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6 Posts authored by: dme

It's 2016 and I know you're already rolling. I thought this might be a good moment for a shout-out to the whole CM community out there. Another year of full-on passion has just begun.

 

CM.pngEven at my company people often still look at me with that "what's that?" look when you tell them that you're a community manager. So, should you have that experience, just forward the below:

 

A community manager is someone who's bright, crazy and passionate. A community manager believes where others might not see or give a damn. A community manager already runs while others still stand and ponder. A community manager flies where other don't even see the wings. Community managers are doers and fervent believers, eternal optimists and roaring idealists, loud-mouth visionaries and lovable nutcases and occasionally they are also pains in the butt, too - but always with the best interests of the community at heart.

 

Community managers thrive on honesty, openness and care. Community managers are rebels with a cause. The cause to make people happy, the cause to do everything in their power to motivate and empower and engage and inspire everyone in the community. Community managers build and foster and connect with emotion, with heart. For community managers, it's personal. It's not a job, it's a community, a bunch of human beings, family.

 

Community managers are change agents. They nurture and embrace and nudge and sometimes push to get more emotion, more heart, more fun, more life into the community. Community managers kick ***, play the court jesters and help in any way they can. They offer what's required - advice, smiles, ideas, sparks and sometimes bear-hugs, too. Community managers do whatever, whenever, wherever. With them, the physical and the virtual worlds come together. They are the heart, they are the soul and often they are the conscience, too.

 

To all the community managers out there: Let's make 2016 the next most awesome year ever! To everyone else, remember that community managers, as much as they like giving, enjoy getting those smiles and hugs, too.

 

Happy 2016 everyone!

PS: For all those coming to JiveWorld16 - I'll see you there! I'll be sharing some of my experiences around leadership engagement. Special shout-out to Kathryn Everest and Claire Fletcher for making it possible - greatly looking forward to it.

According to a study cited by Susan Cain in her TED Talk, "The Power of Introverts", a third to half the people on the planet are introverts. So, just to be clear - introverts are in your team, your family, everywhere.

 

So where's that unconscious bias, you may wonder. Some are ex11-09-2014 11-47-10.jpgtroverts, others introverts - big deal, right? Here's the big deal - our school systems are geared toward extroverts, our media landscape touts the wonders of extroverts, office spaces favor extroverts ... and when it comes to leadership - introverts are often passed over - they're haven't been outspoken, they haven't been heard half as much as the extrovert. We've been geared to subconsciously assume that the extrovert must be the better expert, the better/stronger choice.

 

Understanding introverts: Check out this excellent (and beautifully drawn) infographic

 

Introverts are often mistaken as being shy - no! That's not the same thing, far from it. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is about preferences and stimulation. While the extrovert thrives on open, group, loud - the introvert is at his/her best in quiet surroundings. I've written about creativity and the phenomena of Groupthink before. We need our caves of solitude to come up with the great stuff. But how do we tackle the rampant unconscious bias surrounding introverts?

 

There's top-down and there's bottom-up - there's the leadership and then there's the individual. As the individual I'm with Carl Jung in thinking that we're not either or - we have both sides, with either the introvert or the extrovert simply being the dominant side. As individuals we can do a lot - we can get to know ourselves, we can learn how we tick and learn how to use our less dominant side when required. As a writer by trade, I'm an introvert at heart - I could spend weeks and weeks in my cave and write and be creative and thrive - sigh - the mere thought is bliss. But at the age of 19 I went against my introvert grain and out into the world - and discovered my extrovert during those journeying years. For me, it is about balance - today most people probably think me an extrovert and I'm comfortable playing that role. But I wouldn't be half as centered if my writing didn't allow me the continued quality time on my own - my treasured solitary time.

 

Now how about leadership? How should leadership tackle this unconscious bias? By the way - Unconscious Bias is a huge topic that's continually addressed as part of Swiss Re's Diversity & Inclusion efforts (see the Iceberg Model on the right to learn about the many issues). We tackle UB with articles, videos, e-learnings, in-person trainings. We're on a path and that's what matters - the best we can do is continually raise awareness about the many habits, the countless things we do without thinking. UB is something that will never be overcome - but something we all can take responsibility for, within our own sphere of influence and beyond - see something? Call it. How will open space offices deal with introverts - knowing that they thrive, are at their best and most creative for the company, if they're in quiet surroundings? How will line managers be able to compare/reward their extrovert and introvert team members fairly? I'm sure you're working with introverts - heck, chances are, you are one yourself. How do you experience this unconscious bias?

