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32 Posts authored by: Libby Taylor

About a year ago, I was the internal enterprise community manager for a high tech company in the San Francisco Bay Area. I can tell you, employee engagement was always on my mind. We had a large population of employees nearing retirement age with an average length of employment around 20-30 years. On top of that, most of our new hires were recent college grads, so we had an influx of millennials and all of the challenges that came with it. I like to think of it as the double-whammy of employee engagement: how to keep the tenured employees stimulated while engaging the millennials in any way possible.

 

There's a lot of blog posts already out in cyberspace that talk about employee engagement. We can learn about it from an academic point of view, we can talk about it theoretically, and we can even put it into a cool infographic. And while I do love a good infographic, I want you to come away from this blog with actionable things that you can try in your communities. Let's start with the low hanging fruit.

 

1. Make existing programs better by bringing them into an online community

Do you already have employee engagement programs in place at your company? You can add dimension and depth (as well as increased employee engagement) to these programs by bringing them into your online community. You can use your community to better support the program's objectives by implementing things like transparent leadership communications, online Q&A, information sharing, and public acknowledgement of goals and rewards.

 

Some employee engagement programs that work well in a community include:

  • Innovation award programs
  • Idea jam sessions
  • Employee recognition programs
  • Employee volunteer programs
  • Group fitness/health challenges

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  Idea jam sessions like this can be conducted easily in an online community

 

One note of caution: if you are looking to increase employee engagement in a community setting, you first need to be sure the right program strategy and resources are in place within the corporate organization. Do this by starting upstream from the community. What exactly does that mean?


It's not enough to have an employee volunteer program, then open a group in the community called "Employee Volunteer Program." That bird is not going to fly. You'll need to make sure you have the right components of a volunteer program already in place such as: team leads for each of your sites, an active group of volunteers from each of your buildings, and ideas for volunteer activities that are both supported by the company and fit the passions of your employees.

 

Then when you create your online communities to support these activities you can add more layers to the employee engagement cake, such as assigning a community manager for the group, recognizing an outstanding employee volunteer each month, supplementing the recognition with pictures from the real-live party you threw for them, and asking their co-volunteers to congratulate them on their work. Do this every month, talk about it in real life and talk about it online and you will have a more engaged employee volunteer program (and more engaged employees as a result).

 

One little trick Jive has used in the layer cake of employee volunteer engagement is giving back to the givers. Within our "JiveGives" group, Jivers raised money for a kitten and puppy Snuggle Express event for the volunteers at our Portland Office which in turn raised enough money to host another Snuggle event at a local school, see The Snuggle Express rolled into Portland thanks to some Jivers!

 

2. Face the facts: Engage with employees how they live.

Admit it. You've been looking the other way as employees started using their mobile devices (like iPads and mobile phones) at work. You may have even denied the fact that you use your own mobile phone to check emails at night. I'm going to hold your hand and look into your eyes when I tell you this, these little devices are a powerful and integral part of the future of work. Another thing you might have noticed more is people are working outside the office (gasp) or even making their own work hours (what?!). The good news is that this digital transformation plays into employee engagement because employers can choose to support these new habits rather than discouraging them.

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These days, we're just as likely to work from a sofa as a desk.

 

At Jive, we are admittedly ahead of the crowd. So I will tell you what I've learned about engaging employees by embracing how they live:

 

  • Figure out how to make your systems work with mobile. THIS. IS. HUGE. Go on and get your IT and Engineering teams fired up because this is a challenge for them. If you are an email work culture, better figure out how employees can receive emails on their mobile devices (I really hope you've gotten that far already). If you have systems that employees need access to after hours, such as Concur for expenses, consider encouraging the use of the mobile apps provided by these companies. Provide clear instructions for your employees on how to use them (if they are not available or obvious already). Make sure your fabulous online community is set up to be mobile friendly. Depending on your version and whether you are on-premise, hosted or cloud, the actual how-to will vary.
  • Give employees a longer leash. 100% transparency here, I take the train to work and often have to leave early to catch a train to pick up my kids from school. Then I often work from home in the afternoons and at night. Do I take conference calls on the train? Oh yeah. Do I hold video calls when my kids are in the next room? Yes I do, regardless of the fact that the kids have been known to video-bomb on occasion. I need my work and my life to be integrated, not separated. And my work gets done when and where I need it.
  • Autonomy is key. Do you tell your employees what to cook for dinner or how to get their kids ready for bed? We assume that you hired competent professionals who are awesome at what they do. Give them the freedom and autonomy to choose how to get it done. It might not be the way you would do it, but guess what? Autonomy is one of the key components of employee engagement. Don't believe me? Watch this cool video by RS Animate and Drive called "The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us." It's one of my favorites mostly because I want to draw this fast. I really do.

