People ARE the experience

Secret Ingredient

In talking with Nancy Long, Chief HR Officer at Hitatchi Data Systems, One of FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For recently, not only did I get goose bumps,  but found myself going on a journey with her.  Think global amusement park meets data solutions.  Wow, her inspiration is contagious and exhilarating.  Yet I also found it quite humble in that she has an earnest commitment to people as the base ingredient for her success in the people business.

As a foodie, I approach conversations thinking about the ‘secret sauce’.  What she shared with me was that over her career her secret ingredient is/are:  PEOPLE.  People are paramount for this tireless leader in the PEOPLE business who truly embodies this guiding principle.  Wow!  She is onto something to create recipes using PEOPLE in every dish.  She has talent at the forefront of the portfolio in her strategies and how she leads organizations who create winning cultures.  Nancy shared, “our leadership throughout HDS at all levels has done an amazing job rallying, supporting and motivating our people.  We have won several pieces of recognition, locally and globally.  Last year we won “most clued in leadership team in Silicon Valley” which was a HUGE accolade for us!

So how ‘secret’ is this ingredient I asked myself?  Well, after searching Google , I found over 12,590,000,000 results and over 6,839 results when searching Harvard Business Review .  The concept of people isn’t a secret. It’s the ‘art’ of creating the winning cultures that seem to be difficult to realize.  Nancy is like many great collaborative artists, she shares her masterpieces, she invites us to learn from her and receive sustenance we yearn for in the workplace.

In summary, I believe we can all learn from this extraordinary leader to embody the PEOPLE business in every sense of the word.  We must build people talent acquisition strategies that are created by the people, for the people and with the people.  We must use the P ingredient in all our creations, whether they are pastries, pipelines or partnerships.  Indeed this thrilling ride is something you can experience.  All it requires is laser focus on PEOPLE.

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!

Focusing on the Patient

Increasing patient care – this is what it’s all about.  Through my work with physicians over the last few years, I’ve come to really experience how this is  in fact their main focus.  Contrary to what you may read, they do really care about their patients.  Good to hear right?  So, what brings me to share my experience, well I’ve just returned from a weeklong conference which inspired me to write this post.

With the on-set of patients utilizing social media to connect and collaborate, many physicians are looking at these tools as a way to connect bridge and assist in efforts to increase patient care.   It’s exciting to see them embrace a new approach to engage with patients.  We patients, we are hungry for information about healthcare, about the best care, who to use, who has experience, how we  can share our stories and experiences as well as receive information on other experiences.

I was so impressed with Herbert Wolfsen, M.D. at the Mayo Clinic, I  co-authored a medical abstract on his experience in developing a Facebook group to support Esophageal cancer patients.  Why you ask?  Well, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and provide insight into the work Dr. Wolfsen has done in supporting this important group.  Because patients in this group face distinctive issues, it is important for them to connect with each other to share experiences.  The Facebook group is fostering the member’s needs to not only connect with the doctor himself, but with other patients with interest in this area.  This could allow them to have social learning beyond any F2F discussion’s they may have had in the past and continue the dialogue, but through an online venue even richer since it was a larger group.  Overall, I find it encouraging to see such physicians branching out of the hospital and utilizing online tools to enable connections in modern means that engage, support and educate patients.

By Michelle Groff Burling

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.

Inspirational Reading for a Community Weaver

With all the information on networks, communities and social lately – it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  During these times, I need nourishment.  Yes, I’m the first to enjoy an order of sliders, but I often turn to research and thought leaders, which equally “hit the spot”.  Which is why I’m personally finding it exciting to discuss the focus on the value in the networks – the value of the people, the value of potential, business outcomes and new futures we can create within them.  For example, I’m a parent leader in the first ever Washoe County School District Elementary School Debate Club and honored to be a part of a smaller powerful community of children passionate about  research, speech and debate.  They will be our future leaders and it’s stimulating to watch them learn and grow.  Yet in my professional life, I thrive when I’m motivated and learning, so I thought I’d share some recent research that I’ve found inspiring to me of late.

Etienne Wenger, Beverly Trayner and Maarten De Laat worked on relating to strategies for social learning.  I found this paragraph relevant to my community weaver role as I develop charters and strategies often for networks; “Therefore we focus on the value that networks or communities create when they are used for social learning activities such as sharing information, tips and documents, learning from each other’s experience, helping each other with challenges, creating knowledge together, keeping up with the field, stimulating change, and offering new types of professional development opportunities.”  It was inspiring to be reminded of the power of networks.
Thanks to John Maloney, who pointed me to the paper on “Beyond Metcalfe’s Law to the Power of Community Building” That Sneaky Exponential”, which I found powerful when David P. Reed describes “Group-Forming Networks (GFN)s because he states that “As digital networking brings scale and global reach to all aspects of our lives and activities, there will be many more ways that we’ll see scale driven value shifts that threaten established business networking patterns.”  Changing healthcare, risk management and financial services are all examples he cites.  Imagine the possibilities of cancer disease management!

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?

Management Turkeys? Don’t let um get you down!

“Don’t let the Management Turkeys Get you Down” – Yes, that is right, don’t go there girlfriend.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you ever been fired from a job? 
  • Experienced a painful re-organization?

    Sandra Boyton
  • Endured incompetent leadership?
  • Frustrated your dream company had or has a toxic culture?
  • Tired that the white male dominated board of directors put people last?

Well – you are NOT alone.  Many of us have walked this road several times over.  If you are one of us trying to walk it, or even riding your bike on and off road, what I feel you need to know is that you must listen to that inner voice and share your observations, document them and stay focused on what really matters to you.    I realize this is hard to do during these difficult times, but it’s indeed the only way through the tunnel, the pass or down the street.  It doesn’t mean we cannot get off the bike, the trail or the course – what I’m trying to convey is that we do have choices that may not feel like choices financially or otherwise.  But we have a conscious opportunity to treat people with dignity and respect and behave in a manner that we all deserve to be treated.   When I’ve been fired, I found that we do need to grieve and be frustrated.  It’s normal and important to process all the feelings.  I find that it is important to scream, be irritated, punch something, complain and release it.  What have given me the most strength are my principles, my soul and my value structure.  Take this time to be the statue that represents all those things.  Live with integrity, transform the negative into redemption.  Take the moments when those feelings start, try to use this energy to nurture and focus on yourself during this lonely time where you will need to remember that it’s actually your time to shine with your principles and value structure.  For goodness sake, it’s only a job.  It’s not your identity.  Yes, I know, it is inconvenient   – but with laser focus – a positive attitude and a network for support.  This too will pass.  After all, it’s a good time to dig deep inside you for new inspiration.

Thanks to HBR for sharing the focus in their recent series on failure and a shout out to the Sandra Boyton inspired coffee cup sayings.

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.