Community Super Heroes
We’re all the heroes of our own stories. Community happens when individual heroes amplify and complement each other’s super powers. Community teams may or may not be formally defined, but they’re still a collection of folks working and communicating together.
You need all sorts of heroes for a sustainable community. You need folks that welcome newcomers, ones that organize special moments, some that document the ways you’ve saved the day before, and any number of roles that are specific to a community.
How do you keep your heroes? By applying a steady drip of gratitude. Show that you appreciate the care they put into the group, and that you care for them in turn. This helps them to put down roots in your community, so when something goes wrong or emotions run high, they don’t blow away.
Yeah, but HOW?
Hero Tracking - What are their super powers?
What makes community awesome is how many different types of people with so many different skills can come together. How do you get them to stick around?
Going back to the heroes thing - we have tons of different skills, but not all of them are always relevant. I keep waiting for an excuse to sing for work, but weirdly, no karaoke-based crises have appeared in tech. Some of the things that we can do, may even be really good at, aren’t how we want to spend our time. What we want is for people to know about the things we are good (or even just decent) at and for them to see us as the hero we see ourselves as.
So just be deliberate and ask your heroes: What are the things you want to be known for with this group?
If you write these down in a location that you can search (*cough Clickety cough*), then when you need help, not only will you be able find someone who can do the work, you’ll find someone who is actually fueled by doing it. Whatever the skill set in need, it’ll be much easier to find the perfect match if you already know who likes doing what ahead of time. (See also: One-on-one 101: capturing human context)
Maybe they are a dyed in the wool team player and find joy from tending the community garden, inviting new people, and helping people solve problems and find resources. Maybe they find a deep sense of personal satisfaction from knowing highly technical things about their domain and solving hard problems. Maybe they are driven by feelings of accomplishment and are willing to take on work they are good at because it shows off how good they are.
Hero Tracking - What makes them feel special?
Next question to ask your heroes: When have you felt the most appreciated in your life? (see also: Work Love Languages)
Rather than put effort into thanking someone and have that effort fall flat, wouldn’t it be better to set yourself up for success? Terribly shy community members are gonna be mortified by receiving a public award (especially if an acceptance speech is expected). Gifts can be nice… or it can be clutter if it’s not something they want/need. Just ask them (ahead of time) how you can dial in your appreciation.
Keep the questions coming
I don’t know if anybody’s picked up on a theme about my advice-type writing, but a lot of it boils down to this: in order to work well with others, you should ask awkward questions. Awkward questions allow you to understand people’s motivations. Understanding motivations mean you know who wants to help in what ways. Working in ways that align with what you want to do doesn’t feel like work. When it doesn’t feel like you’re working all the time, you can enjoy life, and I think that’s the whole point.
Not asking questions leads to us treating each other like cogs in a machine, or marks to take advantage of. I personally don’t like environments like that. The machine always makes short cuts, which either turn into deep cuts or a million paper cuts. I’d rather we normalize people just being their weird, wonderful selves, and the first step to doing that is asking them about themselves.
Speaking of questions,
- What are your thoughts?
- What other things would be useful to know about folks?
- What deliberate questions could you ask?