100+ Best Leadership Strategies and characteristics in 2019
It is important to understand that even when not in a leadership position, leadership skills help with day-to-day communications and interaction with the team on how work gets accomplished. Developing a strategy to develop leadership skills for members is a great start. This will continue to build a base of leaders.
This upside-down pyramid demonstrates why members are at the top. There are going to be more members than the board of directors, which makes perfect sense. This blog explains 100+ Best Leadership Characteristics and strategies that used in 2019.
The members are also at the top because the members are the community to be supported by a strong base of volunteers and leaders. Leadership is not about being on the top.
It is about serving others and working for the benefit of the group. The leadership strategy is to demonstrate and teach the leadership skills to cultivate the volunteers. As the members become engaged in the group and start to participate in more events and discussion.
Members that are engaged already provide an overall benefit to the user group by attending and participating, and it shows the interest areas and what topics are important. Engaged members will filter down into volunteers.
They will start to see opportunities where they can participate, and as they learn the leadership skills and start to participate in the communities’ leadership strategies. Even if engaged members do not move into volunteer roles, they can still learn the planned leadership skills to help them in their companies and with their careers.
Technologists normally have their focus on the technology, code, and learning new technologies and versions. Developing the leadership skills in the group can get you noticed in your organization, not only as the expert in the technology but also as someone with the skills to provide leadership to the team and proper direction.
Critical decisions can be difficult, but as these skills are developed as part of technology learning, these decisions get easier and help with stressful work situations and architecture decisions as well.
Leadership can be learned and it is a skill that can be practiced. Regardless of the role, leadership can be practiced by anyone and develop consistent behaviors. The user group can provide opportunities to participate in volunteer activities to continue to practice.
As leaders are cultivated as part of the strategy, the user group will grow just because of the engaged members and volunteers. In this blog, we have to explain the leadership-characteristics of a leader in 2018
Learning how to create and nurture collaborative relationships with others is an essential leadership skill. This can be done with other volunteers and members and brought back to your day-to-day job.
The importance of collaborative relationships seems to be understated in most cases. There are several groups in an organization that rely on other groups. There is so much potential to be gained by building and developing these relationships. Building collaborative relationships involve reciprocity or helping others.
The teams that appear to be working in a silo are going to be the most difficult to reach out to but it just takes starting the conversation. The benefit to the organizations is going to be incredible if the relationships are built and continue to be maintained.
Motivation to work as a leader and collaborate with others in a company comes from producing a successful project, product or service.
There is also the pay factor, to earn money, for a job well done. Money is not a motivation that can be used with volunteers and in a user group. The product of the group might just be the overall strategy and goals, but there are not always projects.
Many technology professionals must want to learn and grow. The continued learning is part of the ever-advancing technology field. Once we stop learning, our skills become obsolete. To be able to be self-directed in these areas help for motivation to participate more in the user group and develop into the leader volunteer.
The mindset of the volunteer is to pursue a vision and know that there are others wanting to do the same. From the board of directors standpoint, it is imperative to share the overall goals, vision, and strategies with volunteers to help them stay engaged and motivated.
Volunteers have to want to collaborate, even if it means reaching out to others that you may not know. It will involve stepping out of a comfort zone to continue to learn and grow. It means helping others to do the same and wanting to help others and not for the sole purpose of your own personal gain and career advancement.
The motivation to be in a volunteer role will come from helping others succeed; this will lead to authentic long-lasting relationships. If you think about how you would like others to collaborate with you and build relationships with you, you can turn that around to create a new relationship and your authenticity will be very apparent.
As leader volunteers, the interest in helping others solve problems and find solutions will show through and make strong relationships.
I found myself in a job that was very task-oriented. In technology, there is nothing wrong with staying on task to provide stable, consistent environments, and not all technology professionals are going to want to pursue more outside of completing their checklists and task-oriented activities.
However, I had felt that there were talents not being utilized, areas that I wanted to grow into and career goals I had set.
My current position and career plans were a big driver behind me looking for other activities to cultivate the leadership skills. This is what was driving me to learn and adapt by finding something outside of work with the user group to advance and start using some of these skills.
Not only was I pursuing the new technical information and learning about the different skills, but I was really becoming a leader. It was the motivation to collaborate, help others, and use my talents for the vision of the community that help do what needed to be done and continue to work in planning for the user group.
Leader volunteers have the drive to learn, adapt, and advance. They set goals based on the strategies of the user group and are willing to feel uncomfortable and push through the issues.
As the work is accomplished, the goal is reset and evaluated to see what is next. Possessing adaptability helps advance your knowledge and reframe these experiences as opportunities to learn.
Leader volunteers develop the following skills:
Motivation coming from achieving goals
Ability to reset goals and reframe experiences
Adaptability to different experiences and situations
Opportunities to bring others along
The constant drive to learn
User groups should be providing leader volunteers the opportunity to grow and practice the skills that they learn. The roles and different committees provide the leader volunteers a way to participate and develop. Leaders are only growing if they are learning.
There is always something new to discover about you, new ways to adapt, and new relationships to cultivate. Working toward a personal vision doesn’t support the user community.
As a leader volunteer you want to work toward the vision of the group and continued learning and adapting is key here. Think beyond technology and the basic skills and try to understand how these skills and technology can advance your business, department, or team.
Become a leader volunteer by understanding the vision for the user group organization and bring others along. Helping others in the user community is really what a user group is about.
Leader volunteers need a place to practice their leadership skills and it needs to be part of the user group culture. These volunteers are going to be the ones to get members engaged, excited and bring them along for growth and development in the user community.
There opportunities to participate in user group activities and get more involved. Leader volunteers comprehend the strategies and visions of the user group and participate in the activities such as leading special interest groups, writing a blog, writing an article, or speaking at an event. These activities all find ways to help continue the growth and practice leadership skills.
The initial planning of the group, governance, culture, and vision provide what the group needs to support volunteers and start engaging the volunteers for more involvement. Beginning groups will need to work harder and smarter to engage key volunteers and communication will be very important as the group is developing.
I look back at the engagement areas as I was pulled, maybe gently pushed, into in order to get out of my comfort zone, and how the collaboration between the other members and leaders, really made a difference.
Being encouraged by leaders or others in the community increased my motivation for wanting to continue to learn and develop these skills.
Because it is others in the community and volunteers that is encouraging the involvement, I wanted to also give back, and just like my example with an awesome volunteer Ray, I was excited about opportunities to bring others along too.
Watching the different members grow into volunteers and then grasping the concept of leader volunteers as the leadership skills improve.
It really is incredible what a volunteer could do in building the user group community. Engaged and leader volunteers are what makes up the community. Planning to utilize the different skill sets and levels of engagement allow different strategies and activities to be used.
Education around the product and vendor is definitely important for the day to day knowing that is needed, but to become an expert or demonstrate expertise in these areas, the soft skills of leadership, communication, and collaboration are what is needed.
The user group needs to have a strategy to educate members around these skills and provide areas to practice and to cultivate these skills. The user group purpose, strategy, governance have been discussed in previous blogs.
With this blog, we talked about the volunteers that are needed and their engagement. Next, we will look at the planning of the events and other activities that the user group can do based on this initial setup and getting the group started as the user group and community are starting to take shape with others being involved and promoting and growing the group.
User Group Planning
A user group is to provide activities for the members, including education, networking, and relevant resources. Event and activities can be planned to get the group started. If the group is already established, there can be additional planning to make sure that the events are what the group needs.
Does planning include examining different options: Does the vendor already have an event? Does the group prefer in-person or virtual activities? But before all of this, there is preliminary planning to be done.
Board strategy needs to be taken into consideration when making plans. Careful planning of activities is necessary to not overwhelm the community and still provide specialized areas to benefit the members. Too many choices might dilute the focus areas and not highlight the key topics.
Especially in technology areas, users might be left with several different areas of importance while still supporting legacy environments and needing constant information to manage both sides. As volunteers, we have to understand this and with our resources balance the new, popular, and support topics.
Planning includes meetings and activities but also includes interaction with vendors, any publications, blogging, and other media.
The demand for this information is going to come out of the community and user base, and it is not easy putting together a strategy that is going to provide a large group of users everything they want or need.
Focus groups can help determine the most common needs and delivery forms. User group surveys can also help out to get details depending on how new the group is. Working with sponsors is going to allow more of these events to take place, but the benefits need to be part of the experience for the sponsors and users.
There are great opportunities in putting together a plan for the users to get the most out of the community. The more ways to engage the users, the more ways to be involved with and support others in the community. The following are some great ways to engage users, vendors, and sponsors, and the purpose of having these activities as offerings.
