People, Pull and the Possibilities

With all the new tools that foster serendipity and real time feedback, do we really need HR? 

It will be curious to see how HR organizations use their charter to further contour and shape cultures by partnering with functions within organizations.

I recently shared how I believe that if we in the field of “People” don’t invest more in acceleration versus deceleration in the field of HR, we will work ourselves right out of a job.

The purpose of organizations in some cultures is to connect them to their societies and physical communities.  This is more true today than ever with the powerful social networking tools sprouting up all over the HRIS ecosystem.  Which is why I am advocating HR becoming an accelerator and do hope that they will become an enabler versus something that is slow, behemoth and/or an engine that protects and creates more silos.

The danger is certainly real to use these tools to create more silos and inadvertantly focus less on people.

Recently I saw a demo of an HR vendor who told me they have ‘communities’ and when I asked several foundational questions about what the charter, purpose and cultivation plans?  The sales representative responded with a retort that took me back to the ole’ client/server days where the value was in the ‘push’ information.

Which is why I believethe time is now to think about the People, the PULL and Possibilities.  With the new social tools, we have an opportunity to harness the power of real time peer feedback and accountability all the while fostering candor, transparency and honesty.  If we empower people to be courageous, provide the with processes and tools along with a culture that embraces asking tough questions of one another and management, imagine where could we be?

Lastly, as someone who thinks about social learning and culture, I believe we have a a huge charter ahead of us, with  much work to do especially with the advent of texting and such with our youth.  We must not take our foot off the importance of in person communications that are foundational to healthy feedback, debate and sharing.

The time is now.  So let us POUNCE together!

Engaging HR in the community

Trying to get those HR ‘types’ to engage with your community program?  Feeling frustrated as they are always too busy with annual review, performance planning, executive meetings or leadership programs?  Tired of feeling left out if you don’t fit into those activities or timeframes?  I personally have worked with HR organizations that have traditional cycles that are like clockwork.  They are hard wired into their brains indeed.  It can feel hopeless if you need their connector or link to a formalized Employee Resource Group if you are launching, for example a Women in Leadership Network.  If they are too busy working on the Executive Bonus, don’t fret.  Here are some lessons learned that you may find helpful in your journey with HR.

1.)     Know the HR program calendar and cadence.  What I mean by this is that you ask someone in that organization directly that question or you infer this through the calendar and programmatic activities that you are aware they work on, such as annual holidays, compensation and benefits, end of year bonus, review and new leadership programs.  Just to name a few.

2.)    Clarify their KPI and CSFs.  It’s important to understand what key performance indicators and critical success factors are for their organization.    These will be important nuances and openings for you to align with in the future.

3.)    Build relationships.  If you have been at your company for a zillion years or just don’t respect HR.  Think again, they have a very tall order to get you paid, ensure you have benefits, incentive programs, training and a myriad of other areas in their portfolio.  They are actually way busier than you could ever imagine.  So, start to have empathy and look to understand all the facets of work they do.  For example, if you are in IT and love analytics.  Why not volunteer to attend one of their Lunch and Learns or IT meetings to help them define key data elements and challenges.  Perhaps you could simply ask someone in the department to lunch and ask questions about what keep them up at night.  Their top programs.  Listen and learn.

4.)    Ask questions.  Taking someone out to lunch is brilliant so that you can ask questions either you wonder about that may be tactical or strategic.  Either way, they generally are open to this and will either point you to a lunch or learn event, an open door event or perhaps another person better skilled to answer your query.  Don’t get frustrated, just keep opening doors.  Eventually you will get your answer and learn about your organizational culture and structure more intimately along the way.

5.)    Provide an Offer.  No we aren’t talking about making an offer on a house, what I mean is that after all your ‘listening’ to understand the breadth of their portfolio and challenges, you may hear they have a need to identify a way to get our a program message through an online community.  Now we are talking.  You could offer to either setup the community, be a core team member, leader or better yet, just a facilitator.  Perhaps you could even do the business analysis for a site migration.  Who knows, but there is likely a need for your passion and competencies for communities hitching up with HR.  It just may not be the linear path you originally envisioned.

6.)    Keep an open mind.  This is why it’s so important to suspend judgment and keep an open mind.  I know most of us in the community business are fast talking, fast paced balls of passion.  But there is purpose in stepping back to listen, learn, be strategic, let our minds wander, wait and offer with an eye to being open to new possibilities.  This will only happen if we sit quietly and wait.  Our timeframe may be urgent, but there are other organizations that are building blocks to running the larger business so we must stop and think about not pouring more sugar into the pot, but rather consider a slow teaspoon of sugar in the different batches we cook.

7.)    Show Empathy.  This is an absolute must in our field and is critical to social business as Bill Cripe outlines in this article.

8.)    Feedback.  The only way we evolve is to provide it in small doses.  Be thoughtful in presenting the feedback, consider using one of many feedback methodologies, but don’t settle on not sharing your input.  It’s just not worth it to NOT give it.  We don’t evolve if we don’t give it.

