Onboarding a DAO Council

Eduardo Abreu
My First DAO
Published in
8 min readAug 3, 2023

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Summary:

In this blog, we will discuss the importance of properly onboarding a DAO council and how it can set the foundation for a successful decentralized organization. We will cover best practices and five essential tips for effective onboarding, including defining the mission and guiding principles, establishing responsibilities and rules, over-communicating, and understanding the motivations and drives of each council member.

Part I: How it went down

Onboarding is a critical process when it comes to community management, and the same holds true for onboarding a DAO council. It can make or break a community’s success. For a DAO council, onboarding is particularly crucial, as these individuals will become leaders who represent the voice of the community and connect it to the decision-making processes. To ensure a successful onboarding, a focus on the following elements is key.

  1. Covering the Mission, Vision, and Guiding Principles:

The first step in onboarding your DAO council is to ensure everyone is clear about the organization’s mission and vision. Without a clear direction, the council won’t have a unified purpose, and their efforts may diverge from each other and the best interests of the DAO and its members. Additionally, defining the guiding principles for how members should treat each other can help create a positive and respectful tone within the community.

2. Managing Expectations:

Managing expectations is crucial for running any successful community. If council members are uncertain about their roles or expectations, it can lead to disengagement and inefficiency. Clearly defining responsibilities and communicating expectations from the beginning ensure that everyone is aligned and motivated to contribute effectively.

Let’s break it down:

A. Create a list of all the responsibilities needed to run an effective DAO Council. Then, ask the Council members to weigh in on whether or not anything is missing. Once there is a mutually agreed upon list of responsibilities, ask the Council members to self distribute. Emphasizing an equitable allocation is critical.

B. Openly discuss time expectations.

  • How much time do you have to give for the DAO council?
  • Make this role fit into their schedule, don’t make their schedule fit into this role. For example, if one of your council members has a full time job and has a two year old baby, simply ask them how many hours per week or month can they devote to council duties.

C. Set expectations.

  • What are the consequences if you miss a meeting?
  • What if you’re not executing on what you said you were going to do?

D. Alignment phase.

  • For example, if someone is not meeting expectations, is there an off-boarding process?
  • Allow nominated council members to back out if they realize that they cannot commit to the expectations. Ideally, this would have been covered before the vote, but it’s imperfect here.

E. Make sure council agrees.

  • Where the Council agrees to the mechanisms through which they can hold each other accountable to their commitments such that they agree to mechanism to removing a member or promoting certain types of actions)

3. Being Clear with Schedules, Communication Channels, and Documentation:

Open and transparent communication is the lifeblood of a DAO and its Council. As such, it is essential to create a communications plan that covers how, when, and where information will be shared. Regular updates, meetings, and discussions help keep everyone informed, engaged, and on track. Take into account different time zones and preferences to find a schedule that suits all members.

You and your DAO Council agree on:

  • Where will you communicate?
  • Setting a meeting cadence. How often should you meet and for how long? What time of the day works best for everyone?
  • Setting a meeting agenda and desired outcome for each meeting.
  • Where can the DAO council find important information? Do we have a place to document all relevant information for the DAO council.
  • Establish a method to record and disseminate DAO Council decisions

4. Get to Know Your DAO Council Members:

DAOs are all about the people (if done correctly.) Understanding the motivations and passions of each council member is crucial for building a cohesive team. Knowing their “why” and what drives them to contribute to the community allows you to leverage their strengths effectively and foster a supportive and collaborative environment.

5. Set Boundaries for Yourself:

While over-communication is vital for the successful onboarding and functioning of a DAO council, it’s equally crucial to set boundaries to maintain your well-being and effectiveness as a community leader. By adopting these boundary-setting practices, you create a balanced and harmonious work environment that promotes the growth and success of your decentralized organization.

Here are three effective ways to set boundaries while leading a DAO council:

A. Transparent Communication about Offline Periods:

It’s essential to inform the DAO council if you plan to be offline for an extended period, such as a weekend. By being upfront about your unavailability, you foster understanding and patience within the council. They will know that you are not intentionally ignoring them and will respect your need for personal time.

B. Define Your Working Hours and Availability:

Clearly outline your working hours to the council members, particularly if you will only be occasionally checking the Discord or other communication channels during specific hours. Establishing this boundary ensures that council members know when to expect your responses, and it encourages them to be mindful of your time.

C. Encourage Openness in Seeking Support:

As the leader of the group, you play a significant role in shaping the council’s culture. As such, you should encourage council members to be open about their need for support or feedback. Let them know that seeking help is welcomed and that collaboration is essential for the council’s success. By setting this example, you foster a supportive and cooperative environment.

