, needs and strengths and we work hard to create a space where everyone might come together and make magic. Knowing how to build social capital, maintain the trust of our members, manage across an org chart and still keep everyone aligned and enthused is a key challenge of a community management role.
4. We love new challenges, trying new tools and meeting new people. We often redouble our efforts when the going gets tough, ask difficult questions, reach out for feedback and look for acceptable work arounds. Most of all, we show up.
Does this reflect your experience of working with communities? Do you see yourself as a social entrepreneur?
Aside: I particularly like Godin’s reframing of entrepreneurism as a broader orientation that suggests a mission-driven energy, a comfort with uncertainty, and an understanding of the need to bring others on the journey. In balance, those traits can be very constructive. Indeed, sometimes they can be the very inspiration needed to create new paths out of stagnant situations together.