Community Manners

Etiquette basics such as you’ll find in Miss Manners, Debrett’s and Emily Post apply in online communities also – yet it’s easy to forget about manners when we are saturated in a day to day online community environment, so we thought we could share a few manners we have found most helpful to guide our daily online community lives.

Understand people are different and don’t assume.

Do you like to have your mobile phone beep at you with new status notifications?  How about listening to the noise of a colleague who has sound play for each tweet or instant message that arrives?  The first question is about how you manage your preferences.  The second is about how other’s preferences are important.  Both are part of good manners.  Language is also important – we may think we are being clear when we post a comment on within a community, but often they require clarification, explanation and/or further context.  So, don’t be offended if someone comes across short, unclear or frustrated.  Remember to be understanding, apologize and try to find another way to approach the topic.  So don’t assume that everyone has your experiences, cultural understanding, knowledge or common language – because we don’t.  Do assume positive intent and just invest in deepening meaning and understanding through dialogue and inquiry.


With corporations, individuals may play a role formally, but do have many competencies outside of their current role.  Don’t assume that an individual can’t or won’t contribute simply due to their role, title, etc.  Often times you can miss great contributors if you aren’t trying to assume how and/or what role they play.  Simply extend invitations and offers and allow members to determine where, what or when they will engage with the community.

The old adage that if we build it they will come simply doesn’t work.  We can turn on facebook pages, twitter lists and linked in groups – but that doesn’t mean they will come.  You need to understand your audience first and what is in it for them (WIFM) so that we are building a true ‘community’ where people are connecting over a product, service, business problem, or support issue.  It’s important to be spending time to tend and nurture this community in a non heavy handed way and marketing is NOT equal to community.  If you are approaching the communities as simply the same old marketing materials but in a new medium – that won’t work either, so make sure that you are bringing real conversations that are authentic, open and transparent into the social sphere.

Be honest.

If you don’t have an answer – quickly turn around and use your network within the organization or escalate through your management chain.  The most important thing we can do as knowledge brokers is to find the information quickly and share it back with the requestor and then teach them what we learned.  Was there a broken link?  Then tell them and thank them for highlighting this oversight but tell them you fixed it.  Then share feedback intra organization about this and/or think about how you can influence shoring up any broken processes in the meantime.

Jump in – walk the talk.  You will get more credibility in a commuity if you are active in another networks–don’t limit yourself, consider joining other communities and post interesting research information, good videos and/or other content that isn’t just marketing focused.

by Lauren Klein & Sharon Crost

Social Artistry – Linking the Unlinkable

In a meeting in San Francisco with Etienne Wenger in 2008, we were discussing the critical role of a weaver in the field of Communities.  It is more commonly known as a community manager.  Etienne described this ‘community weaver’ as someone who is a Social Artist.  This was the first time I had heard this term, yet when he described what he meant, I felt validated in the work that I’ve been doing for years. Being a weaver, or what Richad Koch calls, a SuperConnector.

Recently a former colleague was mentioning that they missed my role in the community.  She was lamenting the fact that I’d rolled off that closed community project as I was invited into a new community project.  What she was described to me in great detail in terms of the void that I
left in the community was that of the Social Artist role.  This is why I’m writing this blog post, to help provide more visibility and credibility to this capability as it’s not yet mainstream and therefore something that CEOs and other Executives don’t value within their organizations.

Wikipedia describes it as a technique, “Social Artistry, [6] represents a new model for leadership. Houston, working through the United Nations Development Group, has been training leaders through this modality since 2003. Under the direction
of Monica Sharma, [7]then Director of Leadership and Capacity Development for the UN, Houston traveled to developing nations throughout the world bringing Social Artistry techniques to leadership groups. As of 2011, Social Artistry  trainings and projects are ongoing in a number of countries and new leaders are being trained on a constant basis. This work is supported through The Jean Houston Foundation.”

