betabug... Sascha Welter

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This is a message I sent to Apples user group mailing list some time ago. I am posting it here in the hope that someone might find it usefull or interesting. As of June 8th, 2002, I'm no longer president of the Macintosh Users Switzerland. Also Apple printed this mail in their user group newsletter but got a little detail wrong: I'm a "he", not a "she". ;?)

Developing Leaders (for user groups)

    Subject: Re: FW: Developing leaders
       From: (Sascha Welter)
       Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2001 09:28:56 +0200
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   X-Mailer: Macintosh SweetMail 2.09r8 

Mike Swope schrieb / wrote / egrapse:
>>I think every User Group struggles with trying to develop leaders and
>>doers. How do some of the other groups go about doing this? If no one
>>is interested in leading a SIG, what other tools can be used?


As the president of a rather large MUG I made it one of my top priority
jobs to get people involved with the MUG. Not that I am much better then
other people at this job (I don't believe that), but I try to get ever
better. By "involved" I mean not only consuming, but taking part,
leading, organizing, doing things with/for the others, being active.
Just what you described.

I have learned a few lessons in this process, I'll try to write up some
of them:

-       Make the steps and jobs small. 
        Giving people the opportunity to do something small gets them involved
        and ready to (maybe) do something bigger. Plus they less likely burn
        out. Plus it gives more people the chance to get involved (so I tend
        to prefer 2 people sharing a job from one person doing that job). Also
        make it easy to start: I wrote a manual about administrating a mailing
        list, so interested people could see what it's like. I try to find
        people who do "co-leading". I don't expect a total commitment from
        start (actually I don't expect a total commitment at all, this is
        voluntary work).
-       Talk about it all the time.
        I write articles in our printed newsletter about getting involved,
        shaping our MUG the way you like it, helping each other... I stand 
        up before meetings and SIGs, I post mail to our lists and propagandize
        getting a more active role. Right now I think that I could do this
        even much more.
-       Make it personal.
        Whenever I talk to someone and hear what they can do, I "offer them 
        a job" (like a SIG leader, etc.) I do that on a very personal basis
        and try to listen to them a lot. When people seem to get annoyed, I
        try to pull over to the humourous side of it.   
-       Say "Thank you" a lot.
        I once wrote a piece in our printed newsletter about the people who
        make our mailing lists possible, describing what they did and how
        thankfully I am about this. I did not ask for other volunteers at 
        the same time (at least not very loud). But it helped a lot in 
        finding other volunteers. I try to always thank people a lot in person
        and in mails I write. And I try to make it really come over, not just
        like a lame trick, but like the way I really feel thankfully.

-       Don't decide on your own. Keep people informed.
        Whenever a single person or the board takes a decision on their own,
        someone will be driven out of their involvement a little bit. So even
        if I have a strong oppinion about a certain issue, I will ask others
        and inform others. I believe that there is no getting involved without
        open information and democracy. Sometimes I don't succeed on this one
        and then I always get a bumerang back. So we made a special mailing
        list for usergroup-internal matters (open only to members) and I try
        to keep people informed there about what we do and want to do. And this
        is also a channel for people to voice their opinions Why do we need a
        mailing list for this? We are too many people to meet all together
        (almost 2000 Members all over Switzerland).

-       List open positions.
        I got this one from a newsletter sample someone brought over from a 
        US MUG, and from one of the BSD Open Source news-websites. The
        newsletter listed open UG leadership positions, the BSD-news-site 
        has a page with things people can do to contribute. I try to keep a
        list of such open positions and from time to time publish it in our
        newsletter. Also I asked our web-team to permanently put it on our
        website (which they didn't do yet, but they will sometimes... :o)
        The moment we have it on our website I will make a signature that
        reminds of that page with every mail I send.

-       The investment is always worth it.
        When you "get" someone new to do a job, that maybe you did yourself 
        so far, or you could do as well (or easier) yourself, the investment 
        in training them is always worth it. Maybe in the first place it takes 
        you longer then doing the job yourself, but in the long run you can't
        do everything yourself. Also when doing it all yourself one day you
        will notice you are *still* writing something for the newsletter at
        2am, or spending yet another sunday away from family, or have another
        member call in while all your personal friends got a busy signal. This
        will lead to you burning out very soon, which won't do neither you nor
        the user group any good. So maybe you train this guy 2 hours for a one
        hour job, but the next month he will do something else that lets you
        have another day for your friends and family.

-       Honor greek philosophers.
        Nikos Kasantsakis (most renown from the novel that lead to the film
        "Zorbas the Greek" with Anthony Quinn) once wrote: "I don't hope for
        nothing, I don't fear nothing, I am free." Like that, I don't expect
        nobody to come forth and offer their help, but I am also not affraid
        that nobody will help. Thus I am free to do as I should (and drink
        a good Ouzo from time to time). :o)
        Zen philosophers also offer a lot of insight when I get tired of doing
        all this... actually I think any kind of philosopher or insightfull
        message (religious or not) will do. But I think that a "deeper meaning"
        beyond simple  user group matters will help from time to time. Also
        don't take it all to seriously, it's just computers and users after
        all. :o)

I hope this helps (and again, I am in no way perfect at this).



Macintosh Users Switzerland                      
We share knowledge!                                    Sascha Welter
                               President & MUS board member for SIGs
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