At this point, we likely all know someone that has lost their job or had to make budget cuts because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a narrative in the community industry that we must always be communicating the value we bring to the organizations we work for, but it’s also worth saying that community has really showed up to fight back against this pandemic. The work of connecting and creating safe spaces for people (think tenant unions, social justice organizations, voter registration and education efforts, community fridges, I could go on!) is more vital than ever.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 53% of Americans say the internet has been an essential tool during the pandemic (with 34% more labeling it important). That means the work of community professionals in creating spaces where people can find value, joy, factual information, and human connection on the internet is so important. So if you’re looking for a job, let us know. And if you’re faced with making budget cuts for your team, reflect on crises you’ve managed and customers you’ve delighted, look to how you’ve grown and developed your team, review the data that points to your efforts, and breathe. You’ve got this.
As our guest Paul Bradley (manager of strategic services at Higher Logic) says during this episode, “if anything, community is what you need to lean into during times of crisis.” Let’s all remember the community of community professionals that we have to lean on during these times –– whether those are others on your team or your friends here on Community Signal.
Here’s a preview of what Patrick and Paul discuss in this episode:
- Countering budget-cutting arguments
- Some buy-low investments to consider for your community
- Being accountable for the professional development of your team
- Why Paul deleted his Twitter account with over 100k followers when he took his first community job
- And Karn, our producer, celebrates five years on the Community Signal team!
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsors: Vanilla, a one-stop shop for online community and Localist, plan, promote, and measure events for your community.
Bad moments are our time to shine (6:28): “If something bad is going on [at your company], it’s an opportunity for a community manager because they can then insert a human element into that situation and provide empathetic value that people really respond to.” –@PaulBradleyCMGR
This is not the time to divest from community (6:40): “If you are in a situation where you’re like, ‘I’m going to back out of my community,’ I would say, ‘Why? You made this decision [to invest in community]. What were you thinking when you made the decision? How can that possibly have changed just because there’s a crisis going on?’ If anything, community is what you need to lean into during times of crisis.” –@PaulBradleyCMGR
Sending more marketing or engagement emails can have a cost (16:58): “I’ve worked at places [where my bosses said], ‘Just send another email, we need two more people, hit them again!,’ and they don’t understand the law of diminishing returns. Yes, maybe we’ll get one more at the cost of 17 unsubscribes.” –@patrickokeefe
A diverse team creates a fuller understanding of problems (19:07): “One of the fun things about [having] a team of people who have different skills, is that I don’t know what my problem fully is until [one of my team members] looks at it and says this is your problem, and this is how we need to solve it.” –@PaulBradleyCMGR
Managers, make an effort to keep your one-on-one meetings (27:10): “You don’t miss a one-on-one [meeting with your direct reports]. One of the things that made me feel the worst, when I had one-on-ones, was when my boss canceled. That means something to people.” –@PaulBradleyCMGR
Helping your direct reports advance in their careers (29:56): “When I was hiring people, I would say, ‘Here’s the deal. Two years from now, if you are into this role and you do the work, I’m going to work to promote you here or you’re going to take my job or, if you’re ready to move on and we don’t have a spot, I will support you. I will be your advocate in helping you to find a new role. I will be a reference. I’ll help you however I can.'” –@patrickokeefe
About Paul Bradley
Paul Bradley is the manager of strategic services at Higher Logic following community manager roles at MicroStrategy, ADP, and Intel.
- Sponsor: Vanilla, a one-stop-shop for online community
- Sponsor: Localist, plan, promote, and measure events for your community
- Paul Bradley on Twitter
- Paul Bradley on LinkedIn
- Higher Logic
- Congrats on five years with Community Signal, Karn!
- Shannon Emery, who connected Patrick and Paul
- Paul’s tweet about how he deleted his Twitter accounts after taking his first community job.
- WeSupport newsletter
- Higher Logic Users Group
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Vanilla, a one-stop-shop for online community and Localist, plan, promote, and measure events for your community. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:28] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and thanks for listening to Community Signal. Our guest is Paul Bradley, who manages a team of community pros at Higher Logic, following time in community at MicroStrategy, ADP, and Intel. We’re talking about being accountable for the professional development of your team, countering budget-cutting arguments, and why Paul deleted his Twitter accounts when he took his first community job.