Events and Meetings
Events and meetings are obvious ways to be part of user group activities. Vendors are likely to have their own events or conferences. Resources will play a big part of what type of meetings and how many but there are ways to reach a goal with additional efforts with sponsors.
Event planning can be easier when an association management company is engaged. This management company can leverage their connections and negotiation skills to keep costs in line.
Having staff to dedicate to a conference will free up the volunteers to confirm the content and speakers. Experience in running conferences and events is beneficial so that small items do not get forgotten, and so that attendees have a great experience. When deciding on which association management to use, speak with other user groups.
The staff becomes an extension of the volunteers to help run successful events and conferences. When planning events and meetings, it is important to look at year-round activity. Conferences can be a focal point with other meetings supplementing throughout the rest of the years. Ideas for events can include:
Lunch and Learn
The user group can work with the vendor to participate with speakers or a booth to allow introductions to other users that might not know about the community.
User perspective is important for the vendor, but it is also what makes the user group conference important. It is because of the insight of either how to use the tools and products from the customer side that provides this valuable information.
There might be other competing events or conferences and in order to have any type of user group conference, these things must be taken into consideration. What are the opportunities for the members?
How is the conference going to distinguish itself from the other events? Is the user group more dependent on the vendor for content and information or are there experts in the community to allow the event to be more independent from the vendor?
A conference is a great opportunity to network and hear from experts in the community. The schedule for the speakers should take into consideration the new topics and current ones that are relevant to the community. In deciding on the topics, it is necessary to approach as well as have an open call for speakers.
There should be a few topic areas that are going to be the main focus, and the conference can be organized around these topics. This makes it easier to find the right speakers, and the attendees will be able to grab the right sessions.
The educational content of a conference is extremely important. This is the main reason for the attendees to be at the conference.
Education needs to be organized to show its value, and then there needs to be other conference sessions or time to give the opportunity to be able to ask the questions and gather the information from the other experienced users. The attending experience is important, but the value comes out of organizing a great educational event.
Conferences work by planning the big stuff first; education, the main networking event, and the schedule, and the rest of the little details can fit into this bigger plan. The schedule would be deciding how many days the conference should be, and how many of the hours are education versus networking and vendor events.
The space and the hours of education sessions give you the idea of how many actually sessions you can have. Fuller sessions are going to make it more enjoyable for the speakers and the overall feeling of the conference.
Setting the topics as early as possible for the conference allows the speakers to address needs and topic areas.
Grouping the sessions so that conference attendees can either focus on this specific area or look at other sessions to supplement will give them the education that they are wanting. It also will give justification to companies for attending the user group conference instead of the vendor conference.
Smaller events such as workshops can be used to provide one- or two-day sessions outside of the conference. Maybe workshops can even be done every quarter, depending on costs and speaker resources.
Regional workshops might even be held in different areas than the conferences to give those the opportunity to attend that might not have the travel budget but can attend a regional event.
The database professional space might have conference topics around database manageability, development, business intelligence, database security, new features, and high availability.
These topic areas are very difficult to cover in a day or even two-day event. But a workshop might take the same speakers under one or two topic areas and host them in a workshop.
A one-day workshop might take the subject area of database high availability and have a workshop with sessions and maybe even include a hands-on part of that to round out the experience.
This type of setup works well between conferences and provides additional education to different regions. It should be part of the year-round strategy.
Social events are a part of conferences that allow for networking opportunities. Meeting other users to talk through issues, problems, and successes are the main reason for the user group in the first place. The conference either the user group or vendor conference can have a couple of social events to encourage these connections and interactions.
However, social events can stand on their own, too. They can be a focus of a regional group to meet people in the region with the same experiences to provide educational content and networking. A social event regionally might have one speaker take for an hour or so, they have some sort of food, drink, and further conversations.
This would also be a great event to be recruiting volunteers for other activities, which is discussed in another blog, such as speaking or helping out with another committee.
Social events are normally very simple and are perfect for vendors to sponsor the food or host the meeting. The cost to the user group should be minimal, which again makes it perfect to have as an event between another type of events to have year-round education and participation in the user group.
The social events can be set up to a regular meeting, maybe once a quarter or something along those lines. Regular meetings that are held to allow people who can’t join for one event to be able to plan to be there for another event.
Lunch and Learn
Lunch and learn is similar to a social event but is more simple. A regular restaurant or meeting place can be established and people can bring their own lunch or have a vendor-sponsored lunch.
There might be a speaker or a roundtable type of discussion. The topic can be sent out with a reminder email and format. The bonus would be to have a vendor-sponsored lunch where they have a few minutes to address those who come and then discussions can be around that topic.
These type of meetings are going to be more local and not really attract too many from other regions. They are probably going to be smaller, but give the users a way to follow up with each other on discussions that might have come out of presentations, vendor announcements or conferences. Lunch and learns should have a way to present on a topic for a few minutes and give time for discussion.
There isn’t much planning that must occur here, just simply having a place to meet and set up a discussion for the day. The frequency of these meetings can be once or month or quarter.
It would fit into more user’s timeframe in that they can take a lunch break. Additional planning would be needed if the vendor sponsorship would be included to make sure that there would be more users attending through additional marketing too.
The other advantage of a meeting such as this is that it can easily be run by a few regional volunteers and give them an opportunity to pull together topics that make sense to them to cover and support.
If the board strategy doesn’t have a built-in process to manage these type of groups, it should be considered as part of the framework and culture of the group.
Meet-ups are going to be almost like Lunch and Learn, maybe just without food. These are just in-person events that will allow the group to meet and discuss current issues.
The meet-ups I have been a part of were just to have a straight talk about the vendor and experiences. Everyone brought their own coffee or food with the main focus being around the discussion.
This again can be a more frequent type of event and should be scheduled to allow of a reoccurring schedule to be part of the calendar. Local volunteers can be used again for these events, but it would be good that they were on the overall board calendars to bring awareness and visibility into the regional groups that might be forming
Networking should be high on the list of priorities, as part of the strategy and purpose of the user group. Networking and talking with other users might have been the basis for forming the group in the first place.
Networking doesn’t just mean connecting with people or users; it means having a group that can provide answers and solutions or uses cases that others might not have even thought of yet.
Being able to build a network by meeting with experts at events or finding other users with the same issues provides a great reason to attend the in-person events. In technology user groups, the networking and being able to reach out to other users for ideas or confirming setup.
Those part of the user group tends to have fewer support calls because of this network and trusted sources of information. Networking with other users provides more excitement about the technology, products, and even the day today.
Networking opportunities are the main reason why I stay involved in user groups. There is something that brings people together from all over the world to be able to talk together in a familiar language. I know if I have questions about any product or area I can find someone I can talk to about it.
This is especially important for the companies that do not have a complete group of people with the needed expertise, the user group expands this level of knowledge and being able to talk to others to solve a problem or confirm a best practice is extremely valuable.
I have heard from users attending conferences that the conference has paid for itself just because of conversations held with the experts in the hallway, and then have an email for follow up afterward.
It is exciting to talk to other users and being able to network and hear what it is important to their projects, what type of answers they are looking for and just develop the connection.
Conferences are the ideal place to have some key networking opportunities. The conversations are going to happen in the hallway if the schedules are set up properly, but there should also be some planned special networking time.
There have been different activities in the evening that have worked really well at some of the technology conferences from install-fests and hands-on lab time with pizza and drinks.
Even a different take on games to include a large group of people from jeopardy to role-playing and these give the users an additional way to connect, which then spurs on even more hallway discussions the next day.
Networking opportunities at in-person events are great for building the relationships to be able to contact other users after the conference and look forward to seeing the users next time. It definitely starts to build the network to look forward to each year and chances to talk with them throughout the year.
Events and conferences are not the only networking opportunities. There can be discussion forums that allow for responses and discussions. These discussions are of course not just networking opportunities, but it does get the community involved.
There are ways to contact people with discussions and continue to ask questions. The following two sections about social media and virtual events present a couple of different ways to have online networking opportunities.
Networking is also an important benefit of the users and volunteers as they can work with the vendor. Product managers and possible developers of the applications provide an incredible resource to the community. The solutions and information for common problems and issues are why a network is so valuable.
The users that get these types of answers are also going to be more involved in helping others, so the vendor networking here and investing in the community gets value back with others to talk about issues and solutions.
Social media is an interesting topic. In some groups, the social media component is going to be part of the main focus of what is done, and the strategy might even revolve around social media.
Other groups might see social media as something they should be doing, but not have a specific plan on how to use it. Still, other groups will find that social media will be able to reach out to another audience that they were not expecting and the value of marketing with social media.
The way that we communicate has changed over the past couple of years and with the social media available it is going to be part of any group that is looking to connect users throughout the year.