Puzzle Pieces Cory Doctorow from London, UK

Social Artistry is a leadership skill where someone provides the glue and holds the entire community or network together.  They have an innate ability to see strange divergent connections between disparate concepts together via culture, human beings, and notions of progress and development.  They link the unlinkable.   They foster a feeling of connectedness despite the divergence and most importantly they communicate openly and authentically.    They make what could feel like a fragmented bunch of networks, instead the sense a community has is one similar to that of a puzzle that was recently completed, when you as a member visualize that last single piece snapping into place, which resonates
with your interpretation of that image. It just fits.

Community Cultivation Planning

Wild Northern Nevada Mustangs

Now that I have a community, a community manager and member –what’s next, they ask.  It all depends as one size doesn’t fit all.

I’ve been invited into many conversations regarding what to do once you have a community in place and what I’m consistently finding the
question that begs an answer is, “Do you have a cultivation plan?”  What are you doing as a community manager to tend and nurture your members?  Well, I’m spending time creating FAQs, facilitating webinars for training and answering support questions.  Those are all excellent activities and what I find in my client engagements is that you

need to customize your cultivation plans to the community charter and have
participation architecture in mind as you evolve this notion of a plan.

Here are some elements to consider:

  • Evaluate the health
  • Provide feedback
  • Give recognition
  • Foster cross community connections
  • Identify and develop community leaders
  • Consider  face to face element programs
  • Incorporate social responsibilities
  • Infuse notions of gamification
  • Send out personal thank you notes – yah I said it, use the old school post
  • Refresh your existing approach with on-boarding based based on analysis of members digital habitats
  • Consider cultivating a welcome wagon

These are all examples of things that could be part of your cultivation plan.  I encourage you to ensure that you are thinking about a myriad of approaches to tend and nurture your community as you do any garden.  Good luck and continue to reach out to me with your feedback and
questions.  There is no ‘right’ answer, rather it’s the journey, so consider it an adventure of how you can entice the wild horses to drink from a

Got a Community tattoo, notch or mark?

Last week I attended #JW11 and got to thinking about my personal ‘notch’ metaphorically speaking for a community leather belt.  When you are amongst amazing talent in your colleagues at a conference, it is infectious and one can start to feed off the energy in the room, which I did.  At the
same time, it was an opportunity to reflect on my personal mark in my professional field of Community Building as I had the opportunity to meet
people that I’d not yet had the honor to meet in this field.  Therefore, I challenge each of us as community weavers or managers to think about our legacies, our tattoos, notches or marks that we desire in our community lives.  Is it an adoption rate, a culture shift, a new technology, or new idea?  It’s a very personal manner how one defines their personal mission statement or their approach to the shiny quarter.  Which is why I implore that each of us in our field spends some time quarterly to reflect on our approaches in communication, technology and stewardship?

Lastly, I was relieved when I reviewed the definition of community in Wikipedia, since the sociologists are also confused on the term, Community, as it means something to everyone in a different way.   “In sociology, the concept of community has led to significant debate, and sociologists are yet to reach agreement on a definition of the term. There were ninety-four discrete definitions of the term by the mid-1950s.[1]

Watch for Women

Looking for a great podcast on Global Talent, look no further as HBR has one featuring: Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid of the Center for Work-Life Policy. These are authentic women sharing their research.  In fact,  their candor in discussing the growing achievement gap, developing markets and the blank slate phenomena was inspiring.  When you think about your organizational talent pool globally, or your recruitment programs, it’s no wonder you are left scratching your head when you think about legacy models that aren’t working to keep ambitious and committed women at large organizations.  It’s a must listen, reflect and learn.

Many of us are highly committed, ambitious and entrepreneurial in nature.  We seek meaningful work that allows us to unleash our gifts all the  while contributing to our local, global and physical communities.   We desire work that allows us to fly.

So thank you, to all the women in my positive conspiracies of change (deceased and/or alive) –as you have been and continue to be my mentors. I’ve forever grateful.  Don’t fret, I am too investing paying it forward through my circles of influence and look forward to continuing to build these bridges and opening these doors for generations to come.

