Most people feel that when getting ready to open a new forum, or a couple of weeks into a forums life, they must hire some staff members to help. This normally comes in the form of wanting to hire 1-2 moderators and an administrator at the most basic level. However, hiring staff is often much more based on the feeling that having people with these roles makes them much more likely to contribute to discussion, and help grow your post count. Continue reading
When hiring staff, it can sometimes be very difficult to choose the perfect candidate. There are many different qualities to examine, all of which have different values and levels of importance. However, there is one quality which is very important, and sometimes overlooked. There are many different words to describe this quality. One would be maturity. Another, which is the word that I will be using for the purposes of this article, is levelheadedness. This attribute, in my opinion, outweighs not only experience and age, but also the applicant’s level of skill in the job he or she is being hired for. Why do I believe this? Read on to find out.
What I mean by “Levelheaded,” and Identifying People who Are
Levelheadedness means intelligence. Not technical no-how, or academic knowledge, but being able to compose thoughts in an intelligent way, contribute usefully to discussions, and to rise above controversy and drama. Levelheadedness goes hand-in-hand with maturity, which should not be confused with age. Just because someone is 35 years old, does not mean that they are mature or levelheaded. The only way to identify someone who has this quality is by reading their posts. Not just their application, although that is also useful, but their posts. If possible, get a chance to know the applicant.
Benefit of Levelheadedness #1: Training
Experience is valuable in a potential staff candidate. However, if someone has plenty of experience, but does not have the right attitude, then that person will be a trouble to deal with. For example, that person could have personality issues, or just be generally difficult to work with. However, if you find a person who demonstrates that they are levelheaded, then even if they do not know how to do the job that they are being hired for, then they can be trained to do that job. Playing staff rolls on a forum does not require a great deal of technical knowledge, except perhaps being a developer. Moderation is a skill, but a skill that can be trained. So is administration, and reviewing, and posting. Almost every skill which can be imagined for a forum staff member is something that can be trained. If you can find someone who is willing to be trained, and has the attitude to conduct himself well after being trained, then that is the right candidate.
Benefits of Levelheadedness #2: No Drama
Drama can cause damage to a forum, particularly when exhibited by staff members who do not know any better, because they are not levelheaded. A levelheaded staff member knows to rise above drama and, whenever possible, not to get buried too deeply into it. Also, a levelheaded staff member is intelligent enough to, in general, not do things which will inadvertently cause drama.
Benefits of Levelheadedness #3: Professionalism
A professional staff member communicates in a way that people can understand, and does not say things which members interpret as unintelligent or misinformed. If a forum hires a staff member who is distinctively not levelheaded, then that staff member may cause embarrassment to the forum and its staff team. Not only can he or she waste the staff team’s time, but also, can make the staff team look worse in the eyes of members, and do things which staff members do not endorse or approve of inadvertently. Professionalism is very important in a staff member. Staff who exhibit levelheadedness will also be professional.
Levelheadedness is the most important quality for any staff member to have. Not because that quality, in itself, is vital, but because it leads to many other benefits, including the ability to be trained to properly fill his or her role. When looking for staff, always ask yourself: is this person levelheaded. If the answer is no, then do not hire that person unless you do not have any other options.
New forums can often be compared to virtual children because of their dependency on their owners. Starting a new forum isn’t easy and is not something for the light hearted to take up. Dedication is key for forum survival and unfortunately this is the key element where many forums fail and die out. A community is a start up business that thrives under good leadership and active staff participation. Without an active and near hovering administrator on call to supervise a new community the members lose interest and become lurkers and eventually cease to visit the site in it’s entirety. My community, Political Debate Forums, has had that exact same experience. I have raised that community for almost a year and I still find that activity is based on the leader administrator and his staff members. Simply put dedication is the key to getting a community off the ground. We all can’t be baby sitters however so I have three good goals that every new administrator should set and reach in order to show their community that they want to be successful.
Don’t Go It Alone.
A good forum administrator knows that he cannot run a forum by himself. It is possible but it’s not probable. By hiring staff members and partners a new admin can boost the activity of a forum times as many people that visit often. A forum creating activity and showing dedication has a much better chance of gaining new members. Instead of hogging all of the glory of the leadership to yourself consider building a team that you can rely on. After all you cannot be on your forum 24/7 and anyone that can match your activity boosts the over all activity by a multiple. Consider paying someone if you must because your forum community, even if you didn’t intend it to be so, is a business and will act like a business. All businesses need leadership.
When you finally get your team built and members start visiting your community be humble. Build relationships with those who have joined and treat them as friends. You as the admin are not a Lord or Emperor but just another user with a different level of access. When your activity is expected to be low let your community know why. Do not give the appearance that you have vanished because your users will always assume the worst. They will abandon your forum because they think that you have abandoned your forum. Even on my own forum I recently had to move and restructure my life as I left the military and became a civilian once again. I advised my community of what was going on and while we did lose activity it wasn’t hard to get back. We are already building back again after a week.
Show Your Dedication
A good forum administrator leads his community like a general leads an army. You should be the primary content creator, the most visible face, and the one who makes the calls. You must be the one who raises morale, takes on the worst users, and even changes the community structure and appearance as needed. Like any leader you must show that you are engaged and that you are dedicated to the forum that you own. You need to show your users that you strive for success and that you need their help. The forum admin might have a lot of responsibility but keep your pride in check, don’t create a chip for your shoulder, and remember that the community is what you strive for. As an old movie once said: “If you build it they will come”.
The take away from this article is that the forum community is dependent on the administrator but the pathway of a leader is not a solitary path. It is a path full of opportunity to build relationships, friendships, and even tactical business oriented goals. Be dedicated to your members and they will be dedicated to you. If you want to know more about leadership please look forward to my next article in which we will tackle the strategy of a leader.