This is the prologue in a series I decided to write on the attributes of amazing community managers. This one’s for all the excellent, heart-filled, vibrant, kind, compassionate, fun, underestimated, smart, and dedicated community managers I’ve met over the last five years. They genuinely don’t get enough credit for the joy they bring and the impact they create in the lives of others.
Hopefully, through this series, community managers the world over can connect on their shared attributes, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and understand that what they do is just amazing. The list of characteristics for a great community manager is long, and it’s unlikely that many community managers have two-thirds of them, let alone all of them. And that’s okay. To steal an example from Jonah Berger, these attributes are like a tasty cobb salad. While having all the salad ingredients is best, you can still have a hands-down fantastic salad with only some of them.
This deep dive into the essential attributes of world-class community managers was partially based on my experience and partially crowdsourced from the best minds in coworking. Each article tackles one characteristic, describing what it is, how it plays out in a coworking space environment, and how one can go about attaining or improving on said attribute.
However, before we get to the attributes, I want to talk about how vital the community management role is.
You Are the Linchpin
It may only be my opinion, but to me, Community Managers are the second most significant factor that causes members to stick around any given coworking space versus moving to a competitor or working from home. Also, in case you’re wondering, the primary factor is wifi reliability and speed.
The reason for this importance is that everything flows through you. If you’re doing your job right, you are the person that brings the various personalities, interests, and agendas from within your space altogether. You are the maestro, the conductor, or the tummeler as Alex Hillman writes. Whether you signed up for it or not, your role is the glue that keeps all the coworking pieces together.
It’s true that some spaces try to minimize the need for a stellar community manager by empowering their members, and by creating systems and feedback loops. They attempt to create a self-sustaining culture. I’ve been to spaces like this, and they are indeed a beautiful thing to see: a true collective of people creating something marvelous together. Like a choir.
But you, dear community manager, are the virtuoso. You’re the linchpin that holds it all together. Without you, the choir may be excellent indeed, but with you, the music comes to life as a true masterpiece.
Please excuse my flowery language here. To be more understandable, what I’m saying is that a self-sustaining culture is fantastic. It’s a rare thing on its own, just as a great choir is rare. However, a phenomenal community manager? That’s Justin Timberlake or Lady Gaga or Adele or Ray LaMontagne status. And I’d stack one of them up against the world’s best choir any day of the week.
In fact, community managers are so valuable that it kills me when I see a space mistreating them or taking them for granted. Moreover, it pisses me off when community managers think they’re better than they are and let their ego get in the way of the incredibly important role they have.
The Impact of Great Community Managers
A fantastic community manager has the wherewithal to size up a situation, figure the best solution given the context, and execute it flawlessly. And when it’s not flawless, they absorb the failure as a lesson for next time. They never take failure or feedback personally.
With a great community manager, everybody feels like he or she is winning. They communicate with the finesse of a hot knife through butter and connect people like a super-charged electromagnet.
I’ve seen many community managers come and go over the years. While the departing of a fantastic community manager might not always cause an immediate mass exodus of members, it’s the one thing that changes the vibe of the space overnight. What’s more, if the vibe changes too much over time members who loved the way it was will leave.
That said, sometimes the departure of a great community manager does cause members to leave in droves. There are stories out there of hoards of members following CMs when they’ve changed spaces.
Of course, you as a community manager should never steal members from former employers, but you should strive to be the community manager people want to follow to the ends of the Earth.
That’s how real impact looks.
Let’s Get Attributable
If you want to be the community manager I’ve described above and you want to create impact and build immense influence in your community, how can you get there? Which attributes create a phenomenal community manager?
I thought deeply about my experience managing communities and observing other community managers. I also asked my online community of coworking leaders from all over the globe which attributes they thought were necessary for CMs. These are among my favorite and the top attributes that came up.
- Resilience/Thick Skin
Over the next several weeks I’ll be releasing the articles on each attribute one by one. Likely it will be at the cadence of once or twice per week. This page will serve as the starting point for each of those articles, and I’ll update the list above with links to each piece as they go live.
Look for the first piece on self-respect in the next couple of days.