Community Valor

MerriamWebster’s defines valor as, “strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness: personal bravery.”  Whether you are working with an organization or an individual on their personal behavior or knowledge blind spots, you should come to the table prepared with your valor, so as to be prepared for backlash or other fears, which is outlined nicely in the Align Consulting presentation.

I was speaking with a KM Leader recently for a billion dollar company about how his Communities budget was cut and how it’s going to be a challenge to embed in this critical collaborative program into the day to day lives of individuals given the current economic environment
as well as the time that individuals have to invest in realizing business goals.  I coached him to be resilient and speak with others in the field about their programs on the cheap and what has worked for them, as we have all been through difficult economic times within  organizations and it often helps to talk with others in the same space.  But more than anything I’ve found that it requires deep focus on the business outcomes and clarity of mind to allow you to not get discouraged yet channel your passion and energy into a more positive manner that allows you to be brave, while taking risks and weathering the storm.    During times like these that I find solace in professional network as they provide much needed fuel for standing firm with valor. These can take different forms for different individuals- but indeed it’s the journey that is the most important and I’ve personally found that VALOR is a word that I wear with pride, like a flag, it a  symbol, a reminder to focus on the future with hope and possibilities.

Redefining the “People” Experience

Transparency, Trust and Authentic Communications are keys to the kingdom.  This was my take away with conversations that I’ve had with, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for the Disney/ABC Television Group (DATG) is that Steve Milovich is focused on refining the employee experience, from improving professional development, to growing strong capable leaders, and strengthening collaboration across DATG and The Walt Disney Company. The path to success, according to the DATG HR leader, “will be inspired in part by Disney/ABC’s achievements in connecting with and engaging consumers.“  Steve further states that, “This notion of collaborative approaches within the ecosystem of organizations is main stream in large organizations, which is exciting for those of us who understand that networks exist today.  There are collaborative people who are brokering informative actively today that we can help organizations really fly.  Sharing and transparency will help to broker and connect employees, partners, customers or prospects and lead to innovation and new product and service development.”

I’m honored to have had the opportunity to meet someone that is such a progressive leader within a world class organization that truly understands the importance of an
open and dynamic organizations – he truly is an example of the #futureofhr.

In fact recently during a conversation with Jay Galbraith, he reminded members at Executive Networks the importance of implementing an organization that builds alignment using his methodology of the star, which emphasizes strategy, structure, process, rewards and people.  He has found in his work over the years that good matrix organizational structures have strong networks and emphasize social capital.  They not only reward but also recruit the best people.

Overall, the trend line continues to emphasize the importance of authentic people who can help communities, organizations and families realize new heights.  We continue to have opportunities abound and I do hope you will join this important effort of “people” whether they are on during offsites at a luxury hotel, canvassaing for an election or within an organization.

Top TEN – for the Community Weaver “To Do List”

  1. Be Authentic – don’t try to be someone that you are not – just be yourself – be authentic with who you are and
  2. Make Offers – give something –whether it is advice, a hand written note, a mention on twitter or a shout on during a meeting.  Always find a way to ‘give’ authentically and often with every interaction.
  3. Recognize – praise, recognize and attribute work to the sources that you received support, inspiration or provocation
  4. Read. Refract. Read. Refract. – spend at least 10% of your day reading twitter, catching up on RSS for your favorite blogs and/or influencers, but do spend time staying fresh for your personal and professional development.
  5. Know Thy Customer. – invest time to learn about what your customers are doing and saying on the internet so that you can relate to their opportunities and challenges.
  6. Focus on Context – do invest to think about another person’s context, their persona and/or situation before you jump to a solution and/or recommendation.
  7. Be a Profound Listener – it’s very important to spend a large portion of your day actively listening to your customers, reviewing notes, reflecting, journaling, blogging or meditating about what you have heard so that you can incorporate this into your next conversation.
  8. Say No – many wise people remind us often to say no – not every customer interaction has to be a yes answer – sometimes it’s the approach in which we engage that can soften the ‘no’ and/or allow us to setup the no conversation into something that is positive or impactful.
  9. Ask for Help – invest time to ask your mentors, colleagues, peers and customers for help.  Sometimes it’s as simple as asking them to clarify a question, present a proposal or recommend a counter proposal.
  10. Do Disconnect – make sure to carve out frequent time to disconnect from your electronics and day job (s) so you can replenish your creativity well.  Make time for much needed staycations, oblications or vacations.

