The importance of asking to the team why we do what we do

Months ago I’ve asked to my team the reasons they’re doing what they’re doing in our Developer Relations team. We were reorganising a little bit our internal structure, and knowing the true reasons moving each one is a great way to understand if we’re assigning the right projects to the right people, potential career paths and, if the matches are done in the right way, it helps to attenuate stress and make the team empowered and propositive in the daily work.

I planned to frame the conversation during the usual in-person meetings (1:1) we have: it’s not an argument suitable for a discussion around the coffee machine, as it could go very passional and personal (and generally does) so an environment able to provide the right privacy is fundamental. In addition, these may be the kind of discussions requiring a decent amount of time, half an hour at least, so 5 mins break in the middle of other duties is not enough.

In order to avoid the “out of the blue” effect when asking the question, I first sent an email quoting Simon Sinek’s video discussing the importance of the motivations in what we do, an anticipating that I would have been very happy to have such conversation during one of our next 1:1, in order to discover the real team passions and build or refine future activities, even potential 20% projects, on top of that.

Then I prepared myself. For transparency and equality, I needed to be ready to provide my personal reply to the question, my whys, if asked. Maybe not everyone would have been interested (turn out everyone was!), but in this case doesn’t count if you’re the most junior or the most senior team member: it’s all about us as human, so we’re all equal.

Finally, during the first 1:1 available and without incumbent duties coming, so the atmosphere was relaxed, I started to ask. Ask if it was ok to ask such question. Ask if, to make the conversation more comfortable, I should have first started with my motivations. Asked if there were additional questions about the reason I was asking. Once cleared all the doubts (and the email I’ve sent really helped to set the right tone and expectations of the discussion), people started to tell me their whys.

And it was amazing. And I felt privileged to be part of such conversations, to discover so much about my colleagues.

I wouldn’t say something totally unexpected has been surfaced, at the end we know quite well each other and DevRel team is auto-selective enough that you don’t stay if you aren’t highly motivated, with lot of passions well known and shared. Instead, I was surprised by the accuracy of the particulars, all the little things, often very hard to spot, that added together clarify a lot why it’s so obvious that this person is your colleague, the life paths that have brought her in the team, how much diverse and peculiar we are, even if we share lot of common trains.

And that it doesn’t exist (yet) a school or academic curriculum that brings you to a Developer Relations or Community Manager career path.

Highly suggested as team building activity!

More Community Leadership Summit X (CLSx) events in Europe!

The blooming of European CLSx event in 2016 (Milan, Paris , Rome, London, Madrid) has laid the foundations for one of my 2017 bets: help growing this network, organizing more and more Community Leadership Summit X (CLSx) events across Europe and, why not, the rest of the world.

Why this idea?

There are several reasons, and the most important is I’m not alone believing time has come to make it real.

Since October, in fact, Jono, Alessio and I have been discussing about a plan, and one of the first activity we did was validate it, reaching several other community managers spread all over Europe to get their feedback. Well, they all agreed on the genuinity of the vision, offered concrete support for running a CLSx event in their own city and added some important suggestion to the basic format. I’m happy when people feel empowered by an idea and offer their time to contribute!

Another element supporting the plan was the lack of similar european-wide initiatives to share, discuss and peer-learning about community management topics. Of course, we can be wrong here, so please comment with the experience you’ve: we really want to be collaborative, and not competitive, with other groups already acting in this field.

Also my personal passion plays an important role here: half of my soul is deeply committed to the world of communities, so want to jump on this challenge both as an occasion to improve in this field and to give back.

Strengthened by all this backing, we consolidated the idea of having more and more events in Europe about the art of community management, with a special, but not unique, focus on online and offline (face-to-face) tech communities. Have a preferred target is important, but all the other kinds of communities are welcome: non-tech, open-source or co-working oriented, just to mentioning a few. And, of course, the nature of Community Leadership Summit X events will remain the same: very localized, “for people, made by people”. We’re all volunteers and there are no companies or economic interests behind. Passions and self-improvement drive us in pursuing this vision. And the licence frames very well the boundaries.

How do we want to reach this goal

We have a plan in mind, but it’s a draft plan and so we want to iterate on that. Right now is made by three major steps.

