How Belonging to The Watercooler Community Helps Me Grow as a Leader?

Oana Filip

After six weeks of being a mem­ber of The Water­cool­er com­mu­ni­ty, it seems crys­tal clear to me that such tribes bring real val­ue. Maybe I’m biased since I’ve always been a believ­er of tribes in gen­er­al, but it’s def­i­nite­ly a huge learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty.


For those of you who are unfa­mil­iar with The Water­cool­er, here’s the long sto­ry short. Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Com­pa­ny, kicked-off this tribe to nar­row the gap between lead­ers from all over the world by shar­ing knowl­edge and lessons learned. Today, there are around 400 A-play­ers active in this ecosys­tem, and the cir­cle is get­ting big­ger and bet­ter.

Lead­er­ship, as any oth­er man­age­ment con­cepts, can be tricky to under­stand and inter­nalise. For some peo­ple the word itself only fits the cor­po­rate world, while for oth­ers equals a manda­to­ry role inside any com­pa­ny. No mat­ter the size nor the process­es.

At Pix­el­grade, we believed from day one in the lead-by-exam­ple approach and it kind of works even today. We’re still embrac­ing this mantra, but it’s obvi­ous that being a leader became much more than a fan­cy buzz­word. It implies ton of hard work and con­sis­ten­cy.

There are around six weeks since I’m keep­ing track with var­i­ous debates in The Water­cool­er uni­verse. I learned quite fast that all the lead­ers out there are drained by the same prob­lems, even though the cul­tur­al aspects are often dif­fer­ent. In the end, lead­er­ship is all about peo­ple and their desires, their anx­i­eties, their ambi­tions.

I strong­ly believe that this tribe is help­ing me grow as a leader and a pro­fes­sion­al as well. There are three spe­cif­ic areas in which I feel that TW brings me huge worth.

There are no recipes, no how-to doc­u­ments, no check­box­es that guar­an­tee you will nur­ture healthy pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ships.

#1 — Communication and alignment

We’re liv­ing in a word where we have the expec­ta­tion that if peo­ple know the specs they will suc­ceed. Just show them the des­ti­na­tion, they will get there soon­er or lat­er.

I was sur­prised to notice how much time some lead­ers invest in steadi­ly rein­forc­ing the vision, hir­ing, and long-term strat­e­gy. It’s a nev­er-end­ing task on their list, and they make efforts to spend resources of all kinds to make it hap­pen.

I must con­fess that some­times I take com­mu­ni­ca­tion for grant­ed aka it-hap­pens-all-the-time in a nat­ur­al way. How naive of me! The truth is that nobody will empow­er the team just for the sake of it. Nobody will face con­flicts if you don’t do it first. Nobody will man­i­fest tol­er­ance and empow­er­ment if you’re not show­ing it on a reg­u­lar basis.

#2 — People and the human touch

As lead­ers, the core chal­lenge is relat­ed to under­stand­ing the com­plex­i­ty of peo­ple. There are no recipes, no how-to doc­u­ments, no check­box­es that guar­an­tee you will nur­ture healthy pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ships. On the oth­er side, there are sev­er­al paths to improve the dia­logue, to prac­tice empa­thy, to ask bet­ter ques­tions and to get mean­ing­ful results.

I saved plen­ty of resources and quotes from the lead­ers in The Water­cool­er com­mu­ni­ty, and while they’re not a solu­tion per se, they’re def­i­nite­ly a valu­able entry point.

How­ev­er, the ping-pong of ideas is the most rel­e­vant for some­one like me because I deeply res­onate with real sit­u­a­tions man­aged by real peo­ple in real life. This is the right spot to dis­cov­er such sto­ries.

You have plen­ty of chances to avoid some hard lessons and gath­er small wins faster and safer.

#3 — Roles and responsabilities

Being a leader makes it quite tempt­ing to act like a hero and try to solve all sort of things by your­self. You know it bet­ter in the end, right? Not real­ly.

One of the main goals as a leader is to help peo­ple step out of their com­fort zone, to help them expand their skill set, to embrace more chal­lenges in a safe envi­ron­ment, to give before they get. It’s true that lead­ers wear mul­ti­ple hats, but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try at least to bor­row some of them.

The guys and gals of The Water­cool­er helped me realise that this is con­clu­sive for a leader and it high­lights if he or she does a great job or not. It’s nobody else’s mis­sion to be up-to-date with the big pic­ture, and to cre­ate the best play­ground for peo­ple to shine.

Beside all these non-tan­gi­ble perks, The Water­cool­er com­mu­ni­ty won me as a mem­ber also thanks to the great expe­ri­ence they’re pro­vid­ing. The onboard­ing is great, the gam­i­fi­ca­tion is engag­ing (loved earn­ing those badges), the ded­i­cat­ed AMA (Ask Me Any­thing) ses­sions are inspir­ing.

If you’re a leader in your orga­ni­za­tion or plan to be, The Water­cool­er tribe is the right place to kick-off. By belong­ing there you have plen­ty of chances to avoid some hard lessons and gath­er small wins faster and safer. I’m excit­ed to explore what’s next, but I’m already thrilled that I have dis­cov­ered Claire Lew a year ago. I hope one day I’ll be a leader as good as her. Maybe you want that too.

Oana Filip
Oana Filip

Digital storyteller @Pixelgrade and community builder for creative industries. A true believer in the power of making the world a better place.