PBS Case Study Working in the DDES Community


Double Diamond Elementary School has been an early adopter blazing the trail for the effective school intervention system, commonly known as “PBS” – Positive Behavior Interventions and Systems.    Leadership of this program as I understand it has been;   Dr. Kristell Moller, Performance Director for Zone 1 and Zone 2 for WCSD,  Mrs. Michelle Cleveland, Assistant Principal, Double Diamond ES, and Trish Gilbert, WCSD School Counselor who not only have installed banners, but also an acknowledge system that tie’s into the school mascot of Coyotes to allow these little elementary school students to receive a ‘howl’ to reinforce behavior.  These can be accumulated as an extrinsic motivator or ‘incentive’ for the students to be “Respectful, Responsible and Safe”.      As a member of the Counseling Advisory Council, I can tell you that this team works hard to meet the national certification standards and work hard to ensure that they collaborate ideas across the regional schools.   In fact, DDES has another great program called, the “Peace Pals,” which involves training upper elementary school students around conflict management and self confidence to advocate for peaceful resolution on the playground. 

I did want to highlight a tactical recognition program for the 100 Howls collected for these Coyotes, that are the brain child of WCSD is Michelle Faulkner, who has created on a shoe string budget an enviable program that students are clamoring about.  It’s called the Howl VIP Movie Premier Night.  They have creatively branded it as “The Double Diamond Theater” which premiers a new movie.  Think Hollywood!   Well, uh hem… It’s really just a RedBox $1.00 movie rental – but it does involve a faux red carpet (red paper on the floor) for the kids to ‘walk on’ the carpet – and be part of a VIP experience.  Oh yes, the students are encouraged to dress in their best attire, bring a friend and come hungry for appetizers and the movie premier.    They announce the students who have accumulated 100 howls during lunch hour with the presentation of their ‘tickets’ which is a lanyard with their school ID photo and details for the event.   Think Willy Wonka and the Golden TicketJ.  Oh, and the program – well – lit rivals those of a $400 a seat program for a fundraiser.  The cost to create you asks?  The creativity and overtime of one uber committed employee who takes her job of ‘kids and education’ seriously.  This school secretary is the  wizard in all things Microsoft who can cut and paste photos, use publisher and uses fonts with the best of them.  The children are interviewed by teachers as they ‘wait on the red carpet’ by a teacher with a ‘real microphone’ to reflect on their most memorable behavior and why they got the ‘howl’.  One student had been saving up her howls since 2nd grade.  It only took her 3 years to accumulate enough for the coveted VIP ticket – to experience the Diamond Theatre. 

Thanks to these creative and courageous leaders at this school who are committed to using their competencies and creativity to create a best in class effective school-wide disciplinary practice.

Building Employee Communities Questions

Leader Networks, CEO Vanessa DiMauro invited me to guest blog on the topic of Building Employee Communities which we narrowly scoped for the post.  We have had a great active reader response, which has since created the following sets of conversations that I’ve listed below.  In the meantime, I plan to bring these conversations into the blog so that we can share back with one another.  In the meantime, thank you for your interest, support and authentic conversations.  It does take a village.

  • What is the definition of community?
  • How can we transform our corporate culture via community?
  • How is it truly defined in the age of social media?
  • How do you bind it?
  • How do take a two dimensional email conversation and transform it into an engagement conversation and dialogue?
  • What really drives community engagement?
  • How do you build collaborative cultures within organizations?
  • Where do you start to explore the use of a wiki, blog or other tools to start an internal conversation?
  • How do you get Leadership, Legal and reluctant executives engaged with this concept?
  • How do you build internal communities for coaching and mentoring?
  • What are possible tools for knowledge sharing and resourcing?