As first move, we’re reaching our connections asking if they would like to facilitate the organization of a CLSx event. We’ve already received positive feedback from cities like Amsterdam, Berlin and London, in addition to previous CLSx event locations in Italy (Rome and Milan), France (Paris) and Spain (Madrid). It would be great to have 10 or more CLSx events happening in European cities in 2017.

Secondly, we want to make the organization of a CLSx event as effortless as possible: an event-in-a-box guide to use as template, global sponsorship agreements to cover the very basic expenses like food, site templates, graphical resources to use for printing t-shirts, roll-up, mentorship on what works and what doesn’t  etc, so event organisers can focus on the most important thing: create the local network, invite people, fire-up the discussion, enjoy while doing all of that.

Third, we want to create a “place” where share, discuss and improve our own knowledge on community management topics: a community of community leaders and passionate. In our mind it should be an online community with an initial focus on Europe, with CLSx events as the occasions to strengthen relationships through face-to-face interactions: we’re social beasts, after all.

Forth… well, let’s start from that, and then iterate ;)

 

Do you like the idea? Do you see missing points? Do you want to propose yourself as facilitator for organising an event in your city? Are you already part of a similar movement? Ping us, we’re eager to receive your feedback.

Reddit as source for a COPE strategy, and IFTTT for all the rest

IFTTT Reddit to SlackAfter the first CLSxItaly, we added to the Slack a new channel to share interesting community management resources, like blogposts etc. It was good, because allowed us to continue the discussion with interesting ideas, mainly thanks to the tireless work of Alessio.

But I felt we were missing something, like a broader sense of sharing with other community managers outside the Slack, that could be interested to same links too. Or an easy way to browse and search thru the different resources posted. Or a way to maintain the discussion visually connected with the different links posted, instead of a long stream of messages.

I remembered that, in the old days, a dedicated service was created for link sharing and discussion, a service that has survived to the present days: Reddit. Don’t know about it? You should! Reddit looked to me the perfect place to post our resources, and turns out that a subreddit dedicated to community management already exists: r/CommunityManager.

Great! But neither I could ask to all the CLSxItaly member to migrate from Slack to Reddit, nor force a double post on Slack and Reddit. Thankfully, IFTTT came again in handy, with channels for Reddit and Slack, plus others, so I was able to quickly implement a C.O.P.E. (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) strategy, using Reddit as source and then publishing the same content on the Slack content-sharing channel, Twitter and, potentially, many more. It also satisfy different kind of users with different kind of social feeds or tools habits (I, for example, still prefer RSS feeds aggregated by a reader).

I created a new IFTTT recipe using Reddit channel for the “this” part and selecting the “Any new post in subreddit” trigger, using “CommunityManager” as parameter.

IFTTT Reddit channel

For the “then” part, instead, I used the Slack channel with the “Post to channel” action.

IFTTT Slack channel

Too easy. Now, every time someone post a link in the r/CommunityManager, the Slack channel get a message (with a delay of some minutes). Is not that cool and complete as posting a link on Slack (with image, content snippet etc), but it works well.

Finally, I did another recipe to post the same link on Twitter, to be really COPE ;)

Extending the GDG Community Summit with CLSx steroids

CLSxItaly communitiesSummer is coming, so it’s time to plan a new round of national community summits for Google Developer Group communities before enjoying a long series of mojitos on the beach. Given the main objective of these summits, offer a dedicated learning/sharing moment on community management topics to the GDGs, this year we (my team and I) come up with the idea to use the summit to extend this moment to all the tech communities in the ecosystem. And because we’re already familiar with CLSx events, we decided to organise a CLSx as activity for the first day of the summit, and leave the second day focused on GDGs only, as it has always been.

Why? Because GDGs are still at the center of our hearth, but we think we can do more for the entire community scene, so an open event for everyone interested in community management topics.

Because we’ve seen that the true potential of the ecosystem can be unleashed if the communities collaborate each other: sharing speakers, best practices and other resources, mutually empowering, drafting a common mindset for the city / area. And all these process can start only if the different community leads in the same area know each other. Clearly, this is not true for all the cities in the same way, but it’s a good starting point.

