Saturday, 21 March 2015

Inclusive Leadership

I have just completed the Inclusive Leadership course on Edx and in this post I'd like to share the keys things you can learn from it.

It all start with an interesting TED talk about creating a movement.
The biggest that leadership is over-glorified. That, yes, it was the shirtless guy who was first, and he'll get all the credit, but it was really the first follower that transformed the lone nut into a leader....If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow, and show others how to follow.

Leadership is not a person!

Leadership is about influencing others to achieve a common goal. Anyone can lead! It requires simple action. Followers are also leaders!

Who is an inclusive leader?

A person who empower the direct reports and team members, hold them accountable, is courageous and show humility. These characteristics are embedded in the acronym EACH.

Empowerment: allows people to do things their way! Support people to develop themselves and give them the space to do so.

Accountability: holds people responsible for their own actions. Trust them to do the job. It's all about results, it does not matter the time they put in it.

Courage: helps people put group interests above personal ones. Inspiring trust letting people know who you are. Be yourself.

Humility: encouraging people to learn from one another and demonstrate vulnerability and trust. Be comfortable sharing your limitation, weaknesses with people around you. Learn from criticism.

Remember, being an inclusive leader is not about “using” everyone’s opinion and building consensus. It is about having your team, direct reports, and those you lead feel safe and comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions to enrich the discussion and arrive at a better solution or outcome.
Inclusion happens when YOU value both the differences and the commonalities of others.
"What’s critical to be an effective leader is you have to be willing to relinquish power. It is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock, it’s “intellectual humility". Without humility, you are unable to learn.", Laszlo Bock
It's important that you spend time to reflect about the kind of leader you want to become and find who are the leaders that inspires you and their attributes or behaviors

My top two leaders that I admire are Bill Gates and the Dalai Lama.

Bill Gates
  • Ability to vision the future and define a clear plan towards it
  • Ability to influence and motivate people and create movements
  • Ability to create things immensely bigger then himself to improve humanity
  • Ability to inspire people to take action
  • Confidence and passion
  • Technical competence and ability to create the most successful software company
  • Tenacity and determination in pursuing goals. He never gives up until he wins.
  • Not afraid of spending money to improve humanity and fight inequality and poverty
  • Ability to communicate complex things in a simple and understandable way
  • Ability to learn from failures and use them as a motivator to improve things
  • Ability to empower people/employees to achieve their potential
Dalai Lama
  • Compassion for other human beings
  • Ability to listen other points of views
  • Ability to keep inner peace regardless of negative situations or emotions
  • Patience
  • Humility and respect of others
An another important thing to be aware of your own unconscious bias and stereotypes
Inclusive leaders are aware of otherness and the impact it can have on individuals. Inclusive leaders not only can empathize with feelings of otherness but are also willing to explore those feelings in themselves and let that experience inform them as leaders and influencers.
It's increasingly evident that business leaders who are capable of experiencing and demonstrating empathy, compassion, and humility have greater success. The best leaders are humble leaders.

What makes a great leader in the 21st century?

It's defined and evidenced by three questions:
  • Where are you looking to anticipate change?The answer is in your calendar! Choose wisely what to focus on.
  • What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional network?Ability to make connections with people who are very different (biological, physical, functional, ...) and despite that they trust you and cooperate with you to achieve a shared goal.
  • Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?Great leaders does not talk about risk taking, they actually do it.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Cambridge .NET User Group is born

The Cambridge .NET User Group, a new .NET technical community is born in Cambridge, UK.

On 10th February, 2015 we held the inaugural event Envisioning the Cambridge .NET User Group and this post want to be a summary for the people who were not able to attend so that everyone is on the same page.

I started the event with my long experience with communities in Italy and in UK, sharing what I think were successes and failures with the aim of clearly define what for me is a real community. The most important lesson I learnt is that it's not about the number of members, or the number of events, or the number of expert speakers you can bring in but it's all about members engagement.

What is a community?
A community is a set of people with the same passion and interests willing to share knowledge and experience every day both online and face-to-face with the goal of develop themselves through collaborative learning.
I like to see a community as a knowledge sharing platform.

What is the Cambridge .NET User Group?
The Knowledge Sharing Platform for .NET developers in Cambridge
Base on my experience with communities in Italy I learnt that it is extremely important to set in stone the principles of a community otherwise future members can easily ruin the initial spirit of the community.

For this reason, I defined our community manifesto taking inspiration from the Agile manifesto.