October 10th marked five years that Community Signal’s producer Karn Broad has been working on the show. Without Karn, Community Signal just wouldn’t be what it is. He’s a true creative partner that I trust deeply. If you enjoy the show, he’s one of the reasons. If you’d like to congratulate him or just see the Community Signal cake that he was sent, there will be a link in the show notes.
I’d also like to thank Marjorie Anderson, Carol Benovic-Bradley, and Maggie McGary for supporting our show via Patreon. For more info on how you can join them please visit CommunitySignal.com.
Paul Bradley is the manager of strategic services at Higher Logic following community manager roles that MicroStrategy, ADP, and Intel.
Paul, welcome to the show.
[00:01:28] Paul Bradley: I’m glad to be here.
[00:01:29] Patrick O’Keefe: Good to have you on. You recently rejoined Twitter which is where we connected through Shannon Emery. One of the tweets that you sent so far said that when you took your first community role at Intel your career was so inextricably linked to your Twitter usage. From 2010 to 2012 that you deleted all of your accounts, why did you feel that was necessary?
[00:01:52] Paul Bradley: What happened there was I was working for myself and when I was closer to the start of my career I would have called my consulting time. I’m going to be honest, I lost my job in the recession and I was working for myself and I just ended up on the hustle. I was blogging and stuff like that and I ended up in a situation where I gained some growth hacking expertise with Twitter and then with my background in communications and writing I also got a lot of people who were asking me to do their voice development and actually be their voice on Twitter. By the time I took the gig at Intel, I had 50 accounts that I was growth hacking for.
I was tweeting for 15 or 20 accounts. In that time, I lost my own joy for Twitter. I would get to a point where I was coming up with stuff to say on Twitter so often that it became very inorganic. When I dove into community management with my first gig in Intel I just said I’m leaving that behind. I think that very short-sightedly because I actually had an account at that time that had like 100,000 followers that I deleted. It was short-sighted, it was just one of those things that –– a decision made in a huff. I just set it aside for eight years.
[00:03:07] Patrick O’Keefe: I like to talk about how our most popular show from two years ago was with someone who had less than a 100 Twitter followers. I think there’s a lot of people that do the work of community, that don’t have a Twitter account or don’t talk about it. We tend to spotlight a lot of people who do talk about it naturally so because they put themselves out there. So hopefully, this will be the most popular show of 2020.
[00:03:32] Paul Bradley: Yes. All right, and I think I’m up to like 30 followers.
[00:03:35] Patrick O’Keefe: There you go, on your way.
[00:03:36] Paul Bradley: [laughs]
[00:03:38] Patrick O’Keefe: A lot of community pros are navigating COVID-19-related budget cuts right now, that impact their, work that impact the viability of their programs. As someone who’s working in community at this time not a lot of us can escape it. Do you have any tips for countering that, for countering those arguments, for cutting the budget during this time?
[00:03:56] Paul Bradley: My heart goes out to everybody who’s working in a consultancy at this point. It’s got to be tough times. We’ve seen some major players start their own here in COVID as well. For us, dealing with budget constraints is something that has clearly happened to almost everybody during COVID. What we focused on was our value and what we bring. We’re fortunate to have some metrics around some of the things that we do with webinars et cetera, that bring in pipeline like millions of dollars.
You can always point to that and say, “Hey, these webinars specifically, we’re getting an ROI on this that is very calculable and you’ll want to double down on this.” We were fortunate enough to actually get them in team when we work with to double down on webinars during COVID. Really like what are you doing as a community management professional all the time? You’re trying to prove your value and all the organizations that I’ve been in, even if they’ve invested a bunch of money in community I’ve been proving my value every day for eight years because there’s always somebody who A, might not get it all the way or doesn’t believe you or thinks can we management, it’s like, we didn’t have this when I was coming up 20 years ago. It’s clearly not necessary or whatever. I think just staying focused on proving your value.
