A message for all with whom I have worked this year, those whom I recruited and more general. Most of you were new to Edgeryders or engaged for the first time with the organisation. Congratulations for making it all the way here
Here’s what I learned and some ways we can improve, roughly speaking. All lessons and points of failure are a two way street, so don’t take anything personal. I write this with all sincerity and willingness to learn.
In 2019 I worked with you in Wellbeing in Europe/Poprebel, The Reef, Deep Dive projects, for contracts between 1 month and 1 year, or as external collaborators (not formal Edgeryders contracts). Most of you are here and completing the work nowadays: @TamaraVuk @BaobabUrbain @natalia_skoczylas @jasen_lakic @manuelpueyo @thomas_goorden @ilaria @ralu, and others.
I spent circa 40-50% of my time in recruiting and training community managers, coordinating local connectors, outreach leaders and other services, and a little bit of mentoring. But I am neither a human resource professional, nor a manager, so thank you for being understanding throughout our collaboration, for flagging issues and helping improve how we work in Edgeryders. Trust that all is being processed in my head and finds a way to the Edgeryders board for future planning.
I see some patterns and points of failure and I will generalize a bit. I believe overcoming these will help us go a long way.
- A tendency to not read contracts carefully and work as if the targets and timeline can wait. This is solved by simply making sure you understand the work you are taking on, and budget some buffer space for learning the ‘edgeryders’ online collaboration tools. Delivery methods might not be fully specified, because they need a team to agree, which is what might create some uncertainty - but a good starting point remains to make sure you understand what’s written in your contract.
- People underestimate the work or the time and attention it needs - if there is an underestimation on the Edgeryders side, I would very much like that to be pointed out at the contract negotiation side. If completing the work is more challenging or takes longer for the collaborator, this is not a responsibility I can take. If flagged ahead of time after the initial strategies have been tried and failed, I’m confident that together we can mitigate it.
- The risk of dropping the ball, also known as flakiness. One of the reasons Edgeryders exists in the first place is because it provides a space of freedom to choose your work and be autonomous in the delivery. We all struggle to move in freedom, it can be empowering but also paralyzing.
You being responsive and reachable is crucial for the way I do my work (I don’t know about other Edgeryders people doing management). A good window for response is 24-48hrs. Three or four days without notice is too much. Know that whenever you don’t respond, there is an added cost for other people whose work depends on yours.
- When you are responsible for something, it works best when you take initiative to stay on top, detect problems along the way and come up with solutions to solve them. Having me as a manager doesn’t mean that I will knock at your door to point out the problems, it is your responsibility to see them. This also means you protect your delivery space because you are both accountable and take credit for the results. It also goes to say that you are an autonomous worker, not a subordinate, even though I am accountable for your work and I was probably defining the terms of your work.
Stay structured in your communication and delivery plan. Edgeryders exists because there are enough of us ready to make the effort to read, write and collaborate using online formats. It’s not easy for everyone. Pinging chaotically here and there does not work for me (again, not sure about other Edgeryders managers). We are all navigating massive amounts of text on edgeryders.eu already!
Best test I found is: you need to be able to point to a document that explains the overall process of your work, or justification for your choices, and hopefully that is one place, not ten; it is a written record (can be a platform thread or a strategy document etc; it can be revisited and other people can make sense of your work. The reports/ blogs I asked most of you to provide when you invoice are also a testimony and summary of how you work(ed).
*** Having mental clarity and structure in what your put out there when you work with others is a prerequisite if you wish to grow professionally towards leadership & coordination roles, bigger responsibility and higher salaries, all in all a level of seniority within Edgeryders, but also in any workplace!
- Personal dynamics can make or break a collaboration. Yes, there was conflict. Sometimes there is no way to talk things through and deliver in an optimal way, not when we work against short timelines, inherent complexity (like in Edgeryders) or when we, as humans, take it personally. Best I can personally do in that case is to keep it professional, put feelings aside, finish the collaboration by giving and picking up some slack in the process, and finally assess later if to work together again. This is just a personal preference, though sometimes it’s probably better to fire/ quit altogether.
What worked or would work really well for me with some of you are in fact, I realise now, old age recipes for good collaboration (duh!):
- Channels for day-to-day team communication: Riot is the edgeryders open source alternative to Slack and makes it easier to stay in touch. If your contract is 3 months or longer, it is totally worth onboarding you there. Private group messaging on edgeryders.eu - we used it with Tamara and Jasen, and community managers in Poprebel, and it worked as a charm, almost like real time chat.
- Check-ins in a regular meeting time and room (on Zoom), and showing up i.e. with community managers in Poprebel. Even when nothing much was happening during spring/summer, I felt it helped us build a team in the process. Special kudos to @Jirka_Kocian and @Richard who were not even Edgeryders formal contractors and made it there!
- Designing the process and plan together: with Isabelle we build the whole Reef community building strategy from the beginning, together, and we managed to stick to it.
- Seeing each other face to face, using the Edgeryders office. It worked great with Manuel, Jasen, Ilaria and others who were around Brussels or could spend some time visiting.
- Telling me ‘this is not going to work, we need to change strategy, here’s how’. This I hear seldom and I would like to hear more, it would help me learn and maybe it would empower you to try new things
Finally, I wanted to thank all of you you every day for the work you did and your effort in critical moments, but I’m afraid I have had no time. So a big big thank you, I’ve learned so much from each of you!! Any other ideas, or feedback you have for me personally, please post it below. I don’t mind having it in a public space and will not take offense!
I wish you happy end of 2019 and much love, I am humbled <3
P.S. If you want my personal feedback to you, just email me.