Finally, because we would also add our contribution to tackle the gender diversity issue in tech ecosystem, and working only with a set of tech communities doesn’t allow to have holistic approach this kind of issue requires.

Where? In the countries we support where the GDG communities are already thinking at country level instead of a single chapter level, so used to learn by sharing and ready to mix with a new crowds without losing their own identities. We’ve selected Italy (Rome), Spain (Madrid) and France (Paris), among the countries we support. We’re instead going for a “traditional” community summit in the other countries (Netherlands, Nordics, Greece).

Stay tuned :)

How to effectively get feedback on a talk

20160319-talkWhen I do public speaking, my talk doesn’t finish after the last question from the audience, it finishes once I’ve analysed the feedback attendees have provided. Feedback, for me, are a cornerstone of a talk life cycle (together with prepare, rehearsal and present). Let’s see different techniques I use to gather them, achieving more than 60% response rate.

Decide for meaningful and quick to fill feedback

My goal while asking for feedback is to know what I can improve for the next time: what is done is done, unfortunately. People are lazy by nature, so it’s important to find the right balance between time requested to provide feedback and detail of the information obtained. The less time, the better. Just an empty field with a question like “What do think about the talk” won’t work, it’s too generic and people will need time to think about it and what they input could be useless for me. On the other side, only a simple scale to grade the talk is too simple. Here the questions I generally ask:

  1. “How useful was the talk for you?”, a mandatory scale from 1 to 5 where 1 is “Time wasted” and 5 is “Very useful”
  2. “What you liked the most?”, a multiline free text form
  3. “One think to improve for the next time”, a multiline free text form

Make easy to provide feedback

Once I have the questions, next step is to ask them to the attendees in the quickest and painless possible way. Sites with a login is a no-go. Anonymous Google Form is perfect: credentials are not required, light to load, fits on mobile screens, focused on the task of input info, pre-fillable data via a customised URL. Try by yourself :)

20160319-slideThen the audience need the form link, so a add a slide like that at the end of my deck: the biggest QR-Code possible with form URL, plus the short address to the same form in case QR-Code doesn’t work (app not installed / low light / too small for people from the last rows etc). To be more creative, I can also use an Eddystore-URL beacon to transmit the URL, but software support to read it is, nowadays, far more complex than a QR-Code scanner. But it’s cool :)

Everything is in place, finally. But if you ask to give you feedback, only few attendees will do. Why? Because people are lazy, as said previously :)

Add some fun to the feedback experience

There are two main techniques I tested over time. First one is about explicitly ask participants to give you feedback, and declare the next 90 seconds will be dedicated to that, before start taking questions. Drawback is… the 90 seconds of silent after the request! People will be busy filling the questions, but 90 seconds of silent are tough to manage and can ruin the atmosphere of the talk.

20160319-wheel_of_namesAnother option comes from my colleague Martin Omander, that created thisWheel of Names” to distribute one gadget to the lucky winner of the raffle. I anticipate to the attendees that the ones that fill the feedback form will participated to a raffle for a small gadget. They only need to add a name or nickname at the end of the form to be eligible. Nicknames are important so people can stay anonymous in their feedback.
After the before mentioned 90 seconds, I open the form responses, copy the column with people’s nicknames in the space right to the wheel and spin it. Drawback is I need to have a gadget to offer, but sometimes can even be a symbolic object I donate to the winner, without a real value, just for fun. And it works, I can assure.

CLSxItaly: what happened and lessons learned

Communities corner

A corner with all the communities visually represented

Are you interested in what happened during the first CLSxItaly? Take a look to the Storify and to the recorded morning sessions. Curious about my retrospective? Please keep reading.

I’m excited

I’m excited because I get excited when one of my idea come to life and influence real people, in real life, and has an impact. So was CLSxItaly: from a thought I had in July to an occasion where 65 people met and shared around one the their passions: community management! First time for Italy, as far as I know, first time, for sure, for technical communities.
I’m excited because only half of the attendees came from technical communities, while the other half represented travel communities, open source projects, coworking and urban spaces, creative artists, maker and much more.
I’m excited because we has a 35% women participation, and diversity matters.
I’m excited because we all had fun: 3,74 average score (out of 4) is something we can be proud of ! :)

Key learnings

The CLSxItaly core organisers

The CLSxItaly core organisers

First personal gain was the core organisers team: discover that a spontaneous group of people is able to create a team that works great for accomplishing a particular tasks is always a bless! And so were Alessio, Michel and Stefano. Thank you guys, you make my small dream possible, and with style!