I would consider myself a “social” tweeter. If I am attending a conference or an event, I will take the opportunity to talk about things happening at the conference. Most of my tweets come from this time either promoting a session or activities that I am enjoying at the conference.
Even though I have more people and users around me at these events, this is just a fun something to do, which can get responses faster from others at the conference.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, and I have found myself doing a little bit more throughout the year. This might be typical for other users in my focus area and especially when some companies do not allow access to the social media sites. Understanding the users and some of these limitations will help in developing the social media plan.
Social media is a powerful tool for user groups. Even if the culture is not heavily involved with social media, it does provide a space to drive some interaction between users at events or virtually between the conferences. Planning social media includes choosing sites, group names, and monitoring.
The typical sites used are Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Social media can be used to promote different content, conferences and build interest in discussions for networking.
Imagine an article that just came out that would be of interest to the users, links could be added, a summary about the article and opportunities to add comments to include other user feedback.
This can be done very quickly with social media and start to build up groups to have these discussions. Posts can include topics, speakers, and special events.
During events, those who were not able to attend can feel connected by social media and it gives attendees the chance to talk about what is going on and what they are enjoying.
Even the data coming out of the social media for the conference chat before, after and during, can provide key information about what the users are looking for in content, answers and where they had the most fun. It seems like a great tool to introduce a new idea and gather up interest for possible programs.
Another area of social media to explore is videos and postings on sites such as YouTube and blogs. If you think about all of the things you might have learned recently to do from YouTube videos such as cooking a recipe, learning an instrument, learning programming languages and even figuring out how to do something on Minecraft, you start to realize that This is an excellent tool for the user community.
The speakers and expert sessions are even more accessible. Making a short video can provide quick information and quick videos can even be collected for tips or from conferences with additional extra details about what was learned. There are multiple ways to leverage videos and create a channel for the user group.
Blog posts can be something that the user community might already be doing, but the volunteers and leaders can be blogging about different information for the community; opportunities to get involved in the group, upcoming events, and educational material.
Blog posts can link to different information to lead to events, networking opportunities, and other discussions. Blogs are just not a formal type of writing but should have relevant content and information.
Promoting speaker blog sites can also encourage involvement in presenting and developing user connections. Leveraging existing bloggers in the community will design a way to highlight these topics and interest areas and create some discussion around them. Blogging can be included in the plan as to build out a team to regularly post information and gather topics to include as part of the user community.
The blog would be focused on user group topics and aligned with the strategy of the group, and if subject areas need to change working with the volunteers would allow for this to happen. Either way, the speakers and bloggers are shown as experts in the community and provide relevant content to the users.
Social media is not just a tweet or a post on linked-in, there are plenty of opportunities to use these tools to link together a complete strategy from marketing events to building networking opportunities for the users.
Planning for social media should include activities that bring different events together and show the value that is being brought to the community.
The marketing here might even be reaching users outside of the regular community members, and providing discussions to open up the networking opportunities.
In-person events have speakers, a chance to ask questions, and hallway discussions. There are also activities that can be held all throughout the day and evening socializing events with food and drink. Virtual events have speakers, a chance to ask questions, and a possible way to have virtual discussions.
Virtual offerings can be added to in-person events to take a session track or topic area and have the sessions be added to the virtual content live at the same time as the conference.
With software, this is possible to hear the speaker, see the presentation, and have a live Q&A session. These extra packages do not normally take away from people attending the conference but provide a way for coworkers to also attend virtually or those without travel budgets to attend.
A virtual event provides an additional benefit to the members and can supplement the budget for the conference, too, which is very helpful at the beginning of the user group.
Technology groups even appreciate in-person events, maybe because it is a way to get away from the desk and some additional distractions to be able to learn, but to round out the education all year or to be able to allow the community to meet more often, virtual events and meetings are good ways to cost-effectively meet. There are several ways to host virtual events.
It can be a one- (or more) day event, maybe just morning or afternoon depending on time zones for attendees, with new speakers or sessions from a recently completed conference.
Virtual might even mean a series of webinars. If you are looking at year-round touch points a combination of these virtual events could add content and value for the users.
The leadership of the user group should look at different types of events including length and times of the events. Cost of events can be off-set with sponsorship from vendors. Virtual events do provide the education and some networking opportunities and should be considered if part of the strategy of the group.
There are different opportunities for virtual events, webinars, and online networking. Mapping these types of activities to the user group overall strategy and planning these benefits based on the community needs will help develop the user group.
Techie to Leader
I have been in a technical career for quite some time. Problem-solving, querying data, writing code to automate something, and testing to validate that it works makes it fun to be in technology. There is so much to the database world with tools, data integrations, administration, development, and, of course, security.
Database teams work with several partners and there are interactions with different teams. There are technical issues and problems to solve, and while that might be good enough there are people who would like to be leaders, and I am not talking about just leaders in their field. There are leaders in their field and there are leaders that also have the titles to go along with it.
Finally, there are those that can continue with all of the technology fun and demonstrate leadership skills and especially considered a go-to person because of that. There are ways to develop these skills that get you noticed in the organization, as someone with the technical skills and abilities to make the important decisions.
There are plenty of other technology jobs that have the same level of technical skills. Technology career paths continue to be complicated, and even if said, you can stay technical there is still a level that must change or remain a techie.
Hopefully, you have figured out by now that is not the case. That even in these different roles and careers that there are opportunities to develop leadership skills.
These are definite soft skills that you can develop, but how do you actually get out of technology to move into a more defined leadership role? I believe it is already demonstrating leadership skills in the technology role. Leaders of a team lead with technology and by enabling their team.
The following blogs will take a look at the qualities of a leader, but let us first look at the potential that we all have to become an example of a great leader.
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Examples of Leaders
There are plenty of articles, blogs, and blogs on leadership available. There are examples of leaders from CEOs of many different companies, influential people, and even from Captain Kirk. As you look at these examples, a list starts to form about what we understand to be good leadership qualities.
Notice that these are not just managers or CIOs but they are people that have the leadership qualities and challenge us to do awesome in our tasks and jobs. An example is definitely needed to be able to learn good leadership development and even the bad to avoid certain behaviors.
The difficult part is finding a good example. Also, the people that we tend to look for are those that are put in charge of people, companies, spaceships or another group. In a user group, we already have people providing strategic direction, leading and providing sound technical guidance.
The leadership of the user group can be planning and giving leadership guidance to the community. This is a perfect case because the technology experts already know and understand the technology and some of them lead their company, teams or even user group.
Even some of the leaders of the user group might not have that role in their company but have been demonstrating leader qualities on their team and with the technology that they have been using.
We are going to find people that have qualities that we are expecting from leaders to use as examples. The user group can actually provide mentors and mentor programs for additional offerings for leaders, but it can provide strategic leadership training.
An example of a leader coming from the user group is a previous manager of mine. She was and still is involved in the user group in several different roles. She challenged me every day at work to think past the current problem or issue to what other questions or problems might arise.
She gave me opportunities to get involved in the user group and find a place where I could also fit in. I was able to grow into leadership roles in the user group because of this first push and encouragement to be involved in more than just a community member. This taught me to continue to grow and work on communication skills.
Even if you are looking for how to be a leader from Yoda’s example, understanding the characteristics that attract you to that leader are going to be the areas for development.
Some of these skills are developed naturally from being in technology. There are advantages from the day to day to build these skills and help move you toward a leadership role.
User groups can also support these growth areas with sessions on skill development and how to move and grow into a leader from the technology space.
Technology Teaches Leadership Skills
In technology, there are skills we learn that are considered key leadership skills. Any of the groups in technology can work in silos and just provide a service and not think about what others are providing.
For example, the network team can set up network systems without taking into consideration what systems and data are going to be passed over the wire.
If the network team works with the server, application, and database teams to understand the traffic and get information from the stakeholders, the service is going to be what is needed and more productive for everyone involved
More Than One Way To Do Something
With database systems, there always seems to be more than one way to do something. If asking a question about how to do a task, it is typical to hear an answer that starts with “it depends.”
That means that there are options. Planning and reviewing with others to get the best solution for the environment in place allows for collaboration and accepting different viewpoints.
Diversity brings different questions. When trying to solve a problem or plan for a future project, asking different questions leads to different answers and overall solutions.
Leaders do not necessarily have all of the answers because they can provide ways to help the group get to an answer by asking questions or engaging the team to bring their expertise to the table.
The solutions and environments that come out of a team like this would be a collaborative effort with the best direction and solid solution.
User group communities bring diversity automatically. Accepting different opinions and thoughts in order to organize a solution is a leadership skill. Allowing different ideas to come together is important in a team lead role or in on a board of directors for the user group.
