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I was invited to give my Steal This Process workshop at an Etsy European Team Captain summit last weekend. I was flattered to be invited, and the weekend was pure delight. It reminded me how much I like Etsians and how great Etsy is.

I was invited to present, but learned plenty myself.

A few years ago I organized the first Etsy Germany street team, but stepped down, cranky and exhausted a year or so later. A little secret: I love project set-up and structuring work, but I’ve always HATED managing people.

Listening to team captains exchange ideas and share projects reminded me a lot of my own frustrations, but also illuminated great ways to organize a group to accomplish great things. It also made me think about how I’d do things differently if I was going to do it all over again.

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Here are some of my key take-aways:

1. Break larger groups into smaller ones for real impact. Katja of KM Berlin and captain of the Etsy Berlin Street Team shared how breaking the larger 300+ team down into more intimate ‘success teams’ of 3-4 people really made a difference in getting results out of activities like shop critiques. Meeting with a small group of people you know, like and respect and getting their honest, constructive feedback is much more useful than posting a link and waiting for comments on a thread.

2. Experiment and get things in writing. Anabelle of Second Hand Sandy and captain of the Dutch team Ka-Ching Collectief (how great is that name!) had me taking zillions of mental notes as she told the story of how she got together with a few like minded sellers to organize a po-up shop in Amsterdam. The first one was a bust but the second one was a success. A big lesson learned was to get everything in writing for and from all parties to avoid unpleasant surprises like extra space rental costs after the event has already been planned and advertised.

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3. Great design and branding matter. Margaux of Antonin + Margaux shared a beautifully designed presentation that included lots of the fantastic graphics she uses for her Nantes Etsy team events. Beauty and well put together collateral motivates and engages people to take what they’re doing seriously.

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4. If you want to get something done, ask a busy person. Karli, the dynamic force behind Designosaur and the captain of the Brighton Sellers team amazed with the innate leadership skills and management best practices she seemed to put into practice unwittingly(?). She actively recruited busy people to become team leaders and basically wouldn’t take no for an answer. They acquiesced and proved to be exactly the right people to create an engaged and motivated team.

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6. There’s strength in numbers. Aiste who runs Drop of Amber and is also a leader of the Etsy Lithuania team shared how the group banded together to take on the Lithuanian postal service when they unexpectedly changed their policies right before Christmas – and won! As a result of this experience they ultimately went on to negotiate a group discount shipping rate with DHL.

7. Select and work with equally motivated team leaders. This was demonstrated by Francesca of Ethereal Flowers and captain of the Etsy Italia team who, with several other motivated team members organized a 500 person craft camp. Or Nafsika, who makes beautiful handmade jewelery and captains the Etsy Greek street team. Along with some key team leaders, she managed to build a strong team and organize successful offline events despite the challenging economic climate.

8. Knowledge sharing builds community. Limor who runs Limitz, an Etsy store that sells guides in Hebrew to help sellers get started and improve their shops, began by continuously and generously sharing both her professional expertise and the knowledge she gained as an Etsy seller to any and all new comers. This lead directly to a large and vibrant Etsy Israel team.

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9. Good (or bad) tools impact effectiveness. Moishe, an Etsy engineer lead a requirements definition session and topping the list was group convos (the ability to send a mass emails to your team members). I had forgotten about that. Not having the right tools to do the job made me want to give up on more than one occasion. I’m sure Etsy has a massive backlog of features to get to, but it’s clear they are listening and I left the session confident that they’re on track to fix some of the biggest issues.

It was truly an inspiring weekend, and one of the first things I did when I got home was join the Creative Lab Munich Etsy team and the Sieben Machen Team! The summit reminded me that working in a team can beat trying to do and figure out everything yourself.