Coloring outside the lines in marketing programs

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Coloring inside the lines sounds familiar, right?

Whether in the office, at home or in preschool, we often find ourselves being encouraged to keep ourselves focused, on track in results-orientated organizations. Especially for people working in global knowledge intensive organizations where there is a multitude of cultures, markets and relationships. Why? Because it is complicated. Information is rampant and often can cause angst if taken out of context and/or misconstrued. Which is why recently when I had the opportunity to discuss a Community Launch plan with Kelly Shelburne she immediately made the inference that with fresh thinking around integrated communications and leadership, anything is possible. She believes with the creation of innovative communication programs we need to work as if we are ‘coloring outside the lines’.

Her perspective and leadership communications philosophy was refreshing. She is one of these people grounded in ethical standards with a heavy emphasis on employee engagement because her philosophy looks at the audience, their maturity to the communication theme and any additional organizational context that drives business results. She has a keen eye to culture and patterns. She thinks about harnessing leadership acumen and the notion that people are part of an organization unit or family who all are in varying stages in their relationship with the organization. In a nutshell, she believes there is real power in engagement, and that when that’s truly and effectively harnessed, the possibilities are limitless. She believes in the power of people and of unity – and in the power of ‘One’ – both the ability for a single person to influence great change and the ability for many to come together as one to do the same, when they are engaged and aligned with purpose.

It was so fulfilling to me to hear someone talk about the importance to communicate openly in a manner to engage employees. Especially with an eye to fostering collaboration through blending traditional content streams with video with an eye for a well aligned strategy that enhances internal communications that allow organizations to reach goals. It then occurred to me that she is absolutely right. We as social business leaders need to look for ways that we can color outside the lines. People won’t judge you because you draw inside the lines. We have to be able to go outside the boundaries of the ‘lines’ and yes, there is some risk in that, but in both cases- you can make it look amazing in your own by infusing your style, your color choice or person voice. In fact, we also discussed a recipe for success to color outside the lines with change programs:

• Build alignment
• Invest in wide organizational relationships
• Build integrated communication programs
• Be intentional with activities
• Harness the power of the network
• Be consistent
• Repeat

Makes sense to me. Think about intentional activities that can feed into the larger plan which leverages nodes and leaders in the organization to help with messaging and understanding. Be rigorous, timely and generous with your time. The rest will come. Besides, who doesn’t want to go back to the sandbox and build creative castles like we did when we were five years old in the office?

HAT Trick for Social Business Strategy

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I grew up in Michigan where hockey dominated every day conversation. It snowed most of the year and as soon as the ice froze, skates were pulled out. Which is why I have drawn the parallel for scoring in social business strategy with hockey?
Certainly being persistent, repeating you and being resilient are characteristics we understand. But what I believe we must embody in our actions and words are:

Honest conversation. From strategy model development conversations to actual community conversation. We look in the mirror through social every day and we must be honest with ourselves, with our words, with our actions and our approaches.

Authenticity. We approach our strategy development and social business validation process with authenticity with our peers, our clients and our ecosystem with that top of mind. A shout out to many great thinkers in this area, including: Joe Pine, Brene Brown, Marcia Reynolds and Sally Helgesen.

Trust. If we do the H and A well in our work, the trust comes later. But it is paramount to successful dialogue, strategy development and conversation to establish trust. By the way, it isn’t monetized yet although people are trying to do so. Trust to me is something that is hard to achieve but easily lost.
Just thought I would take a few moments out of a busy day to share some secret sauce.

Born Leadership Legacy

Nothing more fulfilling than reading about how universities, organizations and community leaders are seeking out key qualities that resonate with those of us who learned as toddlers, that we MUST share.  It’s no longer just about the test scores, but rather a candidate or talent’s ability to demonstrate:

Passion   Creativity   Accountability   Flexibility   Focus   Resilience Gratitude

In fact, as the first born of two university professors, these were mandatory skills that I had to demonstrate consistently throughout my youth.  Our family structure valued rigor in an approach to education, peppered with the freedom to fail.  All the while, emphasis on re-invention and repetition.

Now several decades later, I’ve found that this foundation was the basis for my career success in that I learned to value active listening, collaborating, risk taking, and persistence.  In fact, I’ve found that through sharing, I personally have more to gain than loose.  Which is what brings me to the following question?  Why are we still talking about embracing business models which encourage enterprise mentoring, collaboration and connections to talent and learning development programs?

