Ubuntu Open Week - Leadership Workshop - Jono Bacon - Wed, Nov 4, 2009
(11:01:26 AM) jono: alrighty (11:02:10 AM) jono: hi everyone and welcome to my Ubuntu Open Week session on Leadership (11:02:21 AM) jono: I am Jono Bacon and I am the Ubuntu Community Manager - my job is to help enable the community to be successful in their work (11:02:50 AM) jono: the goal of this session is to share some advice and tips for becoming an effective leader in a community - if you are the leader of a community team, this session should be useful to you (11:03:14 AM) jono: ok, lets get started (11:03:28 AM) jono: communities are wonderful places (11:03:39 AM) jono: they provide a loose, informal place in which anyone is welcome to dip in and begin contributing to a globally significant project such as Ubuntu (11:04:03 AM) jono: they are the definition of outreach: the doors are open and everyone is welcome, and if your work meets the quality needs of the community, you can have a long and rewarding experience contributing to Ubuntu (11:04:33 AM) jono: but inside these vessels lies a challenge: how do we lead a group of unpaid volunteers who are donating their spare time to project, and lead them in a consistant, productive and effective direction? (11:05:11 AM) jono: the first thing to realize is that leadership does not merely apply to those who have the formal badge "leader" (11:05:40 AM) jono: there are many people in our community who don't have a formal leadership position, but they have a sense of drive and control that they naturally lead (11:06:14 AM) jono: for years people have talked about how humans can be approximately divided up into "leaders" and "followers" and while I am not sure it is quite that simple, you can actually see this rather commonly - some people will just naturally want to take control and lead and some will look to others for direction (11:07:12 AM) jono: if you find yourself naturally leading, you are by definition a leader, and my goal is to make you as effective and successful as possible (11:07:26 AM) jono: to do this we need to understand two things: (11:07:38 AM) jono: 1. the truths and myths about leadership (11:07:46 AM) jono: 2. how we effectively lead our teams (11:07:50 AM) jono: lets start with (1) (11:08:13 AM) jono: the first myth is that leadership is about "having the power to tell people what to do" (11:08:41 AM) jono: one of the traits I have noticed with online communities is that some people want to get into formal leadership positions because they want to feel like they have a sense of power (11:09:01 AM) jono: it is typically a control thing (11:09:15 AM) jono: people who become leaders because they want power are typically not the best leaders (11:09:43 AM) jono: this is one of the rookie mistakes that many new managers face: (11:09:56 AM) jono: they become a manager and they essentially "tell" their team what to do (11:10:45 AM) jono: instead of working with their team to understand their needs, what motivates and annoys them, and work together to flesh out goals, they direct and boss them around, feeling the power trip (11:11:20 AM) jono: while this kind of approach has short-term effectiveness, it will ultimately cause discontent in the team and they will move on (11:12:23 AM) jono: a truth about leadership is that leaders are here to make their teams effective (11:13:15 AM) jono: I believe you can boil leadership down into one key element: every team member has various problems and challenges to work on, and a great leader is there to help that team member optimize their opportunity for success (11:14:33 AM) jono: in volunteer communities the fundamental goal of leadership is not really that different than in a company environment (11:14:45 AM) jono: we look to our leaders to (1) inspire us and (2) make us effective (11:14:53 AM) jono: my goal here is to share some tips on each of these topics (11:14:59 AM) jono: lets look at the latter one first (11:15:09 AM) jono: we want our teams to be effective (11:15:29 AM) jono: we want each team member to not only be productive, but to have a great time being productive (11:16:05 AM) jono: to help with this we need to not only understand what our team is working on, but we need to also help structure and coordinate that work so it can be as successful as possible (11:16:13 AM) jono: in most community teams, structure is often left out (11:16:56 AM) jono: people often conjure up a set of things they would like to work on, but there is little structure, project management and checking-in going on (11:17:42 AM) jono: in a typically company environment it is often different - we have roadmaps, objectives, goals and more - these organizational tools help us to keep on track and help us to communicate progress and challenges to other stakeholders in the