📻 — Colleen Curtis: The Road to Chief Community Officer and Excellence in Comm Management

This is your Community, Daily.

Reading Time: ~ 5 min.

Good morning yeniverse!

I’m glad that yesterday’s primer on Section 230 was both useful and perhaps even educational — I got a ton of notes and many examples; at some point perhaps I can share them as they are also very instructional.

Today’s breakdown features Colleen Curtis, the Chief Community Officer of The Mom Project, a service that I used a little while I was searching for a specific hire last year. A few folks passed it my way and so it was next in-queue!

A few great links via the community before we jump in:

  1. The first year of building an online community via Ronan

  2. What Bill Gurley Saw via Ced

  3. Fractal communities vs magical bullhorn via Ben Werdmuller

  4. A Blockbuster 2020 via Cameo

  5. And a few amazing tools that I’ve shared in the yeniverse.

Hope today is better than yesterday my friends.

To infinity & community,

— john

Colleen started her career in community starting with Yelp as one of their first community managers and nothing in her career, as she shares, has been “linear” — a lot has changed over the last 12 years for Colleen and the entire industry as a whole!

I am totally digging this picture:

I love Colleen’s reminder that the community and the companies need you, quite a bit (as we all know)! This is the year, though, that we’re going to see a massive shift in not just appreciation but also the growth of community-centric thinking across the entire enterprise.

The reason that this is important is because community skills, according to Colleen, are the same thing as leadership skills:

Community building skills that make them successful can translate all the way up to the C-Suite as they know how to interface with all types of stakeholders and knows how to empathize with them.

For Colleen, there are 10 major drivers that make great (community) managers (via Google):

  1. Be a good coach

  2. Empower teams and don’t micromanage

  3. Create an inclusive environment, showing concern for success and well-being

  4. Be productive and results-oriented

  5. Be a good communicator — listen and share information

  6. Have a clear vision for the team

  7. Support career development and discuss performance

  8. Have the expertise to advise the team

  9. Collaborate

  10. Be a strong decision-maker

All of these are native to the community builder and can be leveraged into greater leadership roles, according to Colleen.

Your team is your community and this is how you learn to build those skills and how to start thinking through leadership at higher-levels.

But, you’ll want to know where you’re weak… the “gaps” that you should try to fill so you can get to the next step.

A good example that she shares is how she was terrified of public speaking but she knew that that was the skill that was most-lacking and that was keeping her from progressing to the next level. So, she decided to say “Yes!” to as many opportunities as she could get and eventually learned to not only feel comfortable, but also interested in doing it more often!

Simple, yet effective. Practice won’t make you perfect; it’ll either help you become better or it’ll give you a bit more self-awareness about what you should (or shouldn’t) be doing with your time.

It reminds me of the traps of finding fulfillment.

I love this next part: Raise Your Hand!

Taking opportunities to shine and drive important business-related outcomes is how you’re going to take your career to the next step in 2021 (and I know that Colleen is down for that!) — but, you’re going to have to have courage this year to stand-up for what you believe and also your value!!

Being an “internal champion” for the community is how you’re going to not only drive better business outcomes, you’ll also build a better community and a better business. This is how you create alignment between the work that you do as a community leader and the value that you deliver to yourself, the community, and the business.

As you grow and scale in your role, you’ll realize that you’re going to have to spend more time justifying your decisions as they related to community and business outcomes that the organization demands.

Adding skills that can help you ensure this type of thinking throughout your role and responsibility are crucial for success.

I appreciate this next slide where she reminds folks that you don’t have to “do it all” to be a success in community leadership! Lean into the areas that you’re already great at and find help and resources to fill the gaps as you need. Remember leverage your teammates around you as well as the larger community that you’re serving.

Keeping the community’s “best interests” in mind and championing / advocating for the community will help you build a stronger voice within the organization and allow you to gain the influence you need to lead effectively; oftentimes, you will need to “lead up” for a while as you level-up your peers and colleagues in the C-Suite when it comes to community-centric thinking.

The next section is particularly good and a useful reminder about how to grow and scale a career in community. Colleen starts by sharing that if you want to “make it” in community leadership you’ll need to be passionate about the folks that you’re serving; deeply-so.

But, without clearly knowing how the business measures your “impact” on the community will determine whether or not you’re a success.

Colleen goes further by stating that it is in your best interest, as a professional, to understand how business impacts community (and vice versa) and being able to clearly articulate how you and your skills, knowledge and expertise can increase business outcomes is clutch.

She shares a lot of personal stories but one in particular is about her transition out of “marketing” proper and into community, which required a courageous conversation between herself and her CEO.

She essentially shared that she knew she wasn’t a great fit for marketing — even as their Director of Marketing! — but really wanted to head into community. Long story short, it was the “best” conversation Colleen could have had and it allowed her to focus on things that she could really win at.

Knowing when and where to quit is important in the community space and having those important conversations will be your path toward a larger and eventual C-Level role.

Colleen also shares that if you find yourself being the “author” of the community story at a company then it’s a rare opportunity and you should treat it with the respect that it deserves.

One of the natural benefits of this rare opportunity is that the success of the community that you serve will be a part of your personal and professional story as well! It’s a neat win-win relationship between two parties that are interested in seeing one another succeed.

Finally, if you aren’t convinced yet, Colleen makes an appeal to senior leaders to take community seriously and that there is definitely a place for a Chief Community Officer at every company.

Ultimately, according to Colleen, each business unit is owned by a particular leader and community needs a leader, advocate, and someone accountable to the business metrics of its growth.

Colleen, at the end, shares her personal “why”:

A few questions that she answers from the community:

  1. How do you manage burnout? Have good, strong boundaries. Leave your work as your work and your home as your home, as best as you can.

  2. How do you find senior level community roles? Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear path quite yet. At this time, you’ll have to “get in” and then advocate for this within the business until the industry changes, at-large.

Here’s the full presentation: