Placing VALUE in personal networks

Time of the Social Bloom

As a social weaver, I think often about my networks.  I do invest 10% of my time daily into reading, sharing and reaching out via the post office, phone, email, Word Press, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest and other networks to cultivate and nurture them.  Certainly this has become a bit more challenging over the years with the complexity of tools, interfaces and compatibility that makes it more challenging.  So what I try to do is the following:

1.)   Create a system and back it up for you to capture all your key and/or tier one connections in your network.

2.)   Flex your documentation muscles as details matter.  Take time to document key information around your networks preferred interaction styles, preferences and likes so that you can remember names of family members, businesses, awards, alma mater, etc.

3.)   Be authentic.  Take the time to send hand written thank you notes, send flowers, books and/or hand deliver a meal.  All of the personal time investment is going away with the speed the internet has given us, so now is the time to re-invest this savings into things that really matter.

4.)   Give a Hoot.  Personally I’ve found that by allowing the twitter application to connect with LI, FB and vice versa, my social networks get these updates and can customize their personal view as needed.  I currently use Hootsuite to aggregate my twitter streams as it has an easy to use platform and a community based approach to support.

5.)   Invest in your purpose per network.  Take the time invest in yourself, your brand or simply hire a social media advisor to partner on your purpose and plan.

Someone recently asked me about the ‘size of my current network’?  I wasn’t sure how to answer this question at first since it really depends, right?  Immediately, I then started to analyze how social has changed the dialogue, the language and currency we use.

This notion of a social net worth is an akin to a financial portfolio.

In the future, perhaps we will be asked when applying for either a loan, credit card or job what the range of a ‘social value’ score that not only help them determine risk, but perhaps what someone views as a social investment.  Truly fascinating how these social analytics are becoming game changers.  As with anything, the public verus private ‘number’ will be something people yearn to acquire.

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.

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.

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?

The Naked Community Manager

I’ve been building teams of community managers for years.  One consistent theme that is required is to ensure that we provide them with the tools, the structure, support and empowerment they need to flourish.  Much of my leadership in communities is spent ensuring that they aren’t left as, ‘naked community managers’.  I’m constantly advocating that they aren’t tethered to the phone so that their brains aren’t oatmeal, am expression that Melyssa Nelson, a colleague of mine uses in community management  to describe a treadmill of being tethered in community life to something that isn’t allowing the deeper time to think, to pause, to reflect and evolve in our community management roles. 

A few insights that I’ve gained over the years is that we need to ensure that we challenge organizational structures and cultures that limit community managers abilities to be transparent in their conversations.  Cultures that restrict community managers desire to advocate community member’s feedback, innovations and ideas.  This is a critical part of our eco-system and should be embraced as foundational in the central activities of what we do as community managers. . 

Our nature as social community managers is to translate what we hear, see and experience through the eyes of our members.  In doing this critical activity, we have a deep sense of what our sponsoring organization could do to thrive and realize a mission or business imperative.  David Brooks calls this “MindSight” our ability to download what members are seeking.   This is why I’m an advocate for empowering, training and supporting this critical part of the fiber of networks, communities or groups.  Listen to this great conversation with David Brooks around ‘The Social Animal’

We as culture and community advocates need to continue to advocate for valuing these skills within organizations.  Ensure that we leave for errors in our employees, groups, networks, communities and ourselves.  We need to continue to make room for space and flow and most importantly, we must create a culture that recognizes and values everyone.   These social artists are some of the most gifted people that I’ve met in my career and I’m honored to create an environment that provides them with warmth, support, encouragement and apparel.

Women Helping Women: Positive Conspiracies of Change

Zazzle mousepad

I had the great honor recently of facilitating a high-level discussion at Executive Networks between Dr. Marcia Reynolds, best-selling author of ‘Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Achieve Contentment’ and senior women leaders from large corporations. The discussion turned to women’s support to each other, and the popular myth that women just don’t help other women in their careers in today’s organizations. The pervasive belief that women who make it to the top pull the ladder up after themselves and somehow act to prevent other women from getting ahead  was firmly dispelled both by Dr .Reynolds and those present..