Those of us who follow all this stuff in community management, social media, we see this all time and oh, it’s going to be– It’s a time of community and all this, but never getting so caught up in that echo chamber that you forget. There’s still a lot of people who don’t get what this is and you always have to be proving your value.
[00:05:30] Patrick O’Keefe: If someone comes in and says, “This is a pandemic. We’re getting rid of this,” what’s the most convincing argument that you’ve heard made or that you’ve made, it sounds like you’re leaning on data very heavy and hopefully you have the data. If you have those webinars and you have this data that shows that they were translated into sales or to renewals, or increase the lifetime value of the customer, that’s very strong. Newer clients, newer customers, newer communities may not have that data. Is that the main convincing argument? Is the data argument? Is there any other argument to make?
[00:06:01] Paul Bradley: No. Why would you back out on providing an added layer of help to your customers, why would you back out on human connection? Why would you back out on putting a face on your company instead of just the shields? Certainly, in a time of crisis, one of the things I’ve always said about community management is when you have that conversation that we all have, when an executive says, “We need to delete this content where somebody said something mean about us.” I’ve always loved that stuff. I’ve always felt like if something bad is going on it’s an opportunity for a community manager because they can then insert a human element to that situation and provide empathetic value that people really respond to. If you are in a situation where you’re like, “I’m going to back out of my community,” I would say, “Why? You made this decision. What were you thinking when you made the decision? How can that possibly have changed just because there’s a crisis going on?” If anything, community is what you need to lean into during times of crisis.
I’ve worked in a community where the product that we represented was really bad. It was in the time of the significant crisis and I will point out what community was, but the one thing that we got out of it was we have these on fire thread saying like, “This is down. This has been out. I can’t do my job.” You got people just turning up these threads and they’re showing up in all our digest, and people are freaking out.
What we learned was if we started responding to people like crazy in those threads, they started saying things like, “Wow, I feel terrible. I can’t do my job. I’m miserable. I’m really mad at the company, but I really appreciate you, Paul,” or, “I really appreciate you, Stephanie,” or the other people that were doing it. That, by extension, is some sort of appreciation for the company and it’s like the backup that you get. You have an opportunity to put humans out there into the sphere of your customer world and just have them be nice to everyone.
If you really want to simplify it in a certain way, most people who are customers of something that takes up their whole day and effectively, that’s often who you’re dealing with when you’re talking about an enterprise-level community. People usually have a negative opinion of that company. Who likes their cellphone provider? Who likes their ISP? No one, right? Maybe some people like their cellphone provider, but nobody likes their internet service provider. I know they do double down a lot on community, but the idea becomes, you have a potential for a human advocacy out there, why would you walk away from that especially now?
[00:08:26] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s pause to talk about our generous sponsor, Vanilla.
Vanilla provides a one-stop-shop solution that gives community leaders all the tools they need to create a thriving community. Engagement tools like ideation and gamification promote vibrant discussion and powerful moderation tools allow admins to stay on top of conversations and keep things on track. All of these features are available out of the box, and come with best-in-class technical and community support from Vanilla’s Success Team. Vanilla is trusted by King, Acer, Qualtrics, and many more leading brands. Visit vanillaforums.com.
I think it’s also sort of a buy-low time on community. I think the best time to have a good community strategy is yesterday not today. You want it when you don’t need it because if you don’t have it when you need it, it’s far too late. If you’ve got the money right now, it is really a buy-low time in a lot of different ways. I think it’s a buy-low time with software companies like Higher Logic who are hungry for clients right now, I assume, maybe not Higher Logic, maybe others, but there’s a lot of competitors out there, a lot of software companies. It’s a good time to buy things. It’s a good time to invest in things if you have the money because there are a lot of programs beyond the need for clients.
There are a lot of programs to get people into using these tools. Extended trial periods, things like that where people can really get used to them, start building before they need to commit money and there’s options for all scales of budget. Also, in hiring community pros and finding people, whether that be a consultant or whether it be a full-time people, there’s a lot of community talent out there right now.
Unfortunately, a lot of people have been laid off and there are a lot of very competent, very good, experienced community people out there who should be paid what they deserve frankly, but people are looking, people need jobs. People will take a lower salary in some cases because they need the job and there’s a ton of talent out there so this is a good time to invest.