JIVE has made a huge difference, for me personally, and for the company as a whole. Social platforms are amazing in many ways - one of those ways is that they're a perfect solution for introverts. From the solitude of their caves they can strut their stuff, vibrantly, on their own terms, for the world to see.

My company's Europe division had an annual offsite gathering last month. A group of leaders met to share, discuss, learn and tackle the next set of challenges. This year, they took another leap, virtually!

 

Crown.jpgI've been investing a lot of time to stop leaders from engaging in closed-off leadership conferences and to instead report from them with real-time insights. A big step forward is that you designate someone to be the fly on the wall, step into the blogging zone and report out on a moment-by-moment basis with impressions, quotes, pictures and more.

A next milestone is reached when no one needs to be designated anymore - when leaders themselves do the reporting.

 

At this recent leadership conference, I did nothing. I was virtually there with them - but simply to help promote the work that others were doing there on location. The presentations, the discussions, the break-outs, the impressions, they just kept getting published. I've counted more than twenty Swiss Re leaders that had taken the time to share their experiences - and not once, but again and again. It was truly vibrant reporting all the way up to the regional president.

 

The messages that resonate from such activities are strong. Aside from the actual content, the reporting itself said, loud and clear, that those leaders thought about their colleagues at home. Sharing is caring - easily said. But these leaders did it, consistently, despite hectic schedules, they took the time because they understood the value (and, nice side-effect, they clearly had fun doing it!). For employees in the many locations it was like being there and they viewed, liked and commented - direct interaction with the engaged leadership.

 

With Jive's reporting features it was effortless to follow the activity levels of the community. The main event took place on Thursday and Friday - 1.5 days - and the engagement resulted in over 10'000 views. Even without these huge numbers, I'd be proud of the virtual engagement of these leaders ... the numbers are the icing on the cake. Kudos!

 

Below are screenshots of daily activity:

10March.jpg

(10 March > pre event video announcement)

11March.jpg

(11 March > First leadership blogs)

12March.jpg

(12 March > pre event discussions, more blogs)

13March.jpg

(13 March > 1st day of the event)

14March.jpg

(14 March > 2nd and final day of event)

15March.jpg

(15 March > weekend!)

"The Rise of the Network Leader", a new report by the CEB, contains a few nuggets that have value for every current and future leader (yes, that could be you). Times are changing fast and leaders must learn to navigate those highly promising times.

 

NetworkLeadership.pngThe report says that ever more is expected of senior leaders - more responsibility, broader objectives, faster results and roles that are more and more global. Where at first glance this sounds like a burn-out waiting to happen, all it really means is thinking broader, more encompassing, more networked. Today we have amazing technological capabilities - we have Ourspace, an internal network that allows us to network everything and everyone, to engage real-time, anytime, to foster, to help. This is where the new type of leadership comes in - they don't have to do it all - but they do have to enable, support, encourage and live it - the more employees see their leaders active this way - the more employees will follow their example, eager and willing to help beyond their desk and eager and willing to look (and find) those who allow them to perform even better.

 

Traditional leadership is what's called "transactional" and "transformational". Those are the roles you'd expect - organization, direction, strategy, execution, fostering culture, driving change, inspiring. To enable and foster the networked organization, leaders need to take on that third role - the network leadership. This is the one I most clearly see and most strongly identify with - the role that, in many ways, is identical to the one every employee should play - do your best work, help others to do their best work, and whenever possible do so openly and transparently is this builds and grows the networks and makes our company smarter and smarter ("Smarter together" IS our new mantra, after all). Across the company we are the ones responsible to make it all happen - and our leaders need to be the role models.

 

I'll quote one line from the report. I cannot  just attach the report, it wouldn't be proper. But if anyone is interested, just visit here, sign up and get the PDF or read the eBook right there. Here's the line:

 

Network leadership is more about influence than control; it is also a more indirect than direct form of leadership, requiring leaders to create a work environment based on autonomy, empowerment, trust, sharing, and collaboration.

 

As more and more millenials join the workforce and as connectivity becomes ever more pervasive - this third leadership type will become essential - I believe that, over time, this will become the most important type. But don't sit around to find out what happens. Be it. Be that leader you want to have - build your network, work your hardest, help others, always. And with it your influence will grow - before you know it, you'll be that leader.

There's more to leadership than meets the idea. Traditional leadership is hugely important, no question about that. But we all (yes, every employee) can play a leadership role for the benefit of ourselves and of our company. Here's how ...

 

MP900387733.jpgTraditionally, leadership in organizations is looked at the following way: A leader is someone who's in charge of a group of people. This leader is therefore logically placed hierarchically higher, as he/she holds greater responsibilities and decision powers. Let's call this "Leadership 1.0".