In her interviews with 100 top women business leaders, Dr. Reynolds in fact discovered quite the opposite. In what she terms ‘Positive Conspiracies of Change’ she has seen, repeatedly, women supporting other women in projects, mentoring, networks and sponsoring, in major and minor ways. This is also our experience at Executive Networks, an organization linking men and women at the most senior levels in global billion dollar companies to exchange information and experience. On countless occasions, online and in person, reaching out individually and through our communities, junior, mid level and senior women are helping each other.  We saw this again in action between the women who joined our Executive Networks Global Diversity & Inclusion Network online meeting this month, where the topic was Succession Planning. According to Executive Networks’ D&I Executive Director Mary Farmer ‘the genuine willingness to share valuable without vested information, self-interest, is something I’ve encountered frequently in communities and networks of professional women, and is a hallmark of Executive Networks. I really don’t know where the idea comes from that corporate women try to undermine each other, this is something I’ve never experienced. Do some women not like some other women? Absolutely, just as men don’t always get along., but my own research totally corroborates Dr. Reynolds’ findings, that women can and do join forces to create positive change and facilitate gender balance in today’s high-performing companies’.

As part of their own on-going positive conspiracy of change these women joining our virtual conversations at Executive Networks frequently have not yet met each other in person, nor have they had years of opportunity to establish relationships — still they show up and share with each other what is working to make a difference in their organizations, sharing extremely valuable tacit and explicit knowledge, to collaborate, to share and to learn together in order to drive business results.  It’s true, it happens throughout the year and it’s very common – women really go out of their way to support each other.  These women will share their stories in panel discussions, during virtual knowledge share events, offer to welcome a new member to our global network in an effort to build their own positive conspiracy of change and give back.   Additionally, they enjoy checking in with each other for support around topics of common interest.   They join conversations to seek the advice of their network colleagues, just as women do everywhere.  That is the glue, the power and the real deal of support in the positive conspiracy of change. Let’s put the ‘women undermining other women’ myth to rest, once and for all.

 Mary Farmer & Michael Tirrell contributed to this post.

Networking Coaching


I facilitated a virtual fireside chat with Sally Helgesen, author of the Female Vision and spoke afterwards about my role as a community weaver at Executive Networks.   I shared with Sally that the majority of the time I spend performing networking coaching with community managers and weavers around approaches and techniques they can consider using as the foundation of building relationships for the purpose of networking. 

What we talk about is how individuals can within the construct of networks build relationships.  I’m not talking about teaching people about selling a brand or building a personal brand.   Rather, as a networking coach, how we spend time understanding individuals and their understanding of themselves, their goals and archetypes.

Do they understand their strengths and weaknesses?  Do they have development areas clearly articulated?  Where have they or do they plan to explore, etc? 

What matters to them in the lens of this network experience?  How have they networked in the past, what are they most comfortable offering and giving to the network?  What do they desire in return?  How much time do they have to spend on these activities?    Only then can we have authentic conversations that are tailored to be high value for time around what is most important to them, their gift areas and new contacts or knowledge they would like to develop.

The role of a networking coach tends to often involve the archetype of a detective, adventurer and revolutionary.

Gratitude as part of a culture

Today on Thanksgiving, it is a day of reflection for many people in the United States, which is always something I enjoy experiencing.  Yet, I’m often left wondering why it cannot be a ritual that we hold on to firmly, as if it were secular, a food staple or a ritual. 

Many people, groups and organizations suffer through this notion of building a culture of gratitude, a culture of giving that fosters knowledge sharing.  To this end, we need to be thinking as leaders about how we hire, who we hire, what we look for in key attributes, as well as our internal people programs, processes and technologies.  We have to do the necessary hard work to partner with HR, IT, Business Units, Geographies and to walk the talk around what that means.  We need to walk the talk, show them the possibilities if we are to share, give and demonstrate gratitude in an authentic way so that people can realize new possibilities.  It may sound simple, but it’s not.  Many organizations have micro cultures, physical cultures, sub cultures, you name it.   Therefore, I wanted to share a few tips that perhaps can become seeds for your own knowledge garden.

1.)     Define key behavior

2.)    Differentiate by level, function and geography

3.)    Ensure there is one key core collaborative, social or KM competency

4.)    Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivators – think about this as you define remuneration

5.)    Tie into the Performance Management Programs

6.)    Become a butterfly that pollinates KM  & Community concepts across the globe

7.)    Walk the Talk

8.)    Build into the talent identification and sourcing process

9.)    Empower leaders to walk the talk

10.)   Revisit, refine and be grateful

Imagine if we were programmed to spend time being grateful as if it were a nutritional requirement how different our day to day lives could be?