I wonder also about just the way people are right now in online communities. I have limited exposure to people right now. I have a smaller online community I manage, I have a fairly big client working on a product that’s not out yet, so they don’t really have a community interacting. I want to say, and I could be totally wrong. I want to say that people are hopefully more empathetic right now in their community interactions. Meaning, in the support case you gave with the cell phone or the internet provider, people will not be happy with those services in general. You’ll hear mostly complaints, but I don’t know. I want to believe that people are more empathetic in this role, in this together. We’re all dealing with things right now sort of way and maybe that’s just a rose-colored glasses thing and it’s not the reality of the situation. I want to believe that, I want to believe that what people were complaining about in January, maybe some of those things, they’re less likely to complain about now just because we have more existential issues or our lives have been shifted in a way because of COVID where I don’t know we have our kids all day or we have to work at home all the time.
I don’t know, I’m not sure. I’ve seen a little bit of that. I’ve seen a little bit of that in my communities, but I wonder what people are seeing in larger maybe generally more hostile is not the right word, but just more consistent criticism that exists in some communities.
[00:11:32] Paul Bradley: That’d be an interesting case study and I would take that in another direction because it’s something that I talk about all the time. You’ve been in communities like your entire adult life, so I’d be interested in your perspective. I am somebody who came in at 32 years old. I had a 10-year career where I wasn’t involved in communities. You could argue that the work that I did with Twitter is a version of that and certainly, it was and that’s why they hired me.
I am much nicer to support people because of my work in community and I think probably to all people. I think that there was a level of cynicism to me that still exists in a sense that is just gone over the course of eight years of community work. I do find myself from time to time if I’m in a support situation, maybe getting a little bit elevated and then I’ll just walk myself back. I’ll just be like what are you doing? You’re you, you’re a community person, why would you act like this? I think that there’s something that it’s bringing to the notion of becoming a community manager with short of being all like rainbows and teddy bears or whatever about like being a community manager makes you a better person.
I think it does, arguably it does, it makes you think about people’s perspectives, which is a really key thing in the world. Again, that might even go back to another argument of why would you walk away from community now? Because if you get a company, if you get any person thinking about the perspectives of others, that’s how things progress in a positive way and put yourself into another person’s shoes. I think that’s the real power of community work.
[00:12:58] Patrick O’Keefe: I think the longer you’re able to stay in a community, you develop institutional knowledge is what I call it. I think that’s something we don’t necessarily value as much as we should, or at least I’ve seen a lot of people undervalue it where it’s a case of, okay, that person can be replaced and everyone can be replaced, but the value that someone has when it comes to knowledge of how everything works in a community and how people work together and what the dynamics are and who these people are and who those people are and how well they know the community person or that team.
I’ve had people that were working for me at a past employer, who had been at that company I think like six, seven years and just the value of that knowledge, of knowing where to go when something came up in the community, it never showed up on a spreadsheet, but it made everyone else better. We say that about all sorts of skills, they don’t show up in spreadsheets or they’re intangible, but when someone needed something random, a member who has this experience, or what do we do when someone does this thing somewhere else in the company, how can that route to the community, in what way to what person in what section, in what way, there was just no value for that.
Everyone would take the mark from the scorecard. Everyone would take their win in their scorecard that that person created because they knew the connection to the right thing or the right person, but that person didn’t– Their scorecard was strictly the community, which was retention and what extra revenue is generated for those people and of course, community health metrics around activity in the community and active members and things like that, but their scorecard was isolated to their communities space not to the sale that they just generated because a salesperson wanted to find a member who was in an industry to make a connection and obviously, tying those next is together is the magic moment for a lot of community ROI figuring out where those things mean.
[00:14:58] Paul Bradley: I think one thing you touched on there is just the fact that community managers, just as a personality type, often have different goals than the organization. At the end of the day, the organization is looking for return on investment, they’re looking for deflection, they’re looking for all kinds of stuff.