business (11:17:57 AM) jono: we can take a leaf out of this book and help our communities to be more organized (11:18:02 AM) jono: lets look at an example: (11:18:17 AM) jono: imagine your LoCo team is working on having a booth at a conference (11:18:26 AM) jono: this project involves many variables such as: (11:18:33 AM) jono: * getting the booth space (11:18:39 AM) jono: * getting equipment (11:18:44 AM) jono: * organizing volunteers (11:18:48 AM) jono: * coordinating travel (11:18:54 AM) jono: * deciding on messaging for the event (11:18:57 AM) jono: * handling money (11:19:01 AM) jono: * . . . (11:19:22 AM) jono: this project will typically involve many different people looking after different parts of the project (11:19:36 AM) jono: as a leader this is how I would help the team be successful: (11:19:52 AM) jono: 1. I would first organize an IRC meeting for those interested in helping with the project (11:20:09 AM) jono: 2. before the meeting I would create a wiki page and jot down the different parts of the project (the things) above (11:21:40 AM) jono: 3. in the IRC meeting I would discuss with the team who is going to work on what and note down these responsibilities into the wiki page - it is well known in Project Management circles that noting down named responsibilities in a shared document will generate a greater sense of commitment to those goals than if they were not noted down, because each person doesnt want to be seen as letting the team down by not working on their actions (11:22:55 AM) jono: 4. with a set of responsibilities distributed between the team, I would then coordinate with the team to discuss the deadlines and add this to the document - some things will need to be done before other things, and noting down deadlines is another way of ensuring the different things happen in the right order (11:23:14 AM) jono: 5. I would then create a shared calendar and add the different deadlines to it and ask the volunteers to subscribe to it (11:23:32 AM) jono: 6. finally, I would schedule meetings every two weeks so the team could check in (11:24:08 AM) jono: this entire process would be underlined with a repeated reassurance that I am here to help - at no point would I tell people what to do, the entire conversation would be underlined with "who would like to work on xyz" (11:24:59 AM) jono: as you can see, this approach is much more structured and organized, and most community members would not naturally organize a project this way, but leaders have an excellent opportunity to (11:25:28 AM) jono: as I said earlier, the goal of a leader is to help people be successful, and I believe this structure would raise the opportunity for success (11:26:07 AM) jono: another element in making people effective is always providing a stable, professional and reassuring tone (11:26:23 AM) jono: the greatest leaders are those who are always calm, collected and professional (11:26:42 AM) jono: great leaders rarely get involved in slanging matches, shouting matches and trolling (11:26:51 AM) jono: they always maintain a calm tone and focus on solutions (11:27:31 AM) jono: now, of course, we are all human, and I like many have let this slip sometimes - sometimes we have bad days and other things in our lives that are worrying us (11:28:03 AM) jono: and while these exceptions are human nature, we should strive for them to really be exceptions (11:28:14 AM) jono: the most challenges area in which this can occur is conflict resolution (11:28:55 AM) jono: conflict resolution is often the most testing element of leadership (11:29:19 AM) jono: but it is also a huge opportunity to demonstrate your ability to show this calm, reasoned approach (11:29:28 AM) jono: they key about conflict resolution is to focus on *solutions* (11:29:53 AM) jono: in a situation where two or more people are arguing with each other, you will discover two types of people: (11:30:19 AM) jono: 1. people who want to focus on the conflict - they will always hark about what happened, who did what and how they were maligned (11:30:38 AM) jono: 2. people who want to move forward - these people will want to resolve the conflict and move on (11:30:57 AM) jono: people who are (2) are way easier to deal with and people who are (1) are more complex (11:31:17 AM) jono: they key thing is to keep the conversation always focused on resolving issues, finding solutions and making progress (11:31:34 AM) jono: in conflict scenarios that occur in public. your team will *really* look to you to help here (11:32:20 AM) jono: conflict in communities is hugely destructive because people simple don't want to spend their spare time away from their friends and families in an uncomfortable and shouty environment (11:33:35 AM) jono: at this point I just want to let you good people know that I recently