RUNNING A GROUP

Leadership Skills

Published 23rd September 2019

Sections

This guide was compiled from resources from The Life You Can Save, LEAN, and the experience of several group organisers.

Organising a local group requires leadership skills. This section provides helpful tips on people skills in the context of building and maintaining a community, and delegating tasks.

Before launching into specific leadership skills, a reminder: While leading a group can be a very highly impactful role, don’t neglect your own mid to long-term career building. You will probably do community-building for only a few years, so make sure you are developing skills that are valuable in other roles as well. If you don’t already have your career planned out, go through 80,000 Hours’ content yourself. Write your own ABZ career plan, talk it through with other people, and modify it regularly.

How To Build and Maintain a Community

A community is strongest when it is made of many connections between members, rather than mostly connections between organisers and members. Some ideas for fostering these connections are:

  • Encourage meetings outside the main organised events, such as:

    • Casual social events such as potlucks or games nights.
    • Meet people for coffee or a walk.
    • Encourage people to exchange contact information. Set the precedent by starting yourself.
    • Co-working sessions where people work on projects or study.
  • Ask people to invite their friends occasionally. Avoid doing this over a mass email though as it is better to ask people in person. Do they know anybody who’d be interested in coming?

  • When you bring up future events, make sure that at least you and one other person say you’re attending to encourage people to come. Remind the people who come regularly to turn up and tell them once in a while about how important it is.

  • Link people individually to organisations and people in the EA community who you think would be up their alley. If you think two people would find it valuable, set them up with an intro email and a topic to talk about.

Most importantly, foster a healthy positive community. The page on Community Health has more advice on building a healthy community.

Delegation

Don’t worry about asking for help! People are often looking for ways to help and will be happy to do so.

Benefits for the volunteer:

  • Improves their resume.
  • Helps them develop new skills.
  • Makes them feel more connected to EA and the group.

Here are some tips on being a good delegator:

  • Be a considerate communicator. Deliver tasks as requests, not instructions. Thank people. Give constructive feedback and encouragement. Announce successes and jobs well done at meetings.
  • Always assign tasks to a specific person with specific due dates. To save people the embarrassment of forgetting, send out reminders halfway through the allotted time. These can be worded not as reminders, but as “do you need any more information about the task?”
  • Make contingency plans. Volunteers often have other priorities to balance, so expect that sometimes, some things won’t get done, or done the way you initially wanted. Assign due dates well before the actual task deadline, so you can provide feedback/assistance, reassign, or if needed do the task yourself.
  • If possible, give specific instructions. If you don’t have a clear idea of what exactly needs to be done, they probably won’t either, and if they are new volunteers they may not feel confident in making decisions. Let them know how much ownership they have over the tasks. If a task is to be completed on a computer, making a screencast video of you explaining and starting a task can be much faster than trying to type instructions, and the volunteer can review the video several times if needed. (If you don’t have an app for this on your computer, try free websites like screencast-o-matic).
  • When possible bundle unglamorous tasks with glamorous ones. Some tasks, like data entry, can be boring. Keep up morale by bundling with more interesting tasks if the volunteer has the right skills.
  • Rotate tasks. Sometimes people enjoy having a particular role, but many would like to see the responsibilities shared, so check in regularly with volunteers, and consider having a policy of rotating tasks. Some groups find that the roles are sometimes gendered (e.g. sometimes women take the role of cooking more often than men do), so be aware of who is most often doing the role and encourage new people to step up.
  • Encourage people to take initiative and pursue their own ideas. People are usually far more motivated to action their own ideas rather than someone else’s, so if a group member comes up with a good idea, encourage them to take it on as a project!

Handing over leadership

The best leaders help upskill people to the point where they can take over the leadership role. Advice on making a smooth leadership transition is in the Handing Over Leadership section.

Reading recommendations

These books have been recommended by group organisers:


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