3. Erase the line between leaders and employees.

Do your employees know the details of the company's annual strategy? Do they feel comfortable chatting with the vice president they meet in the hallway? It's highly likely that there is an invisible (but very real) line between your company's employees and its leaders. At one company I worked at, one executive made a point of looking away whenever he passed employees in the hallway. This is the worst sort of disconnect. How can we engage employees when our executives are actively disconnected from them?

 

Connecting execs to employees can be a pretty big challenge. After all, company leaders tend to be the busiest people around. The last thing they have time for is kissing babies and shaking hands. I would argue that just like in politics, company leaders would do well to get out among the people and do more baby kissing.

 

So what does this look like? At Jive, we encourage, inspire and assist our executives in regular personal blog posts. They write about what is important for the company, for employees, and for themselves in a personal voice. They encourage employee comments and feedback. We take these blog posts and pull them into a news feed specifically for leadership content which is featured on our Jive internal community home page News feed.

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Executive communications via megaphone are ineffective. Try blogging instead!

 

Do you have leaders that refuse to blog? Convince them to participate in an Ask-Me-Anything session. It can start as a yearly event or even quarterly if they are up for it. Develop a list of questions in advance and allow people to post questions in a community group dedicated to the event or if the event is WebEx, have participants send the questions in chat. Provide notes and follow-up conversations in your community group.

 

4. Keep it real and make it personal. Feel something.

Your attitude, especially the attitude you take to work, can either build or erode employee engagement. On top of that, every interaction you have with another employee as a chance to increase engagement. Make each conversation you have online authentic and strive to be positive.

 

How can you be more authentic at work? Tell your story. If you have a community (and the blogs are enabled for your site), you have the power of blogging in your hands. Don't waste it. Write a blog about your experiences on the job. Write about a team outing, write about your weekend activities (as long as it's appropriate for your community and work culture). Take the risk and put yourself out there.

 

At the last company I worked for, we launched Jive as pilot with a very limited number of people. We set very few rules. What happened was a beautiful thing. We had people blogging and meeting online. Collaborating on ideas and chatting about work. People met across time zones and geographies in a way that is impossible in a real life setting. We started to feel something about going to work. And isn't feeling something a huge part of employee engagement?

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Telling your story connects you to others on a human level, making it easier to get work done.

 

Within Jive, employees are encouraged to blog. We are asked to post a blog after our first week of work and are actively encouraged to keep them coming. We've had people share some incredibly personal life details in their blogs. And while it doesn't directly tie to the company's bottom line, feeling connected personally to my coworkers, even the ones I've never met in person, is a powerful thing.

 

5. Finally, never underestimate the power of fun.

Having fun is a natural part of life. Think of the times in your life when you felt the most fully alive (or engaged in the experience) and I bet that you were experiencing the phenomena known as FUN. Fun can be a tricky dance partner, however, especially when you attempt to bring her to work. And like rainbows and unicorns, fun can be an intangible thing for some organizations. Granted, it feels like Jive is on the "more fun" end of the spectrum with our endless beers on tap and a gigantic stuffed ape in the office, so I realize this might be a little hard to pin down for some.

 

My advice on this one, look to the natural cheerleaders in your company. Ask their advice. Fun for your company might be an annual cubicle decorating contest for the holidays, or dressing up on Halloween. Fun might be getting everyone together for a Bike-to-Work day or having a summer BBQ up on the roof of your building. Figure out how fun works for your employees and make it happen.

 

Bringing fun online with Jive.