As a community manager, you typically look at it a different way. You look at it as helping people and in your use case, one of the things I always bring up similarly, is, if, as a community, it goes back to your like knowing where to go, if as a community, you’re doing something that could help somebody who is an expert. They are an expert in what your community deals with. They’re at their companies, somebody asks them a question, they forgot the answer. They’re having a bad day, they said they didn’t drink any coffee, they blank on something that they should know the answer to right away. If they can go to your community and get that information, and seamlessly deliver an ace back to the person who asked for that, that’s pretty powerful. You’re their safety net. I think I actually said this on Twitter recently and I just regurgitated, I said on Twitter, almost verbatim and I did not plan to do that but that use case to me is always been the powerful one, was where you can be that backup for them, you then become a part of their expertise, you then become woven into who they are as an expert.
[00:16:10] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s stop for a moment to talk about our great sponsor, Localist.
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Another challenge you mentioned to me before the show that you’re working on is streamlining community-related communications into one contiguous workflow. Contiguous is the word that has been added to my vocabulary today. Thank you for that. It sounds like it goes beyond calendars and schedules. We’re sending some communities and I’ve worked at places that were like, just send another email, we need two more people, hit them again and they don’t understand the law of diminishing returns. Yes, maybe we’ll get one more at the cost of 17 unsubscribes.
That’s okay, today, but six months from now we’re going to struggle but like there’s a lot of things we hit people with, depending on the platforms and what our communities are notifications for new content for replies, announcements, AI newsletters, digest, whatever. What I want to talk about is the considerations that complicate workflows and what is a smart communications workflow? How do you organize it and, just brain dump? What are you thinking about?
[00:17:40] Paul Bradley: This is one of the situations where it’s a problem that I knew I had, and that I needed to solve with a person. From the standpoint of managing community managers, which the game I find myself in now, we knew that our communications were fragmented and we were doing a number of different things to communicate. We have a webinar mailer over here, we have what our automation rules are doing over here, we have your digests over here, we’ve smart newsletters over here.
We actually brought in a guy on our team and Josh Slyman, who has been working in marketing for years, and he’s owned his own marketing companies, he’s got these stories of, he was in a t-shirt business and he would go from festival, the festival selling these t-shirts and say, this guy’s just, he’s done all kinds of different stuff and we had the opportunity to bring him onto our team this summer.
What I sent to him was our communications, like, please audit this, and let us know and when I’m talking about that as a problem that we’re solving, it’s basically Josh went in and looked and said, this all needs to be one thing, and we need to figure out how to do it. Then if we need to contain it to marketing automation software, where the community itself isn’t even sending notifications anymore, then we need to do that.
That was a really revolutionary thought to me, the idea of just discontinuing the community’s notifications itself and I don’t think that’s effectively what we’re going to do but it’s really cool when you bring somebody in who just has these big ideas that are just not something that you would have thought of and from a standpoint of being a community manager, who’s alone like you have to come up with all the big ideas.
That’s one of the fun things about being in a scenario where I do have a team of people who have different skills, is that I don’t know what my problem fully is, until Josh comes in this summer looks at it, and says, this is your problem and this is how we need to solve it. I don’t know that from a standpoint of the nuts and bolts of it. That’s definitely –– you should have Josh on.
[00:19:28] Patrick O’Keefe: And you may not have a community that you’re a user of where this makes sense, but in communities, like as a user, where do you go as far as communications? What do you want to see? What do you allow to hit your inbox? Do you subscribe to everything you reply to? Do you get those every notification? Do you prefer a digest? Do you like getting random digests of content? I mean, as a user, sometimes I think we think from one side which is like, we want to get people in the community. We want them to be active. We want more of that.
But turn around and ourselves like I just went through an email unsubscribe spree. I had 80,000 unread emails in my inbox because I took a job, I moved to Los Angeles, I got engaged, I had a lot of stuff going on and I just stopped looking at my inbox and I got all caught back up. A few months ago, I went every day, I spent a half-hour and I took down emails, I went through them, I bulk search deleted, I unsubscribed and my inbox now is the beautiful place. I do still get some emails, I do have some stuff I’m opted into. As a user of communities, what’s the communication workflow that you want?