The board is going to have several different opinions and thoughts and to lead the group you need to have skills to directly communicate, understand and respect the different options to be able to come up with the best direction for the known issues and plan at the time.
In technology, we are forced to learn. There are upgrades for existing platforms and new technology that gets released or changed. Applications are change to handle new enhancements. All of these and more make us learn so that we can continue to support the environments as needed.
There are plans for future growth that also happens in support of these systems and in researching roadmaps there is plenty to learn to see if growth and new features are going to change based on these roadmaps. There is constant learning that is absolutely needed for any technology professional.
Technology and company environments are on not going to stay the same. Skills are to be developed to look at the new areas coming down the path and find a direction that will be beneficial to the company and it is also something important for the user group community.
Changes are going to need to happen and sometimes change is more difficult to lead than looking for a future path and course correcting along the way.
Managing change is a leadership skill that is going to get a team behind a change and be supportive and in turn championing the change. With user groups change is necessary to keep the group relevant. There might need to be a new strategy, a different way of presenting education or changes to conferences and events.
The board and volunteer leaders are going to need to manage these changes. Understand that there will be resistance to new ideas and changes. Learning leads to growth and changes.
Technology professionals will need to continue to learn to manage the changes in platforms, upgrades and new technology. Leadership skills are developed out of learning and managing these areas that come from moving forward.
Need To Ask Questions
Seeking to understand is definitely one of those rules that I live by when going into a new environment. This is something I believe any good leader would do as well. Running through an environment and changing everything to the way you want or believe that it should be will not allow the people that were already there to be too eager to follow.
It is a skill to come in and ask questions to understand while still having the appearance of understanding in the first place. Intelligent questions will help to see why a system is configured the way it is and still thinking through a process to improve it. Leaders are going to be able to ask the questions that are needed for requirements as well.
Gathering requirements again for a technology professional is something that is going to happen on a regular basis. Stakeholders need to provide their requirements and I am pretty sure I have not understood all of the requirements on the first time around. There are always questions that arise.
Going back to get the questions answered based on the technology solution with the needed requirements. The other area to ask questions goes back to more than one way of doing things.
To be able to have discussions to make everyone able to contribute and feel that their opinions matters, asking questions first to understand is a good way to handle this.
Anyone in IT has learned to ask questions. They might not always be the right questions, but the questions are needed for the requirements and to understand what the stakeholders need. Questions are the best way to grasp why things are the way they and to really how to work well with the other teams.
As a database professional the questions are going to be around the right data and how to analyze the data, and these questions can transfer over to business analysis skills. Asking questions of other teams understanding how they work together and building the relationships are skills that are needed for leadership roles.
User groups are also a great place to ask questions to gather other opinions, find out about different options and discuss strategies. Using these skills in our technology field and in the boardroom or as volunteers strengthen the skillset and develops it in order to be used in manager and leadership roles.
Asking questions is not the only way to communicate. Technology teams need to communicate operational tasks, production issues, and project statuses on a regular basis.
In response to troubleshooting tickets, there are needs to communicate back to the owner when they are going to be able to look at the issue and set expectations of when it might be fixed or reviewed.
This type of communication is critical between teams and applications owners. Communication is an extremely vital skill even if not in leadership, however, it seems to be one skill that we can all do better.
As a technologist, we develop frameworks to make it easier to communicate in a more consistent and standard way. There is definite value in these technics for standardized communication because it becomes easier to do and in a format, for everyone to understand. In receiving these regular communications the visibility is increased and the bar level for communication has been raised.
As a leader able to communicate with a team to establish goals, direction and enable team members. Communication to members and volunteers needs to be in a consistent, transparent and timely fashion.
Decisions in technology come in a few different forms. There are technology recommendations, troubleshooting implementations, and production issues, to name just a few.
Evaluating new technologies and products are a part of the job. Due diligence on the various products to validate if they meet the use cases and make recommendations for the proper selection is also vital. Decisions are made to implement the best possible tool, and leading a team requires making decisions team and management related.
Decisions are being made with production issues and troubleshooting. Working with systems and understanding what went wrong allows for quick thinking and presenting the best course of action, so making the decisions to remediate the issue as quickly as possible. Quick decisions and actions that are decisive are developed by being in a technology field.
Decisions are also made from implementations. If designing and planning are being worked out there will be decisions that will need to be made to be used to implement it. Making decisions is a valuable skill.
Managers will then lead the direction for decisions made by upper management or from the board down to volunteers and the wider user community. Users and volunteers should feel enabled to provide recommendations for good decisions.
Why Not Both?
Developing leadership skills from technology roles leads to different opportunities. Normally if leadership skills are desired it might be expected to have a management role to grow into. There are also other leadership opportunities that might be available depending on the company.
It might not be a desire to move into managing people, because technology is the fun part of the job. The thing that you like about the position is the technology and getting involved in new projects and systems.
But even in order to get the new projects and the new technology is going to be important to be skilled in leadership to demonstrate communication and persuade others to see why it is valuable. Just to go into management because that is the next progression of the career or job path doesn’t mean you need to give up technology.
Learning a new technology or developing a plan to use a new feature would be driving others to use the new plan or other opportunities to enable others to learn the feature and inspire them to be excited about the new implementation or feature.
Skills needed to continue developing technology would include:
Troubleshooting and weighing options
Staying technical might be the single reason for not moving into management, and that is where it might be worth considering how to do both, in that developing leadership skills and staying technical.
Being able to focus on just the technology and not sharpen any other skills will let even some of the technology side suffer. The considered experts in the technology areas are going to be people that can communicate with others in a way to make them the go-to people for questions.
To answer the question, why not both technology and leadership, it really needs to be both in the sense that developing leadership skills is going to strengthen skills that are part of the technical side. Also, it will allow technical experts to be able to continue to focus on technology but inspire others and become an effective technology leader.
Leadership doesn’t mean managing or having a manager or director type role but it does mean to demonstrate these qualities and continue to grow. One can do both, absolutely, a technical role with leadership abilities.
Since both technology and leadership skills are valuable for the community the user group should be able to support these efforts and provide education to build these full set of skills.
Becoming a leader, especially a technical leader, there are plenty of stories along the way including decisions as to why to stay on the technical side and how to use the leadership skills.
The user group is a platform to share and a must have a discussion because there are several people that go through the same thoughts on what comes next and how to stay technical.
Others will develop the leadership skills and take their technical knowledge with them to manage teams and other technology teams. Understanding how to get both places is extremely useful and the user group can assist in conducting these types of sessions and as we talk about in the next blog career development.
The community is about sharing experiences, how things were done and what are the lessons learned. Being able to learn from someone else’s mistakes prevents from making the same mistake, at least you hope so. Taking the good experiences and again learning from them and how to apply them in order to incorporate the best way to do something.
The user group has more to provide than just the product information and how to succeed with a vendor. The community has more experiences to share and a plan can be created to incorporate these with other educators.
It will allow for a more successful community as they learn what they need to continue to develop with leadership skills and how they can use the community to enable others to learn.
Experiences are another way to get people involved in the user community. They are the only ones who understand their own story and experience and they can offer this as a way to get started with speaking.
It is only a story that they can share because it comes from their perspective and it can be on how they handled a difficult situation, developed a communication plan or even how to ask good questions.
It does not have to be a complete technical session, but can be an experience with one piece or how they are developing some of the needed soft skills that are required for the technologist.
Developing Soft Skills
Volunteering for the user group can build and develop soft skills. The experiences that are coming from the different users are people to network with and hear these stories. Speaking in front of people is not a necessary soft skill but it can help develop other skills such as communication and continued learning.
Becoming a techie leader or move over to the management track the soft skills such as communication and working with others are needed. In order to communicate better, develop a standard plan or framework.
Even a standardized template to send out to a group of people will help to ensure that the right points are communicated. Having a distribution plan will help to protect against missing someone out or missing crucial deadlines.
If we take a look at this example from a user group perspective, the user group has opportunities to communicate to the membership and prospective members.
A communication plan will help to ensure that community strategies and activities are properly announced. Templates for members and prospective members along with the distribution list and plan will allow for a more informed community that is engaged.
The volunteer that is working on the communication will be developing these soft skills not only in assisting the community but to be used in the day-to-day job.
I have had jobs and careers. Jobs are a place to earn money, but there is more to careers. Careers are good things and still have an interesting aspect almost just funny.
If you think about we work to pay bills and spend time doing the thing we like in our free time. I look at careers as something you actually enjoy at the same time, so work and spending time doing something we like is the same thing.
It is entertaining to me because I have had a few careers in my lifetime, and have felt the most at home in technology. I have enjoyed some of the other areas I have worked in but I started to see the opportunities in a technology field and switched careers from financial to database professional.