I think it's important to know what's possible even if it would be impossible at your office. Everyone needs stretch goals, right? Besides the beer, the amazing free snacks, the cocktail hours and cupcake parties, the way Jive has fun the most is in our online community. Employees have started some really hilarious groups, with stellar examples such as "Let Me Photoshop that for You" and "A Group Where We Post Nothing but Kittens." And admit it, at 3:30 in the afternoon, would you rather have another cup of stale coffee or this waiting for you in your community's activity feed?

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I'd take a playful kitten over coffee any day of the week.

 

Take a deep breath and repeat after me, fun is good. That didn't hurt much at all, did it?

 

To sum it up, employee engagement comes back to one key focal point: people. Bringing people together, removing barriers between people, encouraging honest and open communication, and having fun! Each of these factors increases employee engagement. And using your online community for these things can put more power behind your engagement efforts.

 

So tell me, how do you use your online community to bolster employee engagement? Send me screen captures of your kitten groups today!

 

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Check out our new white paper called "Every Screen is a Desk: Engaging Employees in a Work-Anywhere Era"



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And if you're a fan of slideshare, check out: Employee Engagement in the Work-Anywhere Era

Inevitably I’m asked at a party, “so what do you do?” And my answer of “community manager” never fails to confuse people. Sometimes they respond, “you mean, you run a senior citizen community?” or “you're like a property manager or something, right?”

 

People never seem to get what I do.


Calling all unicorns

 

Part project manager, sometimes party planner, temporary hand-holder and erstwhile cheerleader, community managers have a wide mix of skills and areas of knowledge where they must have expertise. See How to write a Community Manager job description for the dizzying array of talents required. It’s nearly impossible to find this list of skills in one person, so hiring for a community can be very difficult. On top of that, experienced CMs are few and far between. I would argue that community managers are the unicorn of the 21st century. So to all of the other unicorns out there I say: "UNITE!"

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    Join me on the community management rainbow!

 

I can say without a doubt that each of us is a rarity in our own company. Very few companies have more than one or two community managers on the entire staff. There's typically no job classification for us and we are often entered as Marketing Specialists or Communications Experts or even IT Managers. But we know the truth because we live and breathe community. Call us what you will... we are COMMUNITY MANAGERS.

 

It might be slightly dramatic to say that it can be a lonely life (I do love a little drama). At the very least, we must look to each other here in the Jive Community to get our tough questions answered and celebrate our wins because there is most likely no one else at your company that knows the trials and tribulations of 'community' better than you do.

 

Celebrating you and your communities

 

In the spirit of Community Manager Appreciation Day, we are celebrating you and your communities! Adam Mertz asked you to share your communities with us and you've responded with rich examples!

 

An amazing example of community came earlier this week from DIRECTV. Their human resources organization created a video you can see here which is authentic and entertaining while perfectly illustrating the power of community.

  CORE, DIRECTVs Jive instance, brought together their community in ways never before possible!

 

Other fantastic examples of communities were submitted via screen capture.

I'll highlight a few here but won't share them all because I don't want to steal Adam's thunder when he recognizes all of you with your Starbucks rewards!

 

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   The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas | The Clive community

 

 

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   LANDesk | External Community


 

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    RingTo | RingTo support community

 

 

And thank you to everyone who submitted screen captures... we love and appreciate you all!

 

Have you hugged your community manager today?

 

At the end of the day, managing a community is an exciting yet exhausting undertaking: meeting new people, constantly putting out fires, running around from group to group, fixing problems on the fly, handing out virtual hugs when needed. Community managers are required to be everywhere at once yet are often behind the scenes moving mountains that look like molehills. I know that when I look into the tired eyes of another community manager, I just KNOW what the other person is thinking.

 

We do this because we love it.

 

So to all my brothers and sisters in community, Happy "Unicorn" Day!

    I would've bought you this fabulous greeting card for CMAD day but they were all out of stock.

You might remember Mike Muscato from JiveWorld14. He's a Sr. Developer for Knowledge Management Systems & Social Media Support at T-Mobile and had his photo featured on Vote on the best attendee photo of JiveWorld14!  Since the How I Work interviews were a little scarce on developers, I figured we'd give Mike the spotlight! There's some developer specific questions in the mix below (look for the *).

