Community summit discussion notes: Revitalizing contributor teams’ leadership pipeline

Title of session: Revitalizing Contributor Teams’ Leadership Pipeline

Facilitator: @cbringmann

Notetakers: @ninianepress, @peiraisotta

Personal check-in about the topic

How do we feel about the leadership pipeline?

Discussion objectives

  • Identify the challenges to the current leadership
  • Explore motivations for folks becoming leaders
  • Discuss barriers that prevent people from embracing leadership 
  • Brainstorm potential solutions
  • Identify future pipelines

Key points

Identify the challenges to the current leadership

We don’t know what we are doing – things work, but we don’t know why we’re doing specific things.

There’s a different onboarding experience for each team and personal unstructured mentorships, but we don’t know all the things that we have the power to do or all the tools that are available.

Team reps don’t have clear instructions; we have followed some guidelines without knowing the reason why those guidelines are in place.

Burnout and overwhelm are a reality and the confusion doesn’t help.

There’s a particular challenge in understanding what is a “leader” in our ecosystem: 

  • Leadership: whoever is very active in the projects (WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. and MeetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on will help you find options in your area. organizers, folks heavily involved in the releases and projects being sustainable, etc. and not only team reps)

From other sessions we realized the lack of definition of what team repTeam Rep A Team Rep is a person who represents the Make WordPress team to the rest of the project, make sure issues are raised and addressed as needed, and coordinates cross-team efforts. is, but we know that it’s not necessarily a lead. So, we don’t have a structure to define what a leader is in this community. People who are louder might be perceived as leaders leaving behind other folks. Formally, the only clear definition is a project lead.

Community members expect organizers and team reps to have all the answers, but many times leaders don’t have answers or the power to make the change requested. It causes a frustrating feeling that we do and don’t have the power to create positive change.

There’s a real need for clarity since there’s a lack of documentation for stewardship roles, and people have to:

  • Make mistakes and ask for forgiveness in retrospect
  • Be pushy and take initiative

People expect team reps to move things forward, but there’s no clear way forward often, no documentation, and it’s clear reps can’t do whatever they want. This makes it incredibly difficult to get anything done.

It’s difficult to find people who are willing to share responsibilities in local teams:

  • There’s a lot of focus on global stewardship, but not enough for local communities.

If we don’t have a clear idea about the responsibilities of a leadership role, we can’t onboard new leaders.

New contributors think they can only contribute to small tasks and they don’t realize they can become a team rep.

Leadership onboarding doesn’t exist on all teams and projects.

There’s a lack of connection between local teams and their respective global teams.

Explore what motivates folks into becoming leaders

  • Desire to learn as well as a love of learning by doing, and contributing
  • Desire to support and empower others
  • Maintaining and supporting a local community or project
  • Filling a gap, no motivation
  • Feeling empowered and helping others empower themselves
  • Seeking opportunities to fix things and knowing that we’re making progress (Ex. a high number of closed tickets)
  • Learning how the whole project works – the challenge of getting to learn how everything is connected is the motivation

Discuss barriers that prevent people from embracing leadership roles

  • Contributors aren’t aware about the possibility of growing into leadership roles.
  • The contributor pipelines are clearer on some teams than others.
  • There are knowledge barriers with a lack of documentation on many teams.

Brainstorming potential solutions

  • Better documentation and maybe a few centralized places for the documentation that is needed by different teams:
    • “What is leadership” in General Documentation or the Marketing Team, and maybe linked to team pages on how reps work on their team as well as what the role looks like and what it takes.
    • Further asynchronous discussion will be needed.
  • Request the information that is missing
  • Create an auto-updating chart on or where ever we can find the people responsible of each project and team
  • Leadership training: give contributors the path and tools to develop their leadership skills 
  • Mentorships to help contributors look for opportunities since current leaders can recognize future ones and can help them step into the role little by little
  • Small steps into the role
  • Keeping and maintaining the human component related to leadership without getting lost in process

What are the incentives to being a rep?

  • Every successful contribution helps as a learning opportunity that leaves reps feeling empowered to lead.
  • When a rep is able to lead someone, it further helps develop their skills, which feels great, especially when the project moves forward.
  • Some reps have no motivation to lead, they just became leaders because they were told by others to fill the open, much-needed position.
    • You can lead and inspire without being a rep.
  • In some cases, there’s an aspect of mentorship where if someone notices your hard work and says the role could be a good fit for you, it can snowball; it can be really encouraging and motivating.
  • Knowing your contributions are live for over 40% of the (public) web.
  • You don’t need to be a rep to learn a lot, but it does happen.
  • There are a lot of opportunities on the Test Team and other Teams.
  • You can start to see where there are gaps that need to be bridged.
  • Learning how everything works can be really motivating.
  • Having a role where success objectives are clearly defined such as counting the number of closed tickets is definitely motivating for many.
  • The trust everyone puts in you is empowering.
  • Helping foster a strong sense of community is motivating.
  • Human connection and making life-long friendships.

Identify future pipelines

  • Starting or facilitating meetups and being active in the community can help someone spot you to encourage you into a leadership role.
  • One of the jobs as a rep isn’t just to lead, but to see and encourage others.
  • Mentorships and documentation are key.
  • Create a system to ensure that the current leaders support the next ones by mentoring them and walking them through the leadership path
  • Standardize badge system including leadership badges
  • Standardize training path to leadership (to get the badge folks have to take specific course) and we could use material already available on the Learn platform, or decide what’s needed during contributor days
    • Courses or to-do lists may not be accessible for everyone, unless they’re short and concise
  • Expand and standardize leadership roles to include something like junior and senior reps both globally and per team
  • Offboarding process for when leaders want to step back (information transfers, access removal, etc.)
  • Process to transfer the knowledge 
  • Defining leadership roles is crucial for reps but also for working groups
  • Visuals are needed to understand the structure of everything
    • There’s already a Marketing issue in GitHubGitHub GitHub is a website that offers online implementation of git repositories that can easily be shared, copied and modified by other developers. Public repositories are free to host, private repositories require a paid subscription. GitHub introduced the concept of the ‘pull request’ where code changes done in branches by contributors can be reviewed and discussed before being merged be the repository owner. for this idea
  • Too much bureaucracy can be a barrier to entry for new(er) contributors
  • Using accessible tools is critical as Google Docs isn’t accessible

#summit, #summit-2023, #team-reps