Today I just wanted to share a few thoughts on a much under-used and sometimes overlooked component in growing great communities: validation.
Every community is an organically grouped bundle of people, many of which spend their free time choosing to be part of that community. With the majority of communities being associative volunteer-based groups, our contributors basically make a decision to sacrifice time with other things in their life to be around our communities. They spend their time away from their families and friends and compelling distractions in the form of video games, movies, restaurants, sports and more to help make our community that little bit more awesome than it was yesterday. In a nutshell, we should never forget the incredible contributions our volunteers make.
Often when we want to improve how our communities work we focus in on the workflow, processeses, governance and other nuts and bolts of how we collaborate together. While important, I think it is important that we don’t lose sight over one of the most fundamental elements in building great community: validate great work.
Every day in each of our communities we see incredible people doing incredible things. These contributions shape the very world in which we live in. They shape the things we click on, the things we listen to, the things we read and the emotions we develop from all of this and other stimulus. With such incredible people doing such incredible things, it is tempting to take a somewhat engineering focused approach to things: to identify areas of improvement, to draft actions and strategy, and to constantly focus on highlighting the to-be-improved as opposed to the to-be-celebrated. While this is important, it is equally important to simply tell people when they are doing a great job. They love it, you feel great for making them feel great and we all get to feel those little hairs on the back of our necks stand on end for a little while.
There are two important things to remember though when validating people. Firstly, there doesn’t need to be a reason. If your brain just randomly notices or remembers that something is great or that someone is doing a great job, go ahead and validate it. We all love validation, and a random piece of validation right out of the blue is often a welcome surprise. In fact, there has been times when I have validated someone’s work and they have responded with “I was having a really shitty day and that was exactly what I needed to pick me up“. We all have shitty days and we all value these pick-me-ups. Secondly, you don’t have to be well known, prominent or a leader to offer validation. Everyone and anyone can validate others: this is not a status thing, it is a human thing. And importantly, those who do lead and guide us need validating too. Irrespective of what we do or what we say, we are all big bags of skin and bones, we all have good and bad times, and we all feel warm and fuzzy and someone says “you know what, I just wanted to tell you I appreciate what you do and keep up the good work“.
So, that is all really. Lets see if each of us can ramp up how much we validate each other. There is so much awesome community work going on, there is certainly plenty to validate.