wrote a book on how to build community called The Art of Community and you can download it for free at http://www.artofcommunityonline.org/get/ and I would also encourage you to buy a copy to support the book (11:33:59 AM) jono: in there it discusses the things I have talked about so far: how to structure and organize your community, conflict resolution and good leadership (11:35:11 AM) jono: alright (11:35:20 AM) jono: the final topic I mentioned is inspiring your team (11:35:44 AM) jono: inspiring a team is such a hugely critical responsibility in our leaders (11:35:57 AM) jono: our teams look to us for inspiration and guidance (11:36:14 AM) jono: and it is important that we make them feel motivated and excited about being involved in the team (11:36:25 AM) jono: much of this is about positive and re-enforced messaging (11:36:38 AM) jono: just for a moment, think about what we are doing here... (11:36:46 AM) jono: it is not like we work for a company who makes wire wool (11:36:59 AM) jono: we are involved in a global movement that is changing how people use computers (11:37:08 AM) jono: we are working towards a better future for our children (11:37:43 AM) jono: we are putting the foundations in place for technology that helps people learn, express themselves, create things and communicate (11:38:04 AM) jono: Ubuntu is a huge opportunity for change and every one of you has a seat on the journey (11:38:33 AM) jono: inside this journey are all the bugs, discussions, emails, packages, updates and wiki pages, and it can be tempting to get a little bogged down in all of that (11:39:08 AM) jono: but it is important that we all, not just leaders, remind ourselves of the wonderful journey that we are on, we need to see the forest, not the trees, in this journey (11:39:28 AM) jono: our leaders are so important to spreading what I call The Ubuntu Ethos (11:39:42 AM) jono: reminding ourselves of the bigger picture that we all play a part in as we move forward (11:40:11 AM) jono: our leaders should not only inspire us to stay on the journey, but they should seek to remind us of how important our specific contributions are (11:40:41 AM) jono: if you are a translator, you are helping to build a world in which everyone can use computers in their own language, this grows a culture of local pride and accessability (11:41:05 AM) jono: if you are a packager, you are helping to bring the best free software to our journey, providing more value for those who use Ubuntu (11:41:46 AM) jono: if you are tester, you are ensuring that all of the hard work going into Ubuntu works as flawlessly as possible - people don't use software that doesnt work, and it is people like you that make sure our good work meets these quality needs (11:42:08 AM) jono: we look to our leaders to reassure our teams of these messages, and it is a hugely important element of leadership (11:42:55 AM) jono: doing this is simple - regularly communicate this positive sense of camaraderie and value of personal contribution with your team (11:43:07 AM) jono: you need to regularly remind and encourage your team around the incredible work they are doing (11:43:28 AM) jono: I call this the Morning Motivation (11:43:52 AM) jono: you want your team members to wake up in the morning and think "today I am going to change the world with my contributions to Ubuntui" (11:44:15 AM) jono: when people develop that sense of motivation, they are like rocket-ships in our community., driving forward with tremendous work (11:44:45 AM) jono: as a leader, don't be shy in motivating your team, there is nothing to be embaressed about, nothing to feel coy about, just go out there and make them feel good (11:45:08 AM) jono: ok, we have 15 mins left (11:45:12 AM) jono: I am going to take some questions (11:45:24 AM) jono: <efm> QUESTION: How do you create a safe, private space for necessary emotional venting? (11:45:36 AM) jono: venting an personal space is always important (11:45:59 AM) jono: I always recommend that each person developers a set of friends and companions they can call up or ping on IRC and vent to (11:46:02 AM) jono: leaders need this too (11:46:32 AM) jono: I recommend against doing this in a channel, private or otherwise, as it can build a culture of negativity (11:46:45 AM) jono: this is why I recommend 1-on-1 venting (11:46:59 AM) jono: <efm> QUESTION: What can community leaders to help encourage a diverse community? (11:47:16 AM) jono: we need to underline that every contribution is welcome (11:48:00 AM) jono: sometimes times are not cut out to cater to some contributions (e.g. a LoCo team may have no packaging expertise), but we should encourage that person who wants to contribute in a new way to help build out that capability in the team, or help guide them to another team that does