I am also finding my career has changed as my experience has increased which tends to make sense. Different experiences have led me to explore these opportunities and evaluate what I am doing. It is a dream to be able to have a job that you enjoy doing, but if you think about it, it is where you spend a ton of time.
I am not trying to be a career counselor here or bore you with my career path, but I believe that there is something to be learned here about finding an area of interest by exploring, researching, and exploiting the available resources.
If it is something you enjoying doing day-to-day, it becomes the hobby, too, with involvement in the user groups. I have other interests outside of databases for my some of my free time.
But because I enjoy my field and my experience with the user group they play off each other to make what I do more interesting and allow me to excel in these areas. Career development is something that continues throughout all of the positions you have.
The development comes from making a plan, establishing goals, and engaging others to help hold accountable to achieve those goals. User group activities should be included in those goals being able to either use people in the community or the tasks that they are looking for volunteers.
If there are tasks or activities that are not currently available in your current position, this is where volunteering comes in. In volunteering, you will have access to activities outside which will definitely help with goals and gaining the needed experience.
This could almost be considered leadership training or career development training. Participation on the board of directors offers access to budgeting, strategic planning, and managing people.
Working on a committee will have collaborative work, project planning, and some marketing. Volunteering to write blogs and articles will improve writing and communication skills.
These are just examples of additional skills and experience that you will gain from volunteering with the user group and any of these skills can be used to meet the goals for a career development plan.
We do have our goals and values that lead us to join user groups, get involved in different activities, and continue to learn. In the next section, we will continue to discuss how important the development of skills is when we become a life learning to build out our skills and seek after education to help in further career development.
Growing and learning are part of development. This is one of the main reasons that I enjoy technology is that it does force continuous learning. All of the new releases, new features, and new tools and hardware help with this.
Honestly, just with technology, you do not even have to look for a new career, but either get better at the current position and grow into a new one.
Learning is such a big part of career development. The user group can provide several areas of education. As a user group, what can be taught? Perhaps before discussing that, we should look at how people learn
How Do You Learn?
Some people can dive into documentation and learn everything they want to know by reading a manual or blog. Others can learn by listening to presentations, asking questions, and absorbing the information from an expert in the field.
Still, others need to experience it, as they have to see how it works and try it out before they can grasp the concept around the technology or product.
Learning can be accomplished by listening to all possible materials, webinars, presentations, and recordings, and researching information to read white papers and other article supplements.
It is typical that learning would be a combination of methods. The initial step might be the research and then listening. After grasping that material, actually doing will allow for the materials to be tested and see if there are other areas that need to understand in more detail.
If more details are needed, a network can be tapped into to discuss such as a discussion forum or a meetup to get be able to get a better understanding to continue to do.
But the way that some people know for sure that they have learned a topic and really comprehended it, is to present on it. I actually learn more when I give a presentation, especially when there are great questions that I might not have thought of before.
That gives me the motivation to go back and get the answer by researching or reaching out to others that might have already experienced that situation.
User Group Education
All of these ways that were just mentioned on how to learn can be offered through the user group community. The different offerings to have a journal or a collection of white papers will allow for the research and read of the information.
Webinars, events, and seminars to present on topics to allow others to get the education on the technologies or products can be done by volunteers.
Several of these offerings and education options through the user group have been discussed as part of the strategies and activities. However, in discussing career development, it goes back into not only learning but looking for improving various skills.
Lifetime learning and development of skills is going to produce options for careers and jobs can bog us down with the regular day-to-day to not give us the opportunity to spend time different skills. Quick information or having a source such as a user group to get a dose of something new can boost the skills.
From the perspective of planning from the user group, having quick tips, regular information blasts, blogs or short articles can provide a wealth of information for skill sharpening.
This would be a great value-add for the members of the community. Being able to take a weekly email blast or a blog once a week to review to help in this way will provide a way to continue to update the community and help in skill development.
This is something I do spend some time doing every week, just researching, finding new materials and the user group news and websites are the first places I go to check it out. Spending this time to see what might be new and what others are thinking about helps to get some additional information and learn something.
Reading and researching a topic is not enough to develop a skill; some experience would definitely be needed. User groups offer this opportunity to learn about skill and can provide volunteer opportunities to gain that experience.
This experience is very important for career development because not only with the skill development you are learning new skills, but also realizing areas of interest. Skill development for weaker areas will help reach career goals since those are probably needed skills.
It might be who you know to get into a career path that you want to be in, but it can also be who you get to know. The community network has experts in the products and experts at their places of work.
If they are consultants they have additional contacts. The vendor is also part of this network, which helps to provide additional expertise but other job opportunities.
That was actually part of some of the problem with succession planning is when the vendor decides to step in and recruit people away from the user group to go and work for them. When presenting and volunteering these members start to be recognized in the community and by the vendor.
The user can work with the vendor on other tasks and projects for the user group, so there is additional exposure to the vendor. Eventually, the vendor realizes the talent that they have in the user community. The user group did provide the networking and areas to volunteer, and in taking advantage of this the member did benefit and find another career path.
I guess when you are doing the right things for your membership in providing ways to continue to learn, skill development, and career building opportunities it would be better just to promote this as benefits of the membership. Redefining the succession planning can be the least of the concerns.
Networking to have contacts and experts just an email or next meetup away has already been discussed as a big part of the user group. Networking contacts can help talk about their experiences and how they got to their position. They can provide the skills that were the most valuable to get there.
There will be others that can help out with the decisions of staying technical or moving more toward a leadership and management role. Along with leadership topics, there might be a track to have people share about developing into the roles that they have and what they like the most about the role.
Career building means to also understand how to get there and where it is you want to go. Learning about other’s experiences helps to formulate these goals and direction.
Even learning about being a consultant versus a full-time employee can come from the community. I gathered a bunch of information here when I was playing with the idea of consulting.
I was able to find out several details and things to take into consideration when being a consultant. It is nice to have choices and making friends in the community makes it easier.
Career building in the community might mean the user group can have a job board and resources for skills and other feedback. It is something that other support vendors can also be a part of and a great place if another company in the community is looking for people.
The community is a perfect place to look, good people, because they are already excited about the product or technology, wanting to learn, and building skills by volunteering.
Advantage User Group
The user group played a very big part of my career. When I first started working in the database world, I joined the user community. It started off as a great place to get a variety of education around the technology and database. I started to meet people and they all saw the enthusiasm I had for learning and the databases.
This is also where I say networking is about who you get to know. There were volunteers in the community that encouraged me to also volunteer. I picked some topics that were important to my current position and projects we had going on, and I was introduced to different product managers and developers for the products.
It was very valuable to get this information for implementation and getting everything set up and questions answered.
The projects were successful and I continued to learn and build my career. The next set of skills was leadership. I was able to be in the special interest groups and manage a group of volunteers and lead the group. This provided me a place to practice leadership skills, make new friends.
The technology I was learning was being applied in the workplace so the company was benefiting and I was learning as well as supplementing my career through volunteering with the user group.
There were opportunities to speak and share what I had been learning. In talking with people I had met in the community, I was offered to help write a blog. Things that I could barely imagine doing, but they were coming from getting to know people in the user group community.
The vendor also took notice and I was able to start speaking in different places all over the world, talking about the topics I enjoyed and also very relevant to others in the database field. I was able to meet more product managers on the vendor side and built up even more understanding of the database software.
Not only was I building a network of friends, but I was recruiting, too. This was great to include others and mentor them to be involved and learn even more.
In dealing more with the database and the areas of security I was able to add value to my company while still being able to focus on other parts of the database. In having specific database security projects I was able to bring feedback to the vendor on performance and areas of concern. This did help significantly with building these relationships.
I had the privilege of being on the board of directors for the Independent Oracle User Group, which allowed me to lead a group of volunteers and association management staff.
As I learned more from the user group, I looked for people in the field and members that might not yet have been engaged, and turned around and did the same thing that others did for me.
I encouraged them to speak at the conferences, write for the journal and start to participate in the conference committee or special interest groups. In setting up succession planning with the user group board of directors.
I was developing skills that were needed for regular day to day in planning cross-training, having others involved and excited about their role and goals of the team.
I was enabling others to do the same. It is an amazing feeling when you are involved in a community that is really working to help each other out, provide services to improve the areas and careers that we are in and develops leaders in technology and in their fields.
When I do look back, I was provided with some great opportunities to get involved and I am glad I was able to roll up my sleeves and learn and volunteer in various ways.
Any time I am looking into a new vendor, I look into user groups that are available because that is going to be the best place to plug in and really get to know about the vendor.
Since the user group provides the education and additional skills such as leadership skills are valuable and should be included the additional skills can help in planning careers.