Part II: Validation from an outside perspective

The above points are incredibly relevant when organizing a DAO Council — and we have witnessed first-hand how improperly setting expectations can ruin relationships and working dynamics. It is important, however, to draw a distinction about whether or not a DAO Council is being formed at the onset of a DAO (like in the case of MFD), while a DAO is already underway, or in the most challenging of situations, as a replacement to an existing DAO structure.

Establishing a DAO Council at the Start of Your DAO

The cleanest approach, as we can expect, is when a DAO Council is starting for the first time at the onset of a DAO. In this situation, the only baggage with which to contend when implementing the above, is interpersonal dynamics. Here, the natural tendency to play nice as you meet one another needs to be overcome and a particular focus needs to be placed on creating rules that enforce positive behavior that benefits the DAO and disincentivizes toxic behavior that either works to the detriment of the DAO (think self-serving behavior) or leads to challenging interpersonal dynamics where one voice stymies all others. Among the interpersonal baggage that members could bring are: egotism/altruism, introvert/extrovert, seeking/avoiding confrontation, seeking glory/overly humble, etc. To be clear, however, this is a risk at all stages and establishing the right culture and North Stars are crucial to setting the right culture and tone for the DAO.

Establishing a DAO Council While a DAO is Already Underway

In the case of setting up a DAO Council for the first time, but within a DAO that is already well underway, the baggage from interpersonal dynamics is compounded by the history of the DAO. Even if the community recognized the need for a Council and voted on establishing one, the rationale for each member’s vote, their motivation for delegating to a group, is likely not uniform either. Depending on the DAO’s structure, there could be a nested structure of committees or groups where each feels that their counterparts do not appreciate them or are actively working against them. In one DAO with which we were affiliated, a Council was formed in order to “unblock” decision making because the dynamics between subgroups were such that each group felt that the other was to blame for their inability to advance their objectives. Another DAO could be devoid of sub-groups, but if they possess a core team that is remunerated by the DAO or the founders, establishing a Council will need to contend with the way in which the core team operates and a discussion on separation of roles, responsibilities, and powers between them is warranted. In another DAO with which we were affiliated, this dynamic was not properly managed and the Council was quickly perceived as a token institution with no ability to influence nor achieve anything. As you might imagine, that led to a dissatisfied community and Council.

Establishing a DAO Council as a Replacement to an Existing DAO Structure:

The case of setting up a DAO Council as a replacement to an existing DAO Council is the most challenging scenario. Here, we are not only contending with the baggage from the two prior scenarios (unfortunately these things stack) but you are also contending with the history and behaviors associated with the prior Council. If the new Council is a reaction to mismanagement or malicious behavior on behalf of the old Council, convincing the community that “this time is different” will be a large impediment to overcome. Even if the new Council is empowered by a community vote, this context reinforces the need to set expectations as well as agree on actions to remediate poor behavior. Communication of these to the community, however, needs to be a priority. In one DAO with which we were affiliated, they took pains to mitigate this risk. Among the steps that they took was to ensure that the succeeding Council did not overlap with the exiting Council. This DAO also ensured complete transparency about the exiting Council’s work, decisions, projects, and internal deliberations and made them available to the community and to the incoming Council.

In all of the above instances, the process detailed earlier is an invaluable guide to ensuring a properly functioning dynamic. Beyond that, adhering to these steps is only the first part because it is all for naught if it is not communicated to the community in order to align expectations and actions. In order to lead a DAO, the DAO Council must be established to promote the best interests of the DAO and not waver from that mission.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, proper onboarding of a DAO council is the foundation for its success. By following these best practices, including defining the mission and guiding principles, establishing responsibilities, over-communicating, and getting to know council members individually, you can set your DAO council up for a thriving and productive future. Remember, a well-structured and supported Council will lead to a more vibrant and engaged community, making the onboarding process an essential investment in the growth of your decentralized organization.

Disclaimer: The above represent the personal opinions of the authors and should not be ascribed to any affiliations thereof. Further, the above does not constitute a recommendation or solicitation to purchase or sell any assets that may be referenced herein. As of the time of this writing, the authors may or may not have positions in any above mentioned assets.

This article was collaboratively written by Eduardo Abreu and Monica Rojas.

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Eduardo Abreu
My First DAO

Crypto enthusiast. Passionate about bringing crypto’s disruption to traditional finance. Background in corporate strategy & business development