I have been meaning to write this for a while now but the inspiration comes then time goes. We all know how that works. Let’s hope this time I see it all the way through.
I have been an admin of several whatsapp groups. Usually the ones that are for a quick reason and then are quickly disbanded or those that are noisy then fizzle out and die. Others include family groups. I remember being an admin of our nuclear family one at one point. That role was well handed over to one of the elder siblings at one point.
However, the one group I have indulged myself the most in, to the core, is my high school group. I did write a post last year about all the work they have done and continue to do. This will not be the topic though as the title already sold out. It is about the unexpected but not unwelcome insights gained from having to constructively manage the conversations that happen in a group of over 100. One hundred very unique minds. Some of these lessons I may have come across before in my career but I hope this puts it in a more relatable and palatable format.
- Empathy is the only way I can truly hear you.
The reason I made sure to mention the number of people in the group and how unique they all are is to articulate how differing their opinions would be. Without truly understanding why someone is whom they are; the journey they have been on and the path they are still walking. I can never truly relate to why they reason the way they do. This also means I am seeing them through a blurred lens when they opine contrary to me or the usual world view. Leading sheep is easy, it’s the GOATs that present a problem. 😉 Any football manager knows that.
I won’t say I have everyone or anyone figured out. Fortunately or unfortunately, they don’t all post at once or always. I do however know I breathed easier once I removed myself from the discussions or arguments. The view gets way wider and brighter when you step back.
- A leader’s reaction always outweighs the original action by those he leads.
We are all prone to emotion. We get angry, we get sad, we feel irritated by different events, actions or even words. Yes, we would all benefit from having a little bit of Emotional Intelligence (EI) but nothing can fix it when the leader is the one who has lost it.
No matter what a member has done. The next action by the admin, be it a warning or a removal has to be carried out in the most unbiased, objective way possible. With this said, it also means, not everything needs an immediate action. Emotions calm down after a few hours. That is the best time to discuss the next course of action.
- Leaders don’t put people on scales, they find the balance.
The admin of a WhatsApp group being answerable for the group content (as per the laws of our land last time I checked) means coming up with group rules. In such a situation there will always be proponents and opponents to any idea. A leader as a human being will also have an idea of what he likes or doesn’t like. But in the end and most times, neither the proponents or opponents are truly wrong. A leader discusses the idea and not the person. Where concessions can be made, they are. The idea is to find a new rule that both sides can find; not worth breaking.
- Leaders know what matters but are not masters of all.
The best part of a leader’s job is when they just get to listen. In this case, to just read pages upon pages of new knowledge or insights. Amongst all these group members are people well versed in their trades. They have gained various experiences being employed or self employed, building or buying, scams vs opportunities, married or single 😅😂 etc. In the cacophony of usual news, memes and small talk. We are surrounded by a wealth of doctors, engineers, finance experts, lawyers, analysts and many more. The best group moments are when a topic is raised and the experts in their various fields come out to play. Sometimes for hours or days. As a leader, this is the best time to sit back and let others drive the conversation.
- You can only manage but not lead those who don’t trust you.
In writing to thank the group members for the gift and the work they have done over the years, I mentioned that due to fundraisers, we have to walk the slippery accounting road. This in itself comes with its own height of trust but I am looking at trust in the wider sense.
People use groups as safe spaces to let out their opinions, sometimes personal news and frustrations. Whereas not all that they send out to a group will be received positively by everyone. They need to know that in the end, they are writing to a platform where they are respected and not judged unfairly.
Since group members being many cannot always be the ones to project that, it is upon the admin to make sure a member feels safe when they translate their thoughts into words. The same goes for a leader and when the people they lead present ideas to them. Members and employees will only be vulnerable with those they trust.
- Maybe you were meant to lead at different times, at different things
My commonly used name in high school was Kîmemia. I tried to get the rest of my dormitory (we all know that is where the name that sticks is wrought) to call me Edu or Edwin to no avail. Some might think I lacked pride in my African name. My issue? I was the only one. It was or remains that rare. And yes I know we have had a CS by the name.
However, this meant once my name was on a punishment black book. There was no escape to be found. I doubt many prefects ever took my admission number which was meant to be the great differentiator. This did however teach me and steer me towards activities away from that punishment parade but I digress.
The group members rarely use my name anymore, when they text me or call me. There are different monikers they use but bar the obvious one “Admin”, the 2 most common ones are Idi Admin (from when I would refuse to bend) and School Captain or SC for short.
In form 1, at the ripe (I say ripe because I was like a ripe round melon) age of 13, I got to be the one who had to stand next to the school captain on the parade ground. This was simply just by virtue of being a form one in the house that I was in. Many form ones before and after from my house have got to do this. I am not special. Here I go digressing again.
You see the school captain was a figure to be revered, the deputy school captain was to be feared. More on that on another day or never. 😂 This meant I would spend time as we waited for the assembly to start imitating the SCs non smiling face and crossed arms, nonchalantly of course so as not to be discovered.
And that is as close as I got to being a prefect. 😂😂
Sure, the person I was then might be different from whom I am now. Even so, I do like looking back on the past when I can even if to just glean one last ounce of wisdom from the experiences. I got to remember that 2 years after high school I was leading and training a salsa dance troupe to collegiate competitions. In campus, I was a French class representative and French Club Chairman. (I am not writing my CV I promise, I have a point.😅). I also happened to be the class representative in the other campus.
Of note is that some of these positions of leadership I took up myself while others were bestowed upon me. I don’t know what exactly changed and when it changed between high school to then to now.. Did it happen due to confidence gained on stages acting or dancing? Did it happen because I was doing something I love? One thing I do know is everyone has their place to lead. Even in a team that already has a formal leader. Be it in something that excites or a new uncomfortable place. All I can look back and say now is that: When it was my time to lead, I didn’t even notice it happen. So take your chance, today!
“Wisdom must be acquired. Experiences must be examined. Lessons must always be learnt.”