The user group should take this into consideration and realize that they are also in career development too. The user group can give opportunities for volunteering and a place to gain experience with these skills that are being offered in education.
The user group is not a career counselor, but people that are involved in the user group are happier in their jobs and with the products that they are using. So there are definitely opportunities to support the membership with networking or additional skill building to have better careers or move up through their career path.
With decisions that you have along the way in regards to management roles or technology, networking can help to formulate and consider the options for the choices.
There are several involved in the community that is that way because they have experienced the benefits and how it has helped them get access to product managers and other vendor experts. It is a great way to build out a career, plan by talking with others instead of just sitting back relying on things to fall into your lap.
It is work to develop skills and gain some experience to show what skills have been learned. Leadership skills are needed for any path taken, even if continuing down a technology path to be a technology group leader it is going to require these skills.
Consideration should be given to make sure these leadership skills and other soft skills can be included in the user group conferences and events as part of the education strategies.
The volunteer roles will give experience. Active engagement in the community will allow for you to learn more and want to continue to pass along to others in the community.
There are definitely ways to take advantage of the programs of the user group to provide better career development. And the user group should be pursuing ways to have these strategies included.
A strong community will start to promote and be more engaged because of these opportunities that they are given. Members are going to be more enthusiastic about skill development and learning including the products that they are working with. All of this helps with being more excited about their careers in this field
Qualities of a User Group Leader
user group provides a variety of benefits for the members and the leaders of the community. The leadership of the group sets the strategy and develops the plan for growth, and the list of things that only a board of directors can do requires strong leaders. Starting a user group takes a ton of work, and participating in the user group board of director takes time, too.
Going into it for the wrong reasons—self-promotion, fame, and fortune—will just leave you frustrated and not allow for the development of volunteers. In order to start to build others up as leaders, you need to understand yourself as a leader and seek out qualities that are going to have other good leaders part of the team.
The number of blogs on leadership speaks to the fact that there is not one solution to become a leader, and there are several ways to get there. There is not one specific quality that makes a leader but a combination and a willingness to learn.
A few qualities stand out as being more important to have. They come from character and values that a person has, and other qualities can be developed.
Leadership might be easier for some people more than others, but people are not born to be leaders. Being a leader is a given opportunity to enable and inspire others. Different people are able to communicate with ease or plan strategies because of understanding the big picture without too much effort.
That does not mean that someone can grow into the role, especially with the desire to do so. Recognizing that, there are ways to work on some of the weaker skills and characteristics.
To be able to talk business and technology is definitely a valued asset to companies and with the leadership skills development and looking at these qualities of a leader is going to be the way to get there.
Understanding the qualities as the goal is secondly important to understanding yourself and where you are with this development. Reflecting and knowing yourself is going to allow you to discover the areas that come easy and start to work hard on the other skills and characteristics that require the effort.
Maria Anderson, Independent Oracle User Group President, stated in a recent article that, “self-reflection is a skill that, when well developed and practiced regularly, can bring you clarity and help modify your behavior in certain circumstances; in other words, it enhances your self-awareness.” Self-awareness will help to evaluate where you are with the qualities and recognize how you are doing as a leader.
Before we discuss the qualities of a leader, let’s start with looking at what a user group leader does. This will also help with the self-awareness to realize the areas that are needed and what else might need some development.
What a User Group Leader Does
A user group leader has responsibilities to the volunteers and the members of the community. The leaders work toward the common goals and work to plan for the outlined strategies. Of course, they lead, right?
The community offers so many opportunities with expertise, mentoring, and other ways to lead. But those put in leadership roles have volunteered to work for a community that they are excited about and want it to be successful.
There are wrong reasons for being in this role. Wanting your company and self to be successful makes sense, but it should not be the only reason for wanting to be in leadership of the user group.
Fame, recognition, and money, not really the reasons for leading a user group either. Self-promotion will cause disruption in the community and make it difficult to recognize if the direction of the user group is planned for the whole community or just their individual benefit.
Not to discourage anyone but there is not normally much money to be earned in spending hours in planning and not getting paid for it. These are definitely not the main reasons, because getting to be upfront is the easy part, well, at least sometimes. The work has to be completed first, and the overall vision of the group needs to be considered.
So what are the qualities that a user group leader has?
Experience. One main thing is that the leader is also using the product or has that experience. In understanding the technology or product from the day-to-day job, this provides the needed details about what users are facing. Understanding the new and relevant topics for space helps decide direction and strategies.
The Ability Know to Find Answers. They also realize that because of these complex environments, it is not possible to know everything about the systems. This would help in deciding other people and leaders to surround yourself with because if you can’t have the answers it is important to know how to get the answers.
They know that the user community is going to have these different experiences and speakers can provide more of the complete picture and well-rounded education.
Willingness to Participate in Discussions. The board and committees will have discussions. The volunteer leader brings their ideas and shows up ready to participate in the discussions. Just listening in doesn’t help for the smaller group that will be planning and making decisions.
Questions need to be asked and as the whole board discusses nothing should be left on the table. Different ideas are needed or support of current ones which should all be part of the discussions.
Other discussions will be where the money should be spent, as there are financial and budget discussions. Without understanding the events and activities with what is needed by the user community, budget discussions are going to be difficult. Reviewing the budget and discussing the financials are a part of what the leader does.
Consistency in Attending Meetings. Attending board calls and conference calls ready to discuss and actively participate. Being able to understand topics for discussion and understand provides more valuable input.
There might be times where you have more input than others which makes sense, but there is the preparation that needs to happen before the call. Just showing up can allow the whole group to discuss, but it is important to be prepared for the discussion.
The number of meetings will depend on the role but the board of directors. The meetings include the board meetings, conferences, committee meetings, and special interest group meetings and depending on the groups you are involved in would be the number of meetings that are on the schedule.
Email is good for a few things, but direct conversations are also needed. Also, there will be face to face meetings. Boards and user group leaders are not always in the same location, so face to face meetings might not be as many but they are even more important to attend to relate with others.
Recognition of Importance of Networking. Networking with other leaders is needed to create the group and have the plan and strategy. The networking does not stop there, because there are vendors and other user groups. In person, events are critical to being talking with others.
Networking with the members adds strength to the offerings and building the community. These are the future leaders. Vendors need to understand the direction of the group of what is happening and planned for the group so that they can help support.
Meeting with other user groups is key in the networking circles. This helps to know what works, gain other ideas, and possibly plan events together.
Good at Cultivating Relationships. The board of directors has to work together and building the relationships between the leaders helps to understand how best to complement each other. The diversity of the leaders is absolutely needed to pull in the overall picture of the environment.
This does tie into the networking because once meeting the groups of people, the relationships need to be built and maintained. Relationships need to be cultivated with the vendors, other user groups, and the community members.
The desire to Continue to Learn. Constantly learning is the overall theme besides leadership of this blog. But a user group leader is out there reading, researching and learning.
This is extremely helpful for the day-to-day job but is needed to verify the direction of the user group and see if there is anything new and relevant for the community to be learning as well.
Ability to Make Decisions. Decisions need to be made about events, speakers, webinars, and so many other details under this. It is the responsibility of the user group leader to evaluate the details, understand the costs, and verify against the board strategy.
Based on this information decisions need to be made. Budgets get set and voted on to make sure the plans and spend follow the direction and meet the needs of the community. Decisions get made to run the board and the user community.
Ability to Direct Staff. The staff might be volunteers, but an association management company would be providing staff to take care of the details of the projects for the user group. Regular calls, planning, and managing of the activities come from the user group leaders.
Ability to Enable Others. Continue learning and enabling others is definitely a reoccurring theme, and as a leader, we should be able to bring others along and learn from them. Removing roadblocks and providing opportunities to do the same. Letting others look into options, propose solutions, and make decisions while supporting them.
This is not an all-encompassing list of the things that user group leaders do, but it does list a few for starting. Remember that the user group leader is not alone, because there is a whole board for support and hopefully a membership where a few good volunteers can also be recruited to help out.
Even if the current leaders might not be available, previous leaders are a great resource and can provide encouragement.
I think this is one of the reasons that I am still participating in the user group even without still being on the board of directors. It is also why this information is being provided to you as a resource and hopefully a source of encouragement.
Leaders of the user group are involved in several areas and perform tasks outside of strategies and planning. Being able to perform these levels of tasks does take practice, years of involvement, and a desire to improve skills and develop as a leader.
As already discussed the skills of leadership can be learned and developed. There are qualities of a leader that show the character of the leader.
The best way to find out about the qualities of a user group leader is to ask current and previous user group leaders. What was interesting in asking the leaders what was one quality that they felt was most important, they all could not just give one.