The Cambridge .NET Community Manifesto

  • Members Engagement over number of members
  • Members Contribution over external experts contribution
  • Constant Knowledge Sharing over sporadic events
  • Collaborative learning over self-promotion
  • .NET technologies over other technologies
  • Free Events over paid event
  • Respect and humility over technical competence

As I said before, members engagement is by far the most important thing. I don't care about the numbers of members, what I want to see is high engagement among members. That's where the value of the community comes in. 

Because members are the key part of a community, the content should come from them and not only from external contributions made by experts in the field. We will surely bring some experts in the future but that's not the goal of the community and events made by members will be always prioritized.

An another key element for engagement is that conversations should not only happens during physical events. Events happens sporadically, every months of two, so it would not be possible to create real engagement only from them. The only way to have real engagement is to have a social network where members can discuss every day online, learn together and share ideas. This is powerful and mandatory for the community to be a real community.

The community brings a lot of value for speakers that can self-promote themselves and improve their brand. This is certainly a positive thing but should not be the main reason why people share. If you only present at events without actively participating in online discussions or collaborating with members you are not a real member of the community. Collaborative learning is the goal. You learn by sharing, people learn from you and everyone grows.

We are indeed a .NET community so .NET related talks are prioritized. Other technologies can be presented in the context of .NET developers.
For the community to really fly, events must be free and will be always free! Presenting to our events will be always a volunteering activity made by speakers who love teaching and being part of a community.

Least but not last, respect and humility are the foundation for every interaction between members. We love people who are passionate, enthusiast, willing to learn and we don't judge them based on their technical competence. Everyone is welcome and nobody should feel worried about it. 

From these principles, the ideal member emerge.

Who is the ideal member?
  • Passion for learning and self-development
  • Passion for .NET and Microsoft technologies
  • Actively contribute in sharing knowledge and experience
  • Open minded and curious about other technologies
  • Believe in the power of “learning by teaching”
  • Love to discuss and share opinions
  • Respect others regardless of their skills
  • Promote the community on social network

It's clear that a community is a win-win situations for all the members.

Now, the difficult part.... how to get content from members?

In my experience, it is really difficult to get people sharing and presenting.

The reason is that everyone of us (included myself) suffer from a disease.

The Impostor Syndrome

We believe other people knows way more than us and we are not feeling "good enough" to share and present at events. Reality is different! We should focus our mind to the picture on the right, our knowledge intersect with the knowledge of others and we have something to share with the world, our unique experiences and opinions. To stimulate yourself in sharing more, you should see this exercise from an egoistic point of view that is for growing yourself. At the end of the day, this is the reason why communities work.
Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.  
William Faulkner
The Knowledge Sharing Process

If you overcome the impostor syndrome, the knowledge sharing process is quite simple.

Do you want to be part of the community?

Participate to the online discussion on the Public Message Board (we collaboratively decided to use this board as our online social platform for now to see how it goes)

Follow us on Twitter @DotNetCambridge. (yeah DotNetCambridge is the short name of the community).

Volunteer to share your knowledge and be a speaker to one of our future events.

Thanks to Red Gate

Red Gate Software is our first and main sponsor. We are lucky enough to have a good equipped room to use for our events and food and drinks offered so that we can focus on delivering great content and be an awesome community. This helps is really appreciated and I'd like to thanks Red Gate for his amazing involvement in making this community a success.

Future activities

We decided to have regular Community Dinners where members get together for dinner to socialize and learn in a more informal way. The first community dinner is yet to be announced but likely to be in May.

We aim to become an official Microsoft Technical Community and get Microsoft as a sponsor. 

I am incredibly excited about the potential of this community and I am looking forward to see what's our members are going to share. Happy learning!

What our members say?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Goodbye DotNetToscana

I am a bit sad but it's time for me to step down as a staff member of DotNetToscana.

I co-founded DotNetToscana 7 years ago and since then the community grows a lot (even if honestly not exactly in the direction I wanted).

The main reason of my decision, is because I founded a new .NET community in Cambridge and I want to focus all my energies in making it a success. Secondly, I am now living in UK full-time and I don't have time to make an impact in Italian communities and actively participate in face-to-face events. Because of this, I am not contributing and getting value out of DotNetToscana anymore.

I'd like to thanks all the members of DotNetToscana that over the years helped me to grow a lot as a professional especially Matteo Baglini, Luigi Berrettini and Nicola Baldi. It has been a fantastic experience and I learnt a lot!

My wishes for DotNetToscana is to see more engagement of members on social networks and see interesting discussions. This will allow me as a member to participate to the discussions. I really hope to see this happening as this is for me the essence of a community.

I wish DotNetToscana the best for the future.