[00:20:28] Paul Bradley: There are some newsletters that I really like, I think that the WeSupport newsletter is really cool, because just a bunch of links and a lot of good stuff for community, people, community people are always curious about jobs got jobs in there. I like something like that, that comes once a week, and just gives me a bunch of quick links and positive reinforcement, things like that. Really, what we think about is, there’s many emails coming at you from this one entity, that eventually, like you mentioned before, you just get tired of it.
I think there’s a time and a place. I’m a big fan of newsletters, I get a ton of them but I also very recently went through and purged about 9 million subscriptions, and actually, that was probably like a year ago and I probably need to do it again because I’m the kind of guy who just subscribed to everything and then I sort it out later. What you always think about is got to get yourself out of how you like to consume things and just always be thinking about how as many other different people like to consume things and one of the things I’ve heard for years and years the most is stop sending me much damn email.
[00:21:25] Patrick O’Keefe: Flexibility is a great thing. It’s also something that platforms I think are getting better at. The first software I used in ’98 was some remotely hosted something. What the heck was it called? I don’t know. Anyway, all it had was email notifications and that was the case for a long time. The first hosted software I used was phpBB 1 in 2000. You could get an email when people replied, and that was it. That was it for a while and then people started to introduce things like, I know digests of notifications that you could have all notifications for the day in one email or notifications for the week.
Of course, you see some email newsletters popping up, some recent topic emails digest popping up. I think those are all good things.
I think, to your point, though, it sounds to me like you like a really well-done newsletter. You’re going to make friends around here saying We Support — Carol Benovic-Bradley is one of the We Support people. She’s my Editorial Lead for the show here at Community Signal so you’re making friends. I love We Support too.
[00:22:22] Paul Bradley: I wasn’t pandering?
[00:22:23] Patrick O’Keefe: Oh, no, it’s actually one of the few community resources I actually like, We Support, I think they do a great job for the reasons you mentioned. They put care into it, there’s a craftsmanship to that. That’s your vibe, that’s what you maybe lean towards, or think you do. That’s great to have that option, and then have the ability to turn it off and have the ability to just get automated stuff because maybe you don’t care about all that.
Just the more that we can get baked in flexibility, the better off we’ll be in deliverability, the better off we’ll be in keeping people on a list, because if it’s only one list for everybody, you’re going to lose people but if you give people the option to, what is it? Opt-down? I forget the terminology, what they say now, you can opt to opt-out or not that you can opt-down or opt-up. If we give people those options, hey, opting down is a whole heck of a lot better than opting out, right?
[00:23:11] Paul Bradley: Yeah. Another thing too, that I think a lot of people aren’t aware of, with the way things exist in marketing automation these days is, there’s so much if that then this going on, in terms of what you get and I think a lot of times, it just seems like now they’re just sending me a barrage of email and in some cases, that’s true. For instance, going back to what Josh is working on, it’s basically saying like, to have all of your if that then this setup that the person receives the most minimal amount of email possible, and the most impactful email possible. Again, in terms of marketing automation, I’m not an expert, but we have people on our team that do it, and they are well trusted. It’s an exciting element to bring to the community, I feel. I think calling it a marketing automation isn’t necessarily, I think, fair to its use in the online community sphere. It’s more-so just promoting the community in a way that’s interesting to people. It’s getting to that point where you’ve got that optimal thing and I think you had asked me before the show was something big that you’re thinking about the notion of that, the concept of that contiguous workflow is exciting. If you’re really communicating with people in the most efficient way possible, that’s a good feeling.
[00:24:16] Patrick O’Keefe: I want to close on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, which is professional development for a team, especially a team you lead. You told me before the show, when I asked you for your responsibilities, and you listed professional development and professional well being of six community management professionals with five to 20 years of professional experience. I liked how you worded that, and now you’re responsible for it because I do believe that team managers and leaders especially have community pros should be responsible for those things. How do you hold yourself accountable for that responsibility?
[00:24:45] Paul Bradley: I do consider being a manager a responsibility to the people that you manage, because ultimately, if they don’t like their job, then what does anything matter? I think that the way that you track it is hopefully they tell you, but also, you’re constantly saying like, what are we doing? How are we leveling you up? How are we pushing you further up the scale to be better?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of people who always feel like they could be doing more for professional development and I’ve also felt at times that I fail at this, like what’s that resource that I can provide or in times past, do I have the budget to get people to this certain thing, et cetera. You can always be organically moving people through this field of their knowledge and getting people leveled up on knowledge.