If they had to choose they eventually gave one, but there were specific reasons and still felt that multiple qualities are important. That does mean if there is a weak area that is being developed, some of the other qualities will help with the progress and further leadership skills.
I sent a quick email out to a group of people that have been very important in my development as a user group leader and asked that question, “What is one quality you look for in a leader?” Polled were Maria Anderson, current president of the Independent Oracle User Group (IOUG);
John Matelski, Ian Abramson and Rich Niemiec, past presidents of the IOUG; Blake Wofford, current president of FUEL Palo Alto Networks User Group; and Carol McGury, previous interim executive director of the IOUG and executive vice president at SmithBucklin.
Maria said, “I’m not sure I can choose one quality but I can say my top two (because I feel they go together) are empathy and humility”. John listed five qualities. As stated it isn’t easy to have just one.
John said, “There are five qualities that are essential including honesty, competence, intelligence, forward-looking and inspiring…but the most important of these is honesty. Without honesty, the other four qualities don’t mean much!”
Ian said, “One quality seems unfair. A leader has multiple qualities I look for. A leader should be confident and knowledgeable but listen to ideas to build a powerful and impactful team”.
“Integrity”, was Rich’s first response. He quickly followed up with another email with the following, “Honorable mention would be unselfishness”.
Blake did respond with one quality. He said, “Attitude. The right attitude is not teachable, and it’s not replaceable. Attitude affects everything a leader touches or says or does. It doesn’t matter what talents you have, what connections you have, what education you have. If you don’t have the right attitude, you’re going to fail.”
Carol responded with “Integrity! Someone who is honest and open – can be trusted. Doesn’t think of themselves but makes decisions that benefit the greater good!”
As you can see by these answers and responses, they have all taught and influenced me and I value their thoughts and insight.
They are incredible people, and if in saying they that I highly respect them as leaders, as they are reading this, they are thinking they still have more to learn and want to strive to do more. They should take a moment and enjoy the fact that they are awesome user group leaders.
Again it was difficult to come up with one quality. Even the group of six had all pretty much come up with different answers except integrity. Honesty and integrity are extremely important and I am sure every one of these leaders has it in the top five if allowed to give more. It is important to be able to trust a leader.
How can one follow if the leader is not looking out for the interest of the group and the leader’s intentions are trustworthy? We want to be able to respect and trust our leaders, even if you are a technical leader.
Knowing that there are honest answers and even if it is “I don’t know, let’s find out” answer. Integrity and honesty are required leadership qualities. From these other qualities can be built.
In looking at the other qualities for a leader listed; humility, empathy, competence, intelligence, forward-looking, inspiring, confidence, knowledgeable and attitude.
Adding to the list is critical thinking, serving and enabling. It almost sounds like an impossible task to have all of these qualities, but don’t forget that is still a process and on-going learning.
There are going to be qualities that come easy and others require the work and effort. As one looks at different leaders, there are also bad qualities that are recognized. Self-awareness will be able to determine if some of these bad qualities need to be suppressed.
These qualities appear in leaders that we do not aspire to become. Self-awareness allows for the understanding of what needs to be worked on and help examine if you are demonstrating these qualities.
Practicing the qualities of a leader is demonstrating leadership. Does it sound easy right? For example, attitude is something you choose to show. A positive, can-do attitude goes a long way.
Someone will be willing to work just as hard with a leader that is optimistic with a realistic plan, and even with a little work attitude will take it further. This does come in handy when dealing with the not always the fun stuff. There are budgets and cuts that might have to be made and decided on.
An attitude demonstration of how important these tasks are will make that process feel just as fun and needed as going out and meeting with the user community.
Another example would be demonstrating critical thinking. This is not only in the user group leadership role but also in the other roles with technology or business.
There are plenty of problems to be solved as a user group; how to reach new members, dealing with generation gaps, conference attendance, new ways to present content, how to use social media, and many more.
Demonstrating leadership means doing the things that the user group leader does. Showing up to meetings and participating in discussions with the qualities of a leader.
Confidence comes through when having the discussions and not being timid in presenting ideas. Everyone in the boardroom and volunteers has ideas to present, and if not presented with confidence it might not be accepted by the group.
A user group that has the leadership team working on the qualities and involved will have others being excited about volunteering and being part of the team.
This provides another opportunity to inspire others to pick up the ball and run with it. Serving the community is demonstrating leadership. A serving leader will look to serve the group in helping others succeed. This is what a user group does in helping members learn and be successful in their careers.
It isn’t just constant pouring yourself into the community and giving up on all of your needs, but it is realizing that there is value in serving the greater good. A serving leader is normally one that is recognized by the people being excited to be part of the community and being enabled to learn and network.
It is not just letting everyone speak or not setting a standard for volunteers, but it is setting the expectations and demanding excellent quality of education. It sets a high bar for the volunteers, but also one that is obtainable. It gives them in turn an opportunity to serve the community back.
A serving leader is right there in the middle of it all. They just don’t say do, but give expectations, leave room to discuss how something can be accomplished. Once it is decided what to do they are right in there helping out and supporting the effort and work.
Just like with the different committees for the user group, this provides excellent ways to roll up your sleeves and participate with the group and serve the community.
Developing a succession plan for the board and leadership demonstrates how the important a transition is for the continuity of the culture and governance. This puts the importance of the group ahead of the needs of the leader.
It too can plan out different ways for the user group volunteers to reach the board of directors if they choose to do so.
A leader demonstrates how to handle change and leads the process. Change is a constant and it is not always something easy to do, especially in a group that might be rooted in something the vendor did at one point or has quite a long history.
Managing change from communication to doing by showing the way with the changes. Sometimes change is needed in the user group because of new technology or different needs of the community.
There is always resistance to change because of history and how something has always been done this way. Social media has changed how we communicate, and something that might have been sent out or emailed might now just be a link or some of the face-to-face events might be a virtual offering now.
Depending on these needs it might be difficult for some of the community to accept these changes, and the leaders have to demonstrate how that has helped them to communicate better or take advantage of more education. If the leaders and volunteers are helping out and showing the way the community is able to buy into more.
Leader Volunteer to President
This is a personal example and some of it was not easy nor did it go the way that I had expected. It is really just to give a brief story of the user group and how I went from being a member of a leadership role. It is something I didn’t think was possible, and I am still very thankful for the opportunity.
I have also pointed out that I am still supporting and involved in the user group and leading from a volunteer position because I enjoy being part of the community.
Again, I am trying not to present this in a way of boasting, but just hopefully something that can be learned from. Even from recruiting volunteers, which will be discussed more in the next blog, as you can see why I did some of the things I did to get more involved.
As a member, I started to use Independent Oracle User Group (IOUG) as a resource for starting off as an Oracle DBA. I had worked with other database platforms and was able to tap into the user community for the information related to Oracle and how to work on performance and other design considerations.
In working on different projects, I continued to look for information and realized that there were ways to get more information and details from the vendor and provide feedback.
There was a volunteer leader that recognized the involvement I was seeking with the vendor and offered me a chance to develop one of the special interest groups. I gladly participated because it was the details and solutions.
I was looking for work, and I was able to work with a couple of other volunteers to build a community around the special interest group.
Things I did as a leader in the special interest group was the plan, set strategy recruit other volunteers and communicate with the community. We developed a plan to provide webinars and articles on these topics.
We worked with the vendor to make sure we understood the roadmap of the product and how we could provide feedback. The schedule for the learning opportunities was communicated to the membership along with recruiting specifically for those members with this interest.
The work I had completed with the special interest group provided an overall charter for other groups to be developed.
The structure, that was used to create the group helped, created governance and planning of additional special interest groups. It was then one of the board members plugging this structure into the overall strategy that the board had to utilize the special interest groups.
It was not just me but there great leaders on the board of directors being aware of the different options and enabling volunteers to be part of the development of the user group.
It was such a privilege to be asked to apply for the board. This again is a pattern of building a succession plan and finding good volunteers. There were different responsible areas for the board of directors.
We each had our own portfolio, which allowed us to build committees from that and organized the governance to make sure that the different portfolios were connected to the overall strategy of the board.
We did not always agree on the portfolios the different members had. There were some discussions within the boardroom. Debates and some other thoughts took place of which groups should be assigned. Outside the boardroom, the decision made was supported.
In the years that I was on the board of directors, we looked at the strategy and went back and forth to make sure we had the right strategies and goals set, which did change over the years because of changes in Oracle stack and changes in the community.
These are good examples of what a board needs to do and the leadership of the board needs to be able to have the forward thinking and big picture for the community to be able to do this.
There were opportunities to learn from the other board members and their experiences. There were also formalized classes on leadership that were available. I took advantage of everything available to sharpen my skills and develop the important qualities of a leader.