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   Mike at his desk... where the magic happens!

 

Libby: Where do you work?

Mike Muscato:  I work for the Uncarrier, T-Mobile USA, a national provider of wireless voice, messaging, and data services and CNN’s top tech company of 2014 (US).  I live in the high-desert near Albuquerque, NM but work for our headquarters in Bellevue, WA.  We have an office in Albuquerque where I spend about 60-70% of my time, the rest of the time I work from my home in the mountains about 30 miles outside of ABQ.

 

LT: How would you describe your current job?

Mike:  By title I’m a Senior Web Developer, but in reality I’m a jack-of-all-trades of sorts.  I started working for T-Mobile when the company was still young as a first-tier customer service agent.  As I grew with the company, I got to participate in many facets of the enterprise including customer service, training, IT, business strategy, and analysis.  Our team manages our Jive communities including large customization efforts, and we also run an independent development shop where we create custom applications, APIs, and middleware to make magic happen.  Right now, in addition to all the standard project management, code geekery, and system administration, I’m working on a project to implement some more formal software development practices and standards within our team.

 

LT: Are you familiar with the Jive WorkTypes? If so, what was your WorkType?

Mike:  I am an Energizer.  The description fits me well; when projects get tough or people get discouraged I tend to take on a project manager-like role and help break things down and establish realistic timelines to make sure the work gets done.  The statement, "You are the go-to-person for getting things  D-O-N-E,” is 100% on point!  I’m a very analytical person, and can almost always come up with solutions even when others have said it’s “impossible."

 

LT: How do you think your WorkType plays into how you get work done in Jive?

Mike:   Over and over again, I’ve used Jive as my project management headquarters!  Depending on the nature of the project, I’ll use Jive groups to brainstorm and capture requirements, publish wireframes or spec documents, gain approvals, and even map timelines and milestones.  Having all the content in one intuitive location has always been beneficial for me and my project stakeholders.

 

LT: Did your team have a chance to take the WorkType Finder quiz? Have you all talked about your results?

Mike:   We did, right before JiveWorld14.  We all agreed that the WorkTypes matched our styles closely and were similar to other “personality” type assessments such as DiSC profiles.

 

LT: What was your favorite part of attending JiveWorld this year?

Mike:  The developer’s keynote was the best for me, it seems like every year’s keynote has one or two little things that turn out to be profound ah-ha moments.  The Git presentation along with some of the other developer sessions really reinforced the desire and need for me and my team to clean up our web development processes.

 

LT: So how do you use Jive at work (internal community, external community, etc.)?

Mike:  We have several Jive communities that we use for pretty much the full spectrum of functions.  We have an internal community primarily used as a knowledge base and discussion forum for our customer service teams, but business groups also use the internal community for collaboration, projects, and other ad-hoc communication needs.  We also have a customer facing support community (support.t-mobile.com) where customers can find information and documentation, or have peer-to-peer discussions.  In addition to these two communities, we also have several other read-only communities that support our sales, retail, and partner brands (e.g. support.gosmartmobile.com).  Whether we’re using Jive as full blown collaborative communication platforms, or as read-only knowledge bases, we’ve always found tons of value in Jive’s ability to customize, tweak, and hack them to fit our mold.  I like Jive because it doesn’t make me rage within 10 seconds like some other systems I use.

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   Welcome to T-Mobile Support, one of the sites Mike mentions above.

 

LT: What's your computer situation... Do you use a Mac or PC (or something else)?

Mike:  I’m an iHole, through and through.  I use a Mac Book Pro with an external monitor, and with the new features in OSX Yosemite my iPad Air 2 and iPhone have become third and fourth monitors in a way.  I also have a PC that I typically use via remote desktop, but only for legacy company tools that require IE, or for testing IE compatibility of my code.

 

LT: Tell us what you use for your mobile device?

Mike:  Which one?  Hahah!  For an all-around, do anything anywhere, rock solid dependable device I’ll have to say my iPhone 6.  Once upon a time, I was a total Android geek – custom ROMs, hackery, etc…  But the stability of the iPhone and its integration ability with the mac won me over.  It may not do everything that 'those other phones' do; but what it does, it does really REALLY well.  I think consistency is the key here.