Second important point was the umpteenth confirmation that a vision, passions and personal relationships are the three key tools to achieve any goal: the before mentioned organisers team gifted me with their own time and commitment; Davide had no hesitation when I asked him “We need a place to host 100 people for an event, and for free”; Francesco, Francesco and Mara+Chiara+Andrea put real money to make everything possible: they all believed in the same vision I had and, sustained by a common passion and connected by our personal relationships, we all morphed that vision into a real fact.

Me rearranging unconference proposals

Me rearranging unconference proposals

Third key actor for the success of CLSxItaly were the attendees. Every time I received an Eventbrite notification that someone paid 15 euro to join, I though “Oh wow, another person that trusts in our idea”. The most important positive feedback we received were about the quality of the networking, the easy-going atmosphere and the constant sharing. All of them were only because of the quality of the attendees. Probably the non-free ticket for the event, the (still) niche topics discussed and the location helped to pre-selected the audience.

Regarding the experience to offer to the attendees, selecting only two core goals and working all around them made the job. We choose to focus in creating a learning path equally composed by frontal teaching along a common narrative (the plenary sessions during the morning) and peer learning (the unconference in the afternoon), plus special care in creating lot of occasions to get in touch each other and warm-up relations as soon as possible. All the rest followed: over the two coffee breaks, the lunch and the aperitif I saw lot of different aggregation groups, and this was positive. Despite just a bounce of folks have participated to an unconference before CLSxItaly, the general feeling was positive.

So, what’s next

I lead an unconference session regarding next steps for CLSxItaly. We had some ideas to run the next event in Rome in six months, drive by people of the local context. Let’s see. For sure, I want continue what has been started in Milan. But, as for Milan, I cannot do it alone. Wanna help? Join the discussion!

 

CLSxItaly: The Community Leadership Summit event is a reality

CLSxItalySome months ago, I threw a stone in the pond: I launched the idea to organize an event focused on community management for the Italian tech community ecosystem. Something new for our country, never realized before, something I consider really helpful for the peculiar ecosystem situation we’re living now. Thanks for all the support and feedback I’ve received so far, the ideas has became reality. On February 27th, in Milan, Talent Garden Calabiana is hosting the first CLSxItaly.

Should you come? If you’re the manager of a tech community of any kind (development, makers, operative systems and many more) and you want to learn more about your “job/passion” as a community manager, definitively yes! If your company is working on a technical product and considers the community a crucial part of its development cycle, you should come. If you think you have something to say about diversity in the IT world, you have to come!

How the event will be? A Community Leadership Summit X event type follows a precise licence, so the CLSxItaly will. The event will start on Saturday morning with plenary sessions (have ideas? Ping me please!), then the lunch and then the afternoon will be dedicated to unconference sessions, where participants can discuss topics, needs and ideas they like. A final aperitif will close the day together. This is the “official program”, them I’m sure lot of satellite events will happen, at the end community managers live on that!

What are the CLSxItaly’s goals? First, meet the other Italian community managers face to face. As already discussed, I know different tech communities that have gathered under a national umbrella (GrUSP, GDG ItaliaUGIdotNET, JUG, LUG etc), but I also know they don’t exist important cross-community relations, so the event can be the occasion to create them: similar experiences I had in other countries told me that it can only be a good thing. Then, I don’t know about any occasion in Italy to discuss, explore, share and experiment around the “art of community management”, so why don’t create one? Finally, I want to give back: communities have always been one of my passions since the far 2007, when I founded the CMLug, until today, when they are part of my daily job. And passions matter!

So, save the date (February 27th, Milan), spread the voice using the CLSxItaly hashtag and, if you’re interested in joining the adventure, please let me know, even in the comments: there are plenty of things to do (and to learn) and your hand, although small, is more than welcome. To make it more clearer: we need to start from the basics, from building the website… Any help on that?