One of the most important things I learned from these classes was self-awareness because that taught me to look at my values and evaluate my motives. I could then realize how I was doing as a leader, and measure against people I was inspiring and allowing to also come along as volunteers and leaders in the community.
I had the privilege to attend the baseball game where the Cubs defeated the Cardinals in the 2015 Division Series. It had been a while since I was able to attend a game or even sit and watch a game on TV.
I did not just enjoy it because the Cubs won, even though that was pretty awesome, but I enjoyed watching the team how much they were involved in the game and how the fans fed off of that energy and participate with great enthusiasm as a key part of the game.
Previous Cub teams that I had seen play did not have the energy and did not have the excitement as being part of the game. This was an important game and there was already anticipation to win the division series, but the team had to work together to get here. The teamwork and eagerness of the team were outstanding.
The Cub manager encouraged the fun and participation with the fans. He taught them what they needed to know. He let them know when things needed to change as the pitcher changed out and didn’t wait too long to implement the change.
They celebrated accomplishments. The leader of the team enabled his team to be excited to do what they liked to do and that was to play baseball.
The last board meeting I was involved with, I was so excited how everyone was having great discussions, going back to strategies and evaluating the resources and what should be done.
They were really a group excited about the IOUG and being part of the community. They had grown as leaders themselves and took succession planning seriously to make sure that it continued.
I hope that this brief description of the areas I was involved with in the user group helped of what might be important for leadership and areas that need to be developed by the board of directors.
I am still speaking and recruiting volunteers for different areas to have people who are passionate about the community to remain involved.
A user group leader has a wide variety of things that they need to do to lead, support and inspire the community. Even as a leader, you do not have to go alone. There are others on the board of directors or other key volunteers that can help out to verify ideas support the tasks at hand and provide feedback about what the user group is doing and areas to work on.
There are many qualities of a leader like Integrity. Integrity is a very important quality that a leader can demonstrate. A leader with integrity is one that is respected and will have people willing to follow. Leaders who are open and honest will communicate to the community in this way and gain the respect and followers.
There are some qualities that come with values, but others that can be developed and worked on just like skills that are needed.
Self-awareness will help determine the qualities that you are already demonstrating and evaluate good versus bad qualities. The bad qualities are normally easy to determine because these are obvious in the people in charge that are not considered leaders.
Another quality is attitude and one that we might overlook, but having the right attitude being involved and excited about the user group is going to inspire others. A positive attitude is one that is contagious and the enthusiasm will spread throughout the group. Bringing energy and excitement to the community will draw others to volunteer and become more involved.
Learning and developing skills and qualities to become a leader requires practice, too, and demonstrating these skills in the user group and community. It does not have to be in a board role first but as part of a committee or another area that the user group can use the assistance.
There are plenty of ways to demonstrate these qualities and they will be noticed either in the workplace or user group. These qualities are important for career building as we well as the involvement in the community.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list on how to demonstrate and all of the qualities that are needed. Remember leaders do have multiple qualities and it is not just one quality to work on. It is not an easy task, but well worth it when seeing the results and others enabled to learn and develop these skills too.
It is difficult to compare some of the same work we do to baseball and the excitement of this game. To experience that on a regular basis within the user group would be amazing, and the leaders of the user group can enable the exhilaration and energy. Keeping up that level could get exhausting but it would not be boring.
The leaders can inspire this type of team and community to be working toward a goal.
It would be an awesome feeling to be part of a community that takes pride in what they do and provide. To be able to continue to do what we are good at and have a group of leaders that are developing talent in the membership and grow the community into champions.
Qualities of a User Group Volunteer
Volunteers are critical to any community. There are several qualities that are important in a good volunteer. A volunteer is also developing leadership. If this is a new user group, the volunteers are out there, but they are just more difficult to find.
They might not yet know of the user group or might have been working on something similar and it would have to be merged or partnered with in some way. But a new group also has more vendor support, so that is a good resource for recruiting volunteers.
Volunteers should be groomed for other roles. There are users who will want to volunteer for one simple task and that is enough for them to participate in the community in the way they want. Others will be interested in growing into more leadership roles and look to eventually be part of the board of directors.
Part of succession planning should include qualities that you look for in volunteers. It does not have to describe a skill set because a needed skill set might change as the user group develops or needs to change.
What Does a User Group Volunteer Do?
Some people would prefer to stay far away from speaking and can volunteer for many other areas. There are several different activities that would fit under these categories:
Support—Understand that the user group is for them and support the activities that are provided.
Provide feedback—Volunteers have a different perspective and can feedback about the user group activities.
Support events—There are speakers, planners, coordinators, and positions to follow up afterward, all of which could be handled by volunteers.
Committee involvement—Committees are the main ways of planning for the user group. Therefore, volunteers need to be there to help come up with the ideas and planning. They can then help with the different tasks that arise.
Recruit—Using volunteers to recruit new volunteers is a great idea. Current volunteers can talk about time commitments, activities, and the excitement that they have being part of the user group.
Vendor liaison—The vendor will still like feedback from the customers and the users are their customers. Pulling a few key members and volunteers in a room to talk to issues or enhancements is beneficial for the user and vendor.
These are just some of the things that volunteers do. It is important to have a list of activities and tasks available when reaching out to volunteers so that they can see how they can participate right away.
Engagement of the volunteers it should be very quick because as people start to be interested, the tasks and volunteer jobs will draw them into the activities. The connections are going to help bring things together when there is energy around volunteering.
Member to Volunteer
A user group can be a fairly large community. There are going to be those members that are more engaged than others and others who will just look in for information and resources.
It is difficult to pull volunteers out of the member community without some networking time. Either there is a current volunteer that knows the member and encourages involvement or an event makes it easier to bring a user on board.
It also helps so they know what they are part of and start to see the community and how valuable it is to the group. It is helpful to have a website with volunteer opportunities, and registrations need to be followed up on; this would be a great task for a volunteer.
There is interest either from the member or another volunteer to encourage and give examples of how to become more involved.
I have seen this so many times, just a little bit of time and real (remember integrity and honesty here) interest from a speaker, a leader or a volunteer goes a long way for a member to become more interested in the user group and want to volunteer.
They are looking for opportunities to the volunteers should be ready to give them ideas. This applies to the volunteers that want more of a leadership role, and the board will be working with volunteers to encourage and engage them to become more involved.
The board and leadership can also be reaching out to the members. It is definitely not a strict hierarchy because we are all users coming from the same place and are all working to develop skills and work together.
Board members might have even more of an influence on the members becoming volunteers. Part of the leadership is sharing the story, explaining the benefits, and talking about ways to be involved. There are definite benefits to be part of the user group and spend time networking and learning.
Integrity is needed to be able to have the same honest and open communication with the membership and other volunteers. Having experts in the community to speak and work with others is why confidence and competence are also needed for volunteers as well as the leaders.
Some of the confidence and even competence in some of the areas might still need to be developed, so that is where professionalism comes in. The respect and working through presenting or even issues from a committee demands professionalism.
The right attitude for a volunteer is just as important for a leader. The attitude will make it easier to be energized and ready to participate in the user group and the volunteer activities.
People with passion are going to work with the group and are excited to be a part of the community. They want to learn and develop, and they want to be involved. The right attitude and passion will allow for many other qualities to be developed and build them into leadership roles.
Energy is required. This is a volunteer position, which is something that is done outside of the normal working hours, and with technology, we are not even sure what normal working hours are anymore.
This does not mean saying yes to everything, but it does mean being able to have the energy to be involved in the committee and being able to participate. Ideas, input, and work need to be done, so one does need to have the energy to work through meetings and other tasks.
The qualities are not far off those of a leader. Integrity is very important. It is a core value that attracts others to want to work with that person and trust enough to be inspired.
Is a Volunteer a Leader?
Yes, a volunteer is a leader and anyone can be a leader. They don’t have to have the title. They have to be able to enable and inspire others. They serve others and are constantly learning. This definitely sounds like a volunteer to me, wait for sounds like a leader too.
Volunteers are going to be leaders in the community. They have the responsibility to the user group to perform the activities and tasks they commit to. They are recruiting others and even in the different positions they are in, they should be planning for succession as well.
This is something that I would do at events, especially when there is someone with a good question or interested in a topic at the conference. I mention that would be a great topic for you to speak on next time.
I didn’t leave it at that, because a casual comment like that can be dismissed. I would follow up and see if they needed any help or had thought more about what they were going to speak on.
I was excited to attend the next conference because there were some new sessions and speakers I was very interested in hearing.
A volunteer is a leader in their areas of expertise and a leader in the community. They will want to continue to develop leadership skills and use the user group experience to practice these skills.