that work (11:48:41 AM) jono: <openweek1> QUESTION: I'm very interested in quality and community entry barriers -- you said that the community has quality needs, a standard for the contributions -- how do you manage this point? what's good enough for a community? may this lead into elitism? -- hope my English it's OK :) (11:49:04 AM) jono: good question - there is no fixed set of guidelines around quality in many teams (11:49:49 AM) jono: I think you can assess this in the same way our sponsorship queue works - a mentoring-like facility - when people join your team and want to contribute something, have experienced members of your team help show them what the expectations around quality are (11:50:06 AM) jono: have them comment-on and provide advice on their work, this will help them grow (11:50:16 AM) jono: <arianit> QUESTION: how do you convince your friends they're not doing you a favor by participating (11:50:27 AM) jono: I have no idea what you mean (11:50:48 AM) jono: <Jesi> QUESTION: first of all, I think you are doing a great job here, I don't mind stepping up and being a leader but I don't have a problem not being in charge either. I know basis for this discussion is leadership, but what about self-leadership? If one wants to get involved, what steps can they take to make sure they are the most effective team member they can be? I'm not sure how to word my question, what can one do (11:50:48 AM) jono: to make sure their skills are successfully being tapped for the good of the team? (11:51:59 AM) jono: I think I know what you mean - a great leader needs to first of all show capability in their domain, but in many cases their leadership skills are the primary skills that people will tap (11:52:38 AM) jono: as an example, many engineering managers in company are no where near as technically focused as their team members, but their skill is in understanding high-level needs of the company and having their teams work together to meet those needs (11:53:06 AM) jono: the same goes for community leaders - if you repeatedly demonstrate an ability in providing advice and coordination for the team, people will look up to you for it (11:53:29 AM) jono: <thomg> QUESTION: How do you deal with poor management? (11:54:17 AM) jono: the best way is to be open and frank with that person - tell them how you feel they are making mistakes - a great manager or leader will listen to your comments carefully and evaluate whether they need to change, and do so where required (11:54:33 AM) jono: the worst thing is to never tell your leader or manager that they are doing a sub-par job (11:54:44 AM) jono: talk to them privately, not publicly, and offer them some friendly words of advice (11:54:56 AM) jono: <IdleOne> QUESTION: how do you get people of that mind set to contribute ? (11:55:02 AM) jono: which mind set? (11:55:14 AM) jono: <LaserJock> QUESTION: How do you deal with teams that make plans but never do anything? ideas are plentiful, implementations are lacking (11:55:24 AM) jono: good question, LaserJock (11:55:42 AM) jono: I think the key here is that great project management involves the folllowing key steps: (11:55:55 AM) jono: 1. understand the problem domain and the goal we seek to achieve (11:56:14 AM) jono: 2. document a roadmap which says what you will do, who is working on what and set deadlines (11:56:18 AM) jono: and this next one is the key one: (11:56:34 AM) jono: 3. regularly check in on progress - this can happen with regular meetings (11:57:03 AM) jono: if you notice that a specific person is unable or unwilling to work on their elements of the plan, coordinate having someone else take them on (11:57:20 AM) jono: a great roadmap will almost always die unless it gets regularly check in on (11:57:37 AM) jono: <IdleOne> QUESTION: how do you get people of that mind set to contribute ? (11:57:50 AM) jono: so IdleOne is referring to those who are work and money focused (11:58:06 AM) jono: people will only contribute to a community when they (a) enjoy it and (b) feel like their efforts are worthwhile (11:58:23 AM) jono: I find that the hook is the wider Ubuntu ethos - making them feel like they are really making a difference in the world (11:58:40 AM) jono: many people are hugely attracted to that, while others just enjoy the technical challenges and fun (11:58:50 AM) jono: see what they like doing and see what attracts them (11:59:03 AM) jono: ok folks, my time is about up - thanks for listening and thanks for the great questions (11:59:29 AM) jono: again, check out my book - it is a free download and it covers many of these topics - http://www.artofcommunityonline.org/get/ (11:59:49 AM) jono: if you can buy a copy that also sends a great message to O'Reilly about publishing Creative Commons books :) (11:59:49 AM) jono: thanks folks!