Harmony, Mexico & Ju Ju the Pie Lady

Some may say that it’s the sea breeze, or the Mexican Sol, but I think it’s the culture.  It’s a way in you greet one another with interest, with respect and a grateful heart.  It’s about the harmony of conversation, the fundamentals in connecting and ability to interact with selfless intent.

When one thinks of Mexico, the notion of the perfect pie doesn’t come to mind, right?  Perhaps fresh fish, tacos or lime slices. But pies?  Well, one drifts off to musings of ‘grandma’, or so that is what Julie Barrett has found with her customer base at the Village Square of Harmony.

I always enjoy indulging in fresh squeezed limonada, fish tacos and coconut desserts, but what I find even more fulfilling is when I meet a kindred spirit.  An apprentice in their field with a love for the culinary arts, which is why my recent trip to Mexico I found myself fulfilled when speaking with Ju Ju the pie lady.  She is this gorgeous woman from the inside out.  A Midwesterner at heart that understood the metaphor of my book, Peeled Apart to Find the Heart when I explained to her why I was asking so many detailed questions about her pie and happiness making business.  We discussed lard, magic ingredients in her famous pie crusts and the top secret and most coveted Banana Split pie.  After she learned of my cookbook, she told me about her Mango Raspberry Pie that has just the slightest hint of cinnamon.  It’s like with anything, if you take yourself out of your treadmill of life to peel off that layers of over commitment, anger and  fear to simply listen without intention, you may well be on the thrill ride of your life.  One will never know unless they practice this sacred art of listening.

She imparted the love involved in the process of making pies and the art itself, which in some circles is becoming a lost tradition. This is one of the many lessons that I’ve learned through my book talks workshops over the years.  It underscores the paramount importance of taking time to build relationships, document and transfer knowledge of family traditions.  In many parts of the world, it is essential to listen with humility to what others have to say and find ways to make basic connections.  I was reminded why my work is so important as a communications and communities advisor and coach.  It’s the only way forward.   I would like to thank Ju Ju the Pie Lady whose pie’s I’ve never tasted for practicing this art and willingness to share her story, as it provided the sustenance I needed during a Mexican escapade.

Active Listening, a Core Competency for Social Business Leaders, featuring: Nick Howe

If you haven’t followed Nick Howe on Twitter, it’s time.  He is a social business champion and hero who just happens to be a genius.   This superhero by day has a key role at Hitachi Data Systems , Vice President of the HDS Academy, yet by night is probably the most humble, coolest, geekiest and happiest guy you will ever meet.  He embodies networked learning in every sense of the word.  He engages his industry through storytelling, like at Jive World.  He is foremost a business leader who challenges himself to think about the disruptive nature of social business through active listening.  LISTENING you say?  How many times has a senior leader in one of your organizations taken the time to really listen and not ‘pander’ to you?  Recall and value your thoughts and ideas, synthesize quickly and give proper attribution?  Well, I certainly hope the answer is yes, but if you are like many people, those rare and inspirational leaders are unusual, which is why it’s noteworthy to celebrate when we find the attenuate.  In fact, his personal philosophy is simple:  “make learning a priority, trust that people will step up to a challenge and acknowledge weakness as an opportunity to learn, versus a threat.”

As a business leader he is constantly validating or examining what he believes his and his organizations’ roles are to achieve company goals as a continuous process. Not just a board room exercise once a year.  Yeah, that’s right – the infinite Loop.  Just like great leaders before him have, he is in constant examination of himself and his impact on the organization, his colleagues and his customers.

Merci, for chocolate, active listening and leadership

What I found the most profound in interviewing him for this blog post was his deep personal commitment to being a collaborative leader, who builds alignment, invites people into possibilities and empowers them.  He engages in detailed community conversations with great detail and critical attention to drive business results, yet humble in his overall approach and demeanor that is exceptional.   To use my food metaphors, like a scarce chocolate with intense and subtle characteristics, rich in flavor and depth.  This type of leadership is commendable, addictive and perhaps will become a contagion that spreads the learning fever.  Active listening and reflection are paramount for social business leadership; in fact I would argue these should be key core competencies for leadership.

Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art

Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art.  The working title for this blog post occurred to me after reading the article and comments from “Firms Hail New Chiefs (of Diversity)

If you are reading this article, it’s likely because you have interest in the subject of diversity, right?  Ask yourself this question, do you know where your employee or consumer resource groups are today? What topics are being discussed?  What are the key patterns?  Who is discussing with whom about what?  They are a great source of thought and inspiration, so why not engage them?  It’s highly likely you have either been a member or are involved with either formal or informal E2E, B2B or B2C communities online and/or  groups and teams that meet in person, right?  Now think about your diversity of people (membership) and thoughts or outcomes.  Do you seek change or are you wondering how to get more diverse

Just because you now have a social community channel, it doesn’t mean your community is diverse.  Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art.  It requires a team of  community weavers with valor, flexibility, inspirational leadership and courage.  These individuals link the unlinkable which isn’t something picked up in a certification class. It’s like an fine aged cheese, it requires an artisan and maturity.  Some of the best weavers that I’ve had the honor to work with build trust, foster diversity, invite dissention and are comfortable with the uncomfortable.  Many of these weavers have the competencies, characteristics or learning plans to:

  1. Risk takers.  I think this is a number one rule – don’t be afraid to go where other community leaders haven’t gone before, because that is exactly where we often find the most satisfaction, by blazing new trails to find new possibilities.  So, go on now, get started, and take a small risk, then a bigger one and so on…
  2. Think like entrepreneurs.  According to Wikipedia, “an Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to a person who is willing to help launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome.”
  3. Can work with a shoe string budget.  It’s important to be scrappy and just figure it out versus going the distance to try to get funding.  I often find that if you cherry pick and take that low hanging fruit, get video testimonials, quotes and in expensive feedback that you incorporate into your on-going conversation or proposal, it is faster.  What I mean is that you can ultimately get funding by using a quickly capturing the story along the way that you are recruiting and identifying community members.  It not only creates a social memory and story – but also becomes the basis for a longer term funding pitch.
  4. Creative.  Use new media to bring people into the conversation; do consider a twitter meet up, a new free hang out tool or even bringing someone into a formal meeting via Skype. Whether they are uncreative to you – they may be creative to others.  I recently learned this through using the www.meet-meme.com cards.  It’s colorful, vintage like and fun.  Think about new ways to bring imagery and tactical into your conversations.
  5. Leverage resources.  Check in with all community managers to see if they have a few people they would propose that join your committee, core team or program.  Check in with your social networks as to whom within their companies could come as a guest presenter to bring outside though into your company.  Consider sharing with a competitor during a conference during an industry event.  Read and read more.  There is so much to find on twitter by just searching hash tags, that you will be lost for days trying to make sense of it all.  Make sure to scan the on-line blogs, tweets and industry magazines to tap into some thought leaders, bloggers or commenter’s to get a sense of others to invite into helping solve your problem.
  6. Know thy problems – speaking of the problem. You must know how to clearly define what your problem is and how this community of diverse thinkers can help solve it.  Aka – community charter – but one common way to get people to rally around a conversation is by starting with a problem.  People instinctively want to help, they enjoy competition, sharing and solving – so why not really understand the problem that exists and share it.  Hard to do if it’s a B2C community or even B2B because it can show your warts – but that is what these tools are made for right now
  7. Politically map – ensure you are asking everyone in your social journey along the way that is nodes they would recommend to talk to within the market, geo, function or ERG.  Through this process you will start to uncover diamonds in the rough.  Linda Linfield taught me this years ago, build relationships with those that you want to influence and leverage the relationship you have with them to influence their thinking.  It’s simple and effective.
  8. Walk the talk – it’s a requirement that along the journey, you embody the collaborative principles– it’s contagious.
  9. Engage SMEs – make sure that you are talking to people that face customers and are experts in their subject matter – they will often have direct contact with customers, suppliers or employees that they rely on for their day job. Often times these people are hard to reach whether they are in the Amazon working on heavy equipment or just really busy loving their day job.  But  the people that are doing the day to day work are resources we must leverage – but be mindful they are highly respected and require kit gloves in handling as they are often hard to reach
  10. Encourage inclusion – make your community a safe and welcoming place for members. Do practice being authentic, warm and embodying the community guiding principles!

Community Engagment Tips

Make time to look in the mirror!

Resources – do you have a community manager assigned to ensure you have focus?  Important to ensure that they have a cultivation plan, charter and are working to perform health checks with members to modify and drive accordingly.

Relevancy – are the content assets relevant to the members?  Do they have click thru’s, links and/or are the appropriate length that will drive user engagement?

Feedback – ensure that you are constantly engaging your members to request insight when engaging to ensure that you are incorporating changes and ideas that are member driven as you evolve the community.

Connectedness – critical factors are living and breathing collaborative approaches whenever you approach social learning – so do make sure that you are warm and offer connectedness in your approach as a leader.

Walking the Talk – make sure that you embody the collaborative principles as you operate – it’s contagious

SMEs – thought leaders, subject matter experts or external guests are important to cycle into your community event planning to switch up the cadence and infuse new perspective into the community.

Games and Fun – make sure that you think about approaching your events with some exercises, games or other fun activities to make it more engaging for participants.

Learning – build social learning principles into all that you do relative to your communities.

Leadership – walk the talk in everything you do as it relates to your community.  Drive the desired outcomes to completion, facilitate conversations on behalf of your members and advocate!

Warmth – make your community a safe and welcoming place for members.  Do practice being authentic, warm and embodying the community bill of rights!