This is the fourth article in a series on the characteristics that make community managers tick. Be sure to read the prologue, The Attributes of Great Community Managers, to see what’s coming and to understand why I’m writing this series. This time we’re talking about caring.
In our last article in this series, on empathy, we talked about the difference between empathy and caring. I wrote, “Caring is giving a damn about the work you’re doing. It also means caring about other people and the things they’re doing.”
What Caring Looks Like
For a community manager, this means being invested in the outcome of your workspace and the goals you and your team are trying to achieve by running it.
It can be hard to describe caring, but we know it when we see it. By way of example, caring could be seen as:
- Greeting new people with excitement as they walk through your doors for the first time because you want them to have a great first impression.
- Proofreading newsletters several times for quality, errors, and message before hitting send.
- Taking the time to set out food at events in a way that looks professional and hospitable instead of just leaving things in jars and boxes.
- Thinking deeply about how the space is hosted and what can be done to improve the quality of the experience for members.
If you care, you do these things not because they are expected of you (even though they should be), but because you want to do them. You do them because you know it will delight your members and build your brand.
Many community managers start out caring about their work and the people in their communities and on their teams. But, as we know, being a community manager is incredibly demanding. So over time, many CMs burn out. They stop caring as much, and in time they stop caring altogether. And because CMs are often the heart and soul of a space, their burnout causes a deterioration of the soul of the space.
And a deteriorating soul or culture or vibe (whatever you want to call it) makes members leave over time. The slow drip, drip, drip of member churn is sad to watch, but inevitable in this case.
So the best thing you can do, if you’re a community manager, is start by caring and never stop.
Demanding, I know. But that’s why we started this series by talking about self-respect, thick skin, and empathy. Without these prerequisites, I don’t believe you can actually care about your work or those around you. Without those other attributes, the only thing that will make you jump will be the fear of being fired and the leering eyes of your bosses or investors.
Fear-based caring isn’t caring at all. It’s anxiety.
However, assuming you’ve hit all the prereqs, there’s still a lot of obstacles to caring. Maybe:
- You’re underpaid
- Your boss is an asshole
- You are in a soulless space where the members also don’t care
- You feel totally overwhelmed with work
All of these things might be true. And hey, I get it. That really sucks. But the truth is none of those things matter, and nobody cares.
Let’s repeat it one more time. This job is tough. But now you’re in it. What are you gonna do, quit? You certainly could.
Don’t Quit, Care More
So my suggestion here, if you’re feeling like you don’t care, is to get stubborn with yourself. If your job is tough, care more. Care through it. Have so much passion for your work that you don’t even notice how tough it is. Stop worrying about what others think and just care your face off.
One way to do that is to get engaged in the broader coworking industry. Write expert guest posts for us or any other publication, speak at events, participate in the Coworking Leadership Slack. Help others who are going through the same struggle.
CMs that have this level of passion go on to great things.
Some Tactics for Caring More and Preventing Burnout
Journal Every Day
I’ve always been skeptical of journaling. It sounds too simple to be effective. But when I’ve done this at times I needed to reconnect with my passion, it has always worked wonders.
Journal morning and evening. Write what troubles you, how you can fix it, and what you’re grateful for. Even if everything feels like it’s awful, there’s always something to be grateful for.
Schedule Personal Time
Schedule a meeting with yourself a few times per week. You might think you have no time, but in truth, you can carve out at least 60 minutes once per week to engage in the things that make you happy and fulfilled. Whether it be writing, painting, delicious food, or your favourite podcast, put it on your calendar.
If you use a shared calendar with your team and are worried about them criticising your use of time, enter it as a meeting with somebody important, a doctor’s appointment, or a funeral of some distant-but-somehow-important relative (probably best if they’re fictional, lest you end up tragically double booking one day).
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Observe others who seem to care about their work. What do they do? What do they say? How is their body language? Then emulate them.
Our brains are funny. While behavior undoubtedly stems from thoughts, it also works the other way around. Our thoughts can come from our behavior, words, and body language as well. You can’t pretend to care, but in this case, the idiom “fake it till you make it” has some very practical value here.
Community managers that care about their work treat their work as more important than CMs who don’t care. When you believe your work is important (which it is), you’ll do better work. Doing better work will open up opportunities within and without your space that you never imagined could be possible.
Caring is the #1 hack for coworking career development. If you don’t care and don’t want to, go home.