 

LT: What’s your favorite programming language?*

Mike:  That’s a hard one to answer.  I have to give credit to good ole’ BASIC on the Commodore-64; without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  In the early 2K years, I was hardcore with ASP/VBscript and it’s still probably my most fluent language.  Hopping forward to the modern languages, I’m partial to C-based languages, though, as they all follow similar conventions.  For customizing Jive, Javascript/jQuery rocks!  JS has become such a powerful language in the last few years, and now with JSON APIs, we can do almost anything with the right client/server relationship.  For the server side stuff, I’m loving PHP right now because it handles things like JSON so cleanly and you don’t have to think hard about the syntax when switching between JS and PHP.

 

LT: Do you have a favorite editing tool?*

Mike:  Komodo Edit.  It handles syntax highlighting and predictive text pretty well, and I like the easily customizable color themes.

 

LT: Who’s your developer hero?*

Mike:  A good old friend of mine from high school and college, Jared.  When I was struggling in my C++ class, he took the time to break down the more complicated topics into layman’s terms for me, and even gave me code samples that I was able to adapt to finish my projects successfully.

 

LT: Pick one word that best describes how you work.

Mike:  “Details"

 

LT: Besides Jive, what apps/software/tools can't you live without?

Mike:  Coffee, that’s a tool, right? It seems to ‘light up’ the parts of my brain that solve puzzles.  After that, a good SQL database manager; without it we couldn’t make the custom magic happen.  Lastly, Photoshop for everything from mockups, to custom artwork, to t-shirt designs.

 

LT: Do you have a favorite non-computer gadget?

Mike:  My rock climbing cams.  Small machines that keep me safe hundreds (or thousands) of feet off the deck.

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  Developing a community can feel like climbing a mountain with your bare hands. Except the real thing is clearly much more dangerous!

 

LT: How do you stay organized? What's your favorite to-do list manager?

Mike:  For a long time, it was good old paper and pencil – I used a personal adaptation of the Franklin-Covey method to track notes and deliverables.  This year, though, I’ve been experimenting with Apple’s Reminders app.  Having all my to-do lists and their respective notes synced and available on all my devices has proven to be really handy.

 

LT: What you surround yourself with is important, what's your work space like?

Mike:  I spend about 60-70% of my time in the office where I have a large cubicle against a wall of windows (see the picture at the top of the interview), the walls of my desk are decorated with photos of family, drawings from my son, awards and recognition, and nostalgia from the ‘old days’ of cellular phones.  I’m a wee bit cluttered, but overall my desk top is in good order, with a stack of graph paper always at hand for any sketching needs.  At home, I have a dedicated room that my wife and I use for our office.  She works from home full time, so I guess you can say I have a great view any time I’m working from home. When I get tired of looking at her, though, here’s the view from our office window…Yes, it snows in New Mexico!

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   Nice view, right?!

 

LT: What do you listen to while you work?

Mike:  I’m not much of a music-while-working person.  I’m a bit ADD’ish so music tends to derail my thoughts.  I actually appreciate silence quite a bit and will sometimes put in my headphones just to use as ear plugs to block out the droning chatter of the call center reps.  When I do listen to music, though, I like something fast and energetic – heavy metal and hip-hop are my go-to genres, but I like and can appreciate almost any kind of well composed tunes.

 

LT: What's your best time-saving trick?

Mike:  This one’s a bit of a paradox…but I really like to comment the heck out of my code.  Even though it takes longer initially, when I have to go back months or years later to maintain something it saves me tons of time from having to reverse engineer what I had written previously.  “Future proofing!"

 

LT: How do you balance work and life?

Mike:  Life and family comes first, period!  My wife, son, and I all have a bunch of extra-curricular activities so I have to put “hard stops” on my work days.  I like to live in the moment and I work in order to have amazing adventures in life – I don’t live-to-work.  T-Mobile has a good culture of work/life balance and respects the boundaries we establish.  Most of the time, the work isn’t *that* critical.

 

LT: What's your sleep routine like?

