Just like Snow White and her 7 dwarfs, the community manager is often challenged by one member or the other. But she still loves them all the same. Or does she?
We’ve said it time and again: a community is nothing without its members. But oh boy, is it sometimes challenging to unite everyone under a same cause, passion or purpose! In this article, we review 7 types of members that may challenge your community management skills, and how to best address them.
Pessimistic just has the “glass half-empty” kind of mindset. It’s not on purpose, and she is actually really concerned, but still, it can get tiring for you and the other community members to try to cheer her up all the time. Worst of all, negativity is lonely, so Pessimistic may drag the others down with her if you don’t take action.
As very nicely stated in this Quora answer about pessimism in general, here are a few ways to help out Pessimistic, and improve your community management skills at the same time:
- Find out why - there must be a reason why Pessimistic is, well, pessimistic. Ask her what she fears so and try to alleviate those fears.
- Stay detached - don’t let Pessimistic drag the others down, especially not you, or you won’t be able to do anything for her.
- Help her realize it - she may not even be aware of her ways. Take her aside, and show her in a gentle way how negative she can sometimes be, without antagonizing her.
- Cut her loose - after trying everything, if your member still is constantly negative, it may be time to ask her if she really wants to be part of this community. Turns out she may want to quit but has not had the courage to do so yet. Better have one less member than have her drag the others down. It will however require diplomacy to achieve this without antagonizing her. Leaving the community should be her decision, not yours.
2. Power Seeker
Power Seeker wants to get the spotlight. He likes so much the sound of his own voice, it seems logical that everyone should listen to him. As Boromìr who only wanted to protect his people was ready to kill Frodo for The One Ring, beware of the true Power Seeker, because he would do anything to get the attention, event being destructive. Community management also means being able to deal with Power Seeker:
- Do not engage - trying to get the last word, or show that you know more will make it worse. Deflect instead: “Why don’t we discuss this one-on-one afterwards?”.
- Give responsibility - if Power Seeker can actually do the job and help you manage the community or association, why not find an appropriate place for him in the board where his skills can be put to good use and his cravings for power be nullified?
- Give choices - sometimes, just providing a choice to Power Seeker will give him a sufficient feeling of importance to drop the act. Of course, the options you offer should all be acceptable for you.
- Approach him about it - explain what the issue is and discuss with him about a way to improve the situation.
Oscillator is not disturbing meetings, she’s not complaining and does not seek power. But sometimes she can be just as damaging as the other 6 types. Oscillator concurs with everything you say, agrees to any crazy idea you may have, and is always supporting you… until you have your back turned. She flips as easily and as many times as there are opinions in the room. There are a few things you can do as a community manager to alleviate this behavior:
- Acknowledge her - Oscillator cannot hurt you as long as you know she’s one. Do not count on her vote, do not ask her to convince others, etc.
- Have her argue - if you really need her support, do not argue for your cause. Rather, ask her why she thinks it’s a good idea, and let her argue your own case. She may more readily give her own real opinion and may build your case against the opposition later on.
- Listen to her - turns out the Oscillator knows much better than anyone else what everyone thinks, because she’s a great listener. It’s now your turn to listen to her without arguing. She can give you the true feedback some other members may not dare give you.
Similarly to your 3 year old kid who keeps asking you “why?” in an endless loop for every single one of your statements, Challenger keeps nagging you with her own “what ifs”. Most of the time though, Challenger is good for a community manager: she forces you to question yourself all the time, and helps you build a stronger case. She plays the devil’s advocate for you. Convince Challenger and you have a powerful ally with you.
- Be straightforward - for any decision you need to make , if you have any doubts, better say it plainly to your members than pretend you’re sure. Challenger can see right through you.
- Be prepared - put yourself in Challenger’s shoes and think about the questions she would ask you. Prepare your answers in advance.
- Include her - if you need to discuss something important with the community and are not confident about any aspect of it, ask Challenger for her help. She can give you a dry run that will help you prepare.
- Listen to her - she may be constantly challenging you and it may be sometimes getting on your nerves, but always listen. It doesn’t mean she’s 100% right, but she most likely has a few points too.
Recruiter is your salesperson. He talks about your community to everyone and gets new members onboard every month. How can we list Recruiter as a challenging member? Of course, most recruiters are good, but my role today is to address the bad ones. The few who are going too far. Have you ever heard the expression: “he could sell a fridge to an Eskimo”? What happens if your new members are unhappy because they have an experience quite different from what Recruiter promised them? Time to roll up your community manager sleeves and have a chat with Recruiter.
- Be positive - all Recruiter is trying to do is help. So start by congratulating him on his amazing dedication and work.
- Provide guidance - you know the community best and who would be happy being part of it. Guide Recruiter to show him how to best identify these people.
- Confront him - connect him with a former member who decided to leave shortly after joining. Let Recruiter see why getting anyone onboard can be as bad as getting no one. But beware, this may backfire! As Recruiter is such an excellent salesperson, he may just end up convincing the former member to come back by making promises you possibly can’t deliver.
Doc knows everything about everything. Doc is wise and has experience. Doc’s input is invaluable. Sometimes Doc just doesn’t know when to stop talking and annoys your members.
- Listen for a while - try to understand the point Doc is trying to make or where she’s getting at. but not for ages!
- Gently interrupt - sometimes you can’t do that, but if it’s a live conversation, ask Doc is she minds if you interrupt her
- Synthesize - use your best community manager skills to synthesize Doc’s point. Make it short and straight to the point.
- Stay positive - at that point, Doc is ready to take over again. Most likely, she’s scared your criticism is coming next. So continue on something positive praising her views
- Confirm - get back to your own experience and confirm her views with something coming from you
- Conclude - whether it’s an online or offline discussion, try to close the topic, as anyway, we all agree on this. And hope Challenger doesn’t pour oil on the fire!
Dopey is really nice, but he always asks stupid questions and sometimes it gets on your nerves. First of all: everyone is the Dopey of someone else, so just think about who’s Dopey you are. Second: buckle up! If you can’t make things simple enough for Dopey to understand, it means you’re not plain enough yet.
- Double check - imagine Dopey says he’s not able to do something on your community platform. Don’t assume he’s just being Dopey. Double-check and make sure the functionality is working as it’s supposed to before answering him.
- Make things simple - Dopey is awesome: he’s your benchmark. If Dopey gets it, you know all your members will too.
- Challenge yourself - is it Dopey or is it you?
- Check his focus - sometimes Dopey is not stupid, he’s just easily distracted. Make sure to capture his attention when you need it by simply mentioning his name, or asking him a question.
Community management is hard, and there are as many different traits as you have members. I’ve been harsh in this article, focusing on all the negative aspects. Fortunately, most of our members are good to us and compensate their failings with so many positive traits. We love them all, no matter what.