Where Do Great Community Managers Come From?

Among other things, Community Managers should “give a damn” and have a sense of pride and ownership about their space.
  • Having worked in over 100 coworking spaces around the world, digital nomad Robert Kropp has met a great many Community Managers.
  • Each one brings something unique to the role, but what are the most common traits and experiences that unite Community Managers worldwide?
  • Robert interviewed a number of coworking space owners to find out what they look for in the perfect Community Manager.

Having worked in over 100 coworking spaces around the world, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working beside many different community managers.

After I first wrote about how community managers are the unsung heroes of coworking spaces, I reached out to a number of them to get an impression of what they believe are the most important background experiences and personalities or traits that a community manager needs.

Background Experience

Almost everyone I reached out to suggested that having background experience in the following would be helpful when beginning the role of a community manager:

  1.    Customer Service
  2.    Hospitality
  3.    Operations

No surprises here. But sometimes the most obvious things in life still need to be pointed out so that we can identify gaps in service that can be improved in order to create better experiences for our staff, members and communities.

Amanda Lewan with Bamboo Detroit said “there’s a level of personal customer service we provide, and so our community manager should enjoy providing that customer support. They also are very people-focused and enjoy being in a social position. In a way, it’s a hybrid position of operations and customer support.”

This blending of operations, hospitality, and customer support has become the foundation of what community managers are in charge of each day. Ari Smith with Union Cowork in San Diego believes “the ability to adapt to different situations and wear multiple hats during the day is vital.”

She also thinks it’s useful to have “experience in some type of restaurant or hotel, where pleasant customer service is necessary all while being able to juggle multiple time sensitive things happening at once.”

Nicole Vasquez with the Second Shift in Chicago agreed that “a background in hospitality is equally as valuable because it helps you to become very observant of people’s needs. For example, noticing that multiple people are wearing their jackets inside, signals you to turn down the AC. Hospitality also teaches you to anticipate what someone may need, before they do.”

I like this example as the importance of being proactive is mentioned over and over. “It is thoughtful, anticipatory actions like these that make members feel welcomed and know that their needs are being taken into consideration”.

The proactiveness that comes through training or experience in hospitality or customer service was also echoed by Maggie Collofello with Awesome Inc. She says “any prior customer service role is great experience. Retail, service, restaurants, really anything that puts you in front of a customer is fantastic training for your role as a community manager. Building a community and solving the needs of members involves knowing how to handle situations in a customer facing role.”

Not only is hospitality experience great for being proactive and anticipating someone’s needs, but Samantha Hulls at The Melting Pot says “hospitality is additionally helpful if the coworking space also does venue hire and events.” She further says that a “background in organization is also useful, as they need to wrangle many moving parts but keep the important things on track and the whole operation running smoothly.”

Our previous experiences in life and work do shape who we are. However, finding the right fit for a community manager can also be as simple as finding someone who wants to be there, is willing to learn, has a great personality and has some of the core traits or habits of a great community manager.

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Traits / Personality

Levi, who is also with Second Shift in Chicago, believes that “community managers should bring their own personality and flavor to the role and most importantly be themselves! They’re there because they love coworking too, so I want them to be able to share what they love about it. For example, if someone comes in for a tour, I don’t want the manager to just regurgitate my version of what the space is… I’d rather have them give their unique version that means the most to them!”

When it comes to an individual’s personality or the habits and traits that they have, authenticity is key. Training and previous experience can help someone transition into this role faster or more effectively, however, a person that is genuinely interested in the members and actively works to make a better experience for all, can be all that is needed.

Patrick Roche with Think Tank Coworking in Portland, Maine thinks that the traits needed for a great community manager are good housekeeping, the ability to make friends, and being proactive.

Patrick believes that “a sense of ownership and pride should be endemic to the role” and that it is up to a community manager to “set the tone of saying hello to members and engaging with them. The community manager should be curious about the member’s lives and interests. The more they know, the more introductions they can make. If members become friends with one another, they are more likely to have a positive experience, be more productive and stick around longer.”

Sabrina at L’Atelier Vancouver also believes that “a community manager needs to know how to handle complaints and delicate situations.” It is not always easy to have these conversations but it is important to be able to confront a situation and not to avoid it.

When I had a chance to visit Michael Hayes in the Rookie Oven in Glasgow, he was always very transparent with how important he felt these spaces were to their members. When I asked him what he felt was most important for community managers, he responded that they need to “give a damn”, be organized, “be a parrot” and “connect the dots” — or in other words connect members that need to be connected.

He summed up his views perfectly here:

You need to have an interest in people, their lives and their work. People come to collaborative spaces to meet other people, to have social interactions and as community manager you’re the cog at the centre of that. As (we) move away from traditional work environments and remote working increases, we lose the ability for ‘water cooler’ moments. So communities such as coworking spaces are really important for productivity and workplace happiness.”

Samantha Hulls with The Melting Pot in Edinburgh brought up a great point. When ”honing in on the community aspect of the role you do not necessarily need people who are extroverts, but you are looking for someone who is a good people person as well as apt at, and interested in, making connections with and between people.”

When I look back at all of the spaces that I have visited and worked out of, the right community managers were some of the first people I remember.

A great community manager can come from anywhere but they do need to be authentic, care about the space and its members, and have enough processes and a routine that keeps the space running smoothly. If a problem does ever arise, they need to be willing and able to mediate between all parties to come to a solution that fits within the values of the space and its members.

Without a community manager or without those owners or members that act as community managers, our spaces lose the magic and serendipity that keeps us coming back.

Next up, I will be covering: “Are we asking too much of community managers?” When do you know and how can you prevent burn out? Do you have a story of a community manager needing a break because the role became too intense? Please share!

What do you think? What other background experiences, traits, or personalities do you think community managers need in order to be successful? Send me your thoughts.

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