Leadership, it boils down to this simple word.  Whether you talk about leadership on the scale of a billion dollar company, or via deep and lasting impacts a home maker / leader has on their brood or a tribal leader.  We in leadership every single day are putting into motion these ‘systems’ through our actions and words.  Which is why we often see much ado about: Amazon, Zappos, Mary McNevin healthcare as the industry sweethearts who are daring to lead, making laudable investments in people, or is charging forward with drastic strategy pivots?

At a cursory level, you can read about handfuls of leaders who have a burning imperative for being performance enablers.  These individuals have clarity of vision and ensure their teams collaborate and have what they need to deliver results.

So don’t be the ‘tractor in the swamp’.  Be bold and take on the wide-ranging malaise surrounding organizational design structures and performance management systems through your born leadership legacy.

Attributes of a Social Artist

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Building relationships is something of an art; Etienne Wenger calls it Social Artistry.    Someone who can scale the levels of tactical to strategic all the while getting things done, moving them forward, and seeing the forest between the trees.  Donna Garber is a good example of someone who can build relationships with C level folks and employees throughout all parts of the organization.  She doesn’t really see the world in terms of ‘position’ rather she looks for openings so that she can pop into them and offer a new possibility, an invitation for a connection or perhaps simply a gorgeous laugh. 

I’ve hired many social artists over the years and am pleased to share a few attributes: 

  1. Empathic
  2. Much common sense
  3. Quickly finds a thread to pull at for relatedness
  4. Comfortable with ambiguity
  5. Understands and values diplomacy
  6. Strong written and verbal communication skills
  7. Facilitator
  8. Bridge builder
  9. Selfless
  10. Caring

These people have heart, they understand the importance of relatedness, and they have strong active listening skills. 

 

Working with Fear in Community Conversations

Spice it up!

I’m sure you have worked with someone who is resource protective, they operate out of fear or perhaps they just love a good helping of spice in life, like these gorgeous habaneros.  Often times people find themselves working for years to create a position, gain what they perceive to be power, get comfortable or simply don’t want to upset the apple cart.  So the answer is yes, change agents can be perceived as a threat.  However, no need to fret, just be reminded that to enter the conversation, it requires having your tools sharp in your tool belt and ready to get some good use.  Here are a few tips that I’ve seen work in these situations:

  1. Approach the conversation with the business vision as the core
  2. Tie into desired business outcomes
  3. Thank them for the opportunity to talk, share and/or engage
  4. Value them for their role within the organization and their journey
  5. Spend a moment to demonstrate your understanding of their expertise and value to the business
  6. Stand for what you have witnessed and/or experienced and use proposal based language
  7. Share candid and direct feedback to invite new possibilities
  8. Be authentic with your preferred interaction style to honor your needs as an individual
  9. Agree to disagree
  10. Set conversation norms, honor guiding principles and make sure to respect and value one another

Often times in our 140 character and information intense lives we forgot that relationships take a large amount of trust, time and work.  I know, I know, the last thing one wants to do is play with wolves, but often times that can generate the most impactful outcome.  It requires courage, fortitude and resilience.

Social Leadership Retreat

I’m looking forward to the facilitating an exclusive Social Leadership Retreat.  We will be meeting at a private villa nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains in the Baja peninsula in Mexico.  It is located 80 minutes north of Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific Ocean where the ocean views are spectacular, vegetation supreme and proximate to the sublime culture and art that Todos Santos has to offer, where we will discuss and harness our passion in social artistry and leadership for this two day workshop.

We will share next practices in community moderation and social artistry.  This private villa will serve as our retreat for this focused group of professionals to discuss in great depth both professional and personal challenges and opportunities in our fields.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

8:00 Beach walk and yoga stretches on private Pacific Ocean beach

9:00 Mexican coffee will awaken our senses as we our facilitator leads us through a discovery of what is working and making a difference in our industry, what are opportunities and what we can shed

11:00 Key behaviors in social leadership

12:30 Lunch

14:00 Peer coaching on roof top terrace

15:00 Break- Margaritas, chips and salsa

16:00 Activating diversity and mobile in healthcare communities

17:00 Adjourn drive back to Todos Santos

Sunday 29 July 2012

8:00 Beach walk and yoga stretches on private Pacific Ocean beach

9:00 Role of a community convener, weaver and social artist

10:00 Recap Day 1

10:15 Artist’s Perspective: Keys to unlock social artistry, creation and human connection

11:30 Social artist competencies

12:30 Lunch

14:00 Peer coaching on roof top terrace

15:30 Break- Baja Wine Sampling and literature reading

16:00 Reflections

17:00 Adjourn drive back to Todos Santos

We will be using hash tag #SocialLeadership

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.