Community Questions

It’s been a while since I have published a blog, and I am happy to be back at it. I am not sure about you, but Q2 of this year was busy, and I found myself relaxing during my off time instead of thinking about community. Plus, the beach has been calling, and I was eager to answer its call.

I have heard from some folks in charge of their team’s cultures, that they are worried that people seem checked out. And my response is always; it’s hot vaxxed summer. OK, maybe that’s not the entire reason, but people are out and reconnecting with family, friends, and the things they love. And they should be doing those things! So don’t be stressed if interest seems to be waning. I am personally using this slow period to rest up and get ready for the fall. 

As someone who works internally with a community that is about to start returning to offices, I am continuing to question the role of community for employees. Before you gasp, I am not trying to delegitimize the work community managers do. However, I am thinking about the best use of the community members and my time in this hybrid world.

The community I work with predates my time in the role. At its inception, it built upon the camaraderie of young coders working at a startup, so blowing off steam and connecting after a hard day at work, was at the center of the community offerings. Refrigerators filled with beer, catered Carvel sundae bars, and expensive after-party karaoke tabs were the norm. A few years ago, our community merged with a more mature community. We also brought on an awesome Learning and Growth manager (hi Erica), and our culture and offerings started slowly moving away from party town.  

March of 2020 ended the monthly happy hours and karaoke parties, and I was grateful. And I have spoken to many others who feel the same. Whether it was community managers or drivers of company culture, there was a collective sigh of relief. I, for one, was happy not to be spending long evenings throwing parties or events in the office. Which often meant cleaning up after everyone and trying not to fall asleep in my Uber. Then getting home and trying to figure out how many hours of sleep I could get before I had to do it all over again.

In-person events are a part of my job, and I accept that. But I didn’t realize how much time it took away from being with my partner, friends, and hobbies until last year.

As we look to office reopening and a hybrid workforce emerging, I am asking myself the following questions about our community offerings:

  • How can we continue to make our offerings relevant and enjoyable to a mix of online and in-person community members? 
  • Do we need to continue to rely on incentives like free food and alcohol for in-person members?
  • What have we learned about not having food and alcohol incentives in a remote world that we can utilize in a hybrid environment?
  • Is the timing of events adding to the difficulty of people not having time to connect to their personal lives? 
  • What do our core community members want out of events, and are we working to meet their needs?
  • What events and programs can we permanently cut?
  • Are there any events or programs that capable community members can build or run? 

I don’t have answers to all of these questions, but as the summer progresses, I hope to. We have had this wonderful gift of time away from the old normal, and I am excited about creating a hybrid events environment that doesn’t harken back to the good old startup party days. That means offering highly relevant content to our community members that doesn’t come at a cost to the team, our community members, and healthy connections. 

My next post will focus on work friendships, which is a normal byproduct of building community. So stay tuned for what’s great about work friends, what’s not great, and how it can help or hinder a community.

Work Spring Cleaning

I read in the news yesterday that LinkedIn was giving their employees a week off to prevent burnout. When I read that, I immediately started to fantasize about being off next week. Why? Because I, too, am feeling the effects of burnout.

I debated writing this post today because I want to do absolutely nothing today. I was planning to relax and enjoy my weekend. But, I needed to open my laptop to do something else, and it compelled me to write this.

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Culture Cores

Culture is a big topic in my company right now, and it’s something I think about every day in my work as a community manager. Many of our employees see my team’s function as the creators of company culture, but I often refute that notion because everyone should own it. However, I love that they understand the function I work in adds a lot to our company culture. 

I am currently reading People Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brand, and Teams by Jono Bacon, who is a leader in the community industry. The book is excellent so far, and I will post a full review when I finish, but today I wanted to share 10-culture cores Jono shared in his book:

  1. Be open
  2. Be pragmatic
  3. Be personal
  4. Be positive
  5. Be collaborative
  6. Be a leader
  7. Be a role model
  8. Be empathetic
  9. Be down to earth
  10. Be imperfect

I feel like our community and learning team does an excellent job of hitting these cores. It’s always nice to read something from an expert and realize that your team is on the right path! But what’s even better is when we lead with these cores, and our community recognizes it. 

We needed to roll out a community program this month that wasn’t 100% ready. The communications around it explained why it wasn’t perfect (be imperfect) and when the members could expect improved updates. We got many “thank you’s” from community members saying it says so much about our culture that we decided to think about our member’s needs over perfection and prioritized launching. It felt good to lead by example and get noticed for it. 

It’s been a long week, and I can’t eke out more words on this page. So I hope you found some inspiration here today! Happy Spring to those in the northern hemisphere. 

WFH Anniversary Reflection

March 5 was my pandemic WFH anniversary. :celebrate:

My community manager role was very much an in-person role before the pandemic. However, I learned more in this past year about managing community than I did when I was in-person. 

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Book Recommendation: The 10-Day MBA

The 10-Day MBA

Last week, I finished The 10-Day MBA, written by Steven Silbiger, and I would recommend it for anyone working in a community job in the for-profit world. Adrian Speyer recommended it last year on a webinar hosted by Vanilla Forums saying the book helps cms understand the jargon and businesses to become more successful in a community role. 

The bottom line of why I am recommending this book: It helped me better understand my stakeholders’ decisions around my function and our community, and it gave me tactics around being more business-minded when planning, budgeting, and running our community. 

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Working Cycles

3:00 PM Walk in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

Before working remotely, I never considered optimal cycles of working. My commute, meetings, and community events dictated how my day went. Community management requires a lot of context switching, which only adds to the complexity of my day.

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Taking My Own Advice

Folks who manage community or engagement in an organization often have to give lots of advice. I am frequently asked to provide guidance around best practices, engaging teams, and strategic communication. Sometimes I have the answer, and sometimes I don’t.

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