In the community world, I feel like when you watch somebody start off as a community manager and often, we’re hiring people who don’t have community experience, just because it’s really difficult, particularly for Higher Logic in this market. In the Washington DC market, most of the people that have community management experience are our clients, so we don’t hire away from those people. I feel that you can really see people developing community expertise just based on the way that they speak and the way that they understand things and the questions that they ask. That, to me, feels trackable and if I feel like somebody is stagnating, then I have to take action.
Then the other piece of it is that the professional well-being part. I am constantly trying my best to monitor everybody’s work mental health. I don’t say that I’m a therapist. I say that like, people have a feeling about their job at any given moment and happens to me, happens to anyone. There are days when it’s just like you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster and then by the end of the week, suddenly, it feels like everything’s great. I want to always be mindful of the things that stick in the crawl of different people and modify what we do that way.
I think one of the things that it’s taught me is, I’m a person who talks first and then sorts it out later naturally and I think spending years as a manager has helped me realize sometimes you have to hold certain things back conditionally and mold your messaging based on the situation that you’re in. I try to always be mindful of how everybody’s feeling in a given moment and trying to improve that, you’re never done.
There’s going to be another person who goes into some kind of situation that’s not great, it was just a matter of being nimble, always remembering, in terms of being a manager or being in charge of a team, you’re not in charge, they are. They are doing the work and so it’s your job to make sure that they’re comfortable at all times. I’m sorry that that was just a complete ramble.
[00:27:23] Patrick O’Keefe: No, it’s fine, but I think what you’re talking about to some extent is routine. I’m a big fan of routines and making something a part of my system of getting things done because that ensures that it actually does get done and that it is a priority and that it is important. Maybe talk about that a little bit. You talk about professional development, encouraging people to say, I want to learn this thing. Here’s some money, go learn this thing, take this training, go to this webinar, go to this event in-person event pre-COVID, virtual event now, in-person, again, in the future. As far as I want to manage on a regular basis, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, it could be some of those are all of those. How do you create time to ensure that you actually do talk about professional development?
[00:28:02] Paul Bradley: I have one-on-ones with everybody every week. I thought I was really cool for that until another manager at the company who has 10 or 11 direct reports said she does one-on-ones for an hour with all 11 of them every week and I was like, “Geez, I do a half-hour with six.” [chuckles]
[00:28:18] Patrick O’Keefe: When I had a team reporting into me, I also did one-on-ones every week, but it’s still a great thing. It’s a beautiful thing to have the time. I would have one-on-ones with my boss and they wouldn’t make time half the time, that’s life.
[00:28:29] Paul Bradley: Well, one thing that I just remembered too, is like, you don’t miss a one-on-one. One of the things that I think made me feel the worst when I had one-on-ones was when my boss canceled my one-on-one. That means something to people. I feel bad when I reschedule a one-on-one because I don’t want to impact people in that way. Sometimes you have to because if something comes up, that is just crazy and you’re just like, “Hey, I got to move this one-on-one.” There have only been a few cases, at least in this position where I have not had a one-on-one with a person in a given week.
I always make sure to have it during that week. It’s definitely, I’ve missed a couple. I think very recently with Josh, we ended up, stars got crossed and he missed one. It’s the simplest way to do things. I’ve seen management consultants that just run the gamut, talk about this and one person might be completely over here in terms of what they recommend and the other one would be completely over here and they all say you should have one-on-ones every week.
[00:29:20] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s interesting. I think one of the things that maybe the people above us don’t always like to hear, but what is true, especially in cases where you don’t have the budget that you’d like or where you know that you’re not paying the most competitive rates, which is a role I’ve found myself in knowing I wasn’t paid competitively, I was paid, okay but not competitively, is that part of being a good, in my opinion, feel free to disagree, but part of being a good team leader and recognizing people’s professional development is sometimes essentially grooming them to leave and not directly, not necessarily saying that, you need to leave.