Mike:  Not the best.  I get up around 5 am to get ready for work and get my son ready for school.  After work, we usually have some sort of athletic thing or school projects to work on, then dinner, etc… and by the time I’m winding down for the night, it’s 11 pm or later.  Weekends are no exception, but substitute climbing, hiking, or other outdoor things for “work."  Six hours or less of sleep is typical, 7 days a week.

 

LT: Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Mike:  I like to call myself a closet introvert.  At work I’ve trained myself to do what needs to be done and with all the connections I’ve made over the years my work life is really just a huge extension of my introvert ‘bubble.’  I would guess that most of my coworkers would not immediately judge me to be an introvert.  On the other hand, put me in a social situation with strangers and I shut right down, becoming the ‘quiet observer.’

 

LT: What's the best advice you've ever received (and from whom)?

Mike:  “Live in the NOW!”  My dad always taught me that what’s happening right now is what’s most important.  Try not to dwell on the past, as those are just memories and there’s nothing we can do to change them.  Don’t stress about the future, because you can only plan so much before it becomes anxiety.

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   Here's a picture of Mike living-in-the-now with his family. Looks like an adventure!


My great thanks to Mike for coming up with such great answers to these questions. I hope you enjoyed the interview!

As we enter the holiday season, my thoughts are focused on spending time with my family. I look forward to watching holiday movies like ELF (you're going to need to watch this clip because it will make you happy). ELF is one of my favorites because of Will Farrell's infectious childlike joy...

Then there's the Holiday Inn where my kids and I enjoy the song-and-dance while seriously discussing the nuances of historical context in some of the questionable scenes. Before we watch White Christmas, we enjoy preparing a sandwich to put on the mantle. What, you don't do this? Those actors look hungry, for reals. And don't even get me started on the Harry Potter marathons. I. Am. So. Excited.


I also have a tradition of baking with my daughter and nieces and letting flour coat the kitchen like a dusting of snow on the mountains. It's a beautiful sight and likely the only snow we'll get in our part of California!

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   The baking babies in action: my nieces Hannah and Nina and my daughter Lucy.

 

At the end of the day, we light a fire, collect candles on the table and shine the light of the holiday spirit on everyone we see and everything we do. <sniff>

 

Community is the ultimate family


For many of us, our family extends far beyond the people to which we are actually related. We have aunties that are not really aunts, sisters that are best friends and neighbors that we've adopted. Some of us have coworkers that are closer to us that some of our own family members.


It's in that sense of family that community takes its shape. People are bound together by common values, goals and tasks whether it's a family, a church, a tribe or even an online community. (See what I did right there? Yeah, that happened.) That's where you all come in!


I might be going out on a limb (or maybe I drank a little too much of the holiday spirit) but I think that the Jive community is a family. I've never before met an unrelated group of people so bound together by passion for a topic or quest for community goals. I mean, JiveWorld is PROOF.

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   Look at this tribe of Jive Community members at JiveWorld14! Holla in the comments if you see yourself here.

 

I believe that in the heart of each community manager is this burning drive to bring people together -- to make an even bigger and better virtual group hug. It's what makes us special.


Warm feelings for my Jive Community family


I want each and every one of you reading this to know how much I appreciate you being here. I appreciate you writing your posts and commenting on other's posts. I appreciate each question that you answer and every piece of spam that you flag for moderation. I am extremely grateful every time you volunteer to run a group or host a discussion. For being involved and present, you have my unending thanks.


This virtual place that we call the Jive Community is REAL. It is real because behind every avatar there is a person. YOU. You might be sitting at a desk, on a sofa or even at a dining room table. You might be located in Los Angeles, London or maybe even Lisbon. You could be working from a coffee shop, hanging out in the home office or posting from a train travelling 70 miles an hour down the tracks. Regardless of where you are, you are also HERE and we are working better together because of it.


Each and every one of us plays a critical role in this family and I rely on you to make this place alive: to light the fires, to help me bake the cookies, to bring presents for the orphans and to laugh at all the "really funny parts" with me.


I might be getting a little emotional, I've already been accused of it today, and the sappy holiday music I have piped into my headphones isn't making me less sappy.


It's like this at my desk...