When I was hiring people, I would say, “Here’s the deal, like two years from now, if you are into this role and you do the work, I’m going to work to promote you here, or you’re going to take my job, or if you’re ready to move on and we don’t have a spot, I will support you, I will be your advocate in helping you to find a new role, I will be a reference, I’ll help you however I can,” and just being available to help people grow as a professional.
If you’re hiring people with no experience, for example, and you have a lot of experience, helping them come up a little bit, recognizing that doing that will make them an attractive candidate for someone else is part of being a good leader. Grooming them to stay under you is not good leadership. In my opinion, you have to recognize and also, part of it’s ego, I really believe I can hire great community professionals, I can make and help good community professionals become great and I’ll do it again, the whole world, I’ll just populate the world with great community pros.
That’s part ego, but also, part realism is that you’re not going to have the budget to keep everyone always even in the best cases, usually, unless you’ve worked at one of the maybe at FAANG, maybe, one of the big, big companies, people are going to move on and you have to be okay with that and you have to be a part of that journey and it’s better to have alumni than to have people who hate you because you kept them there too long.
[00:31:12] Paul Bradley: We’ve had some really inspiring turnover and I don’t maybe that’s a term I just made up in the last year and I’m not going to say I did any major part to develop her but Kelsey, left our team a year ago for Cisco and she was really just a dynamo with what she was doing, establishing and running our webinar program like a pro, we effectively had to replace her with two people and to watch her go and get that opportunity was so cool and then this spring, during COVID, actually Will left us for Alteryx, which has a really cool community program and he moved to Colorado. He came to community from the world of high-end retail.
He started with Higher Logic, I think three or three and a half years ago, and really just developed into a wonderful community manager. He put himself in a position where he got a job really, very involved internal programming with one of our vendors. It was just an awesome opportunity. It was just fun to know that he was going off to do that.
Then more recently, and there’s nothing that I taught Lindsay Starke if anything I learned from her, and everybody should try to learn from Lindsay. She got a position recently with Conservify, which falls right in line with her passions and who she is as a person and that as much as it was hard to bear the loss of these three senior, brilliant community people, it was also pretty fun to just see that they got those opportunities. I think if somebody who’s been in the community a long time, you much longer than me, there’s not a million jobs out there. When you see people get a really good one, it’s something that’s fun.
[00:32:46] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s legacy building. It’s like the head coaching tree in the NFL, assistants that go on to other things. It’s like, “That’s great. I want all of my assistants to run every online community.” No, I’m just kidding. You mentioned working with people who have different experience levels, five years to 20 years experience. How do you see the differences in the needs that they have for professional well-being or development between someone who’s five years in versus 20 years in or is there even a difference?
[00:33:10] Paul Bradley: I think in a sense that there’s certain personality traits that younger professionals have. I also think exposing yourselves to that is good for older professionals. Ultimately, when we’re hiring people for community roles, we’re still looking for those community traits in the process of that hiring and we really have an idea of, somebody who has that just unbridled curiosity, somebody who’s got a feeling of empathy.
We hired a couple folks last year, where it was like coming from different backgrounds that we have aligned, so we have ideas at Higher Logic of the right industries that we want to draw people from. I think that, at least on our team, we end up with myriad personalities, but they all have a similar core. You see that people are motivated by similar things. I think people for the most part, if you tried too hard, from a management perspective, then you’re just going to spin yourself out, people want to be appreciated, and that’s it. I think that’s what drives community too.
[00:34:13] Patrick O’Keefe: People want to be appreciated. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today. I really enjoyed the conversation Paul, thank you.
[00:34:19] Paul Bradley: Thank you, Patrick. Thanks for having me on, really enjoyed it.
[00:34:22] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Paul Bradley, manager of strategic services at Higher Logic. Connect with Paul on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/paul-m-bradley and on Twitter @PaulBradleyCMGR. Find Higher Logic at higherlogic.com and their Higher Logic users group at hug.higherlogic.com.
For the transcript from this episode, plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and Carol Benovic-Bradley is our editorial lead. Special thanks to Lindsay Starke for input into this episode. I’ll see you next time.
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