 

Today's Web 2.0 has brought dramatic changes, far more action and interaction, far more connectivity, far more "social". At Swiss Re, our Jive platform is called "Ourspace", a thriving collaboration platform that connects the knowledge and the people, allows us to collaborate in a great many ways ... and this is where "Leadership 2.0" comes in. Across the web there are countless examples of experts on any given subject. And most of them are not traditional leaders, they've not been hired for that role, they've not been appointed to that position. There's no hierarchy that puts them in charge of anyone ... and yet they are influencing thousands upon thousands. These are people who are passionate about a certain topic and have consistently focused on it in their blogs, on their websites. Web 2.0 has allowed others to find those experts and their insights. And they sign up for newsletters, they get feed widgets, they follow, they like, they associate. Today the power, the level of influence of these experts, is obvious. They're invited to speak at conferences, they're referenced in news articles, they're sought after by companies, they're targeted by marketers and publishers.

 

So is Leadership 2.0 better than Leadership 1.0? No! But it's clearly different and traditional leadership - and companies as a whole - can greatly benefit if they start employing some of the 2.0 ways. We have leaders who employ blogs and groups to share more and engage more. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Employees join the groups and read the blogs not because they have to but again, because they want to. And because the leaders take the time to share, employees care more and are clearly more motivated. Some might argue that traditional leaders will get more readers, followers, etc. simply because of their position. True to some degree only. I see leaders who are doing this right - they're sphere of influence grows beyond their role. And I see others who don't engage - the differences couldn't be more stark.

 

But this goes far beyond traditional leadership. Every employee can lead. I'm a community manager, my daily goal is to motivate and empower. I tell employees: "You have an expertise. You're passionate about it, right? Then you may want to think about creating a blog and/or a group and begin to openly share your passion, your insights, your know-how. Don't think of it as "leading" - simply share what you know, what you see and experience every day, share what you learn and what you teach ... and over time "Leadership 2.0" will happen. Over time people will read your insights and follow you. Over time, your network grows and so will your sphere of influence. Over time, simply by sharing what you're good at and what you're passionate about, you will be a leader."

I had planned on speaking about this at JiveWorld 2012, but unfortunately had to bow out. If not the stage - then the blog - here goes! Since the advent of Jive at Swiss Re, since the platform we call "Ourspace" went live in 2009, I've been an advocate of leadership blogging (I personally had actually been blogging for Swiss Re since 2007 - but cumbersome technology stopped me from getting leadership into blogging then). Since then I've talked to our leaders about blogging again and again - here are some of my learnings.

 

Leaders are human beings, too (sometimes hard to believe, but it's true!) - and what applies to you and I applies to them as well. To start with in 2009, I often went with the good ole WIIFM (what's in it for me) approach. I showed them that their traditional leadership communications would be hugely augmented by the use of personal blogging on their part. Here are some of the talking points I went with:

 

  • Engage > with your leadership blog, your communication isn't simply down-down information pushing anymore - it becomes active and open.
  • Empower > wether people comment/interact or not, they see that they CAN and they see others who do.
  • Increase trust > The more openly you communicate, the more employees will trust you.
  • Be accessible > Your blogs gives staff a sense that you're there and that your door is open.
  • Strengthen > With your personal engagement you help foster a stronger community spirit (especially also with dislocated teams)

 

Now, three years later - we have highly prolific C-suite bloggers, we have experts and dabblers and we have many still on the fence. And today I have another arrow in my quiver when talking to leadership about blogging. I can use the lovely "peer pressure". With excellent examples to show, I don't have to claim this and that anymore - I can show them "what happens if" with concrete examples by their very own colleagues. In my talks with dozens of our top leadership, I've picked up a few insights along the way:

 

Not all leaders are born to blog

Some will be naturals, some can be guided to become good at it - and for some the idea of writing personally, of sharing in a more personal way, goes completely against their nature. There's no point in forcing someone into blogging because that person will most likely not engage personally. Employees spot fake blogs a mile off. Some of our top leadership felt compelled to blog because other leaders were successfully doing it. But they had Communications people craft their texts and those texts ended up as polished and corporate-y as traditional email messages. They were read, of course - after all they were still leadership messages - but emotionally, the resulting effect was zero. Best practice is clearly "If you decide to blog, then YOU blog". Blogs should not be polished.

 

Corporate readership is jaded

They've seen the corporate speak a thousand times over. Even though I could fix grammar, typos etc. in leadership blogs - I tend to leave it (unless it's something glaring that makes the blog unclear). Leaving typos etc. in place gives the employee that sense that it's genuine - that the leader actually did write it, that no communications person has crafted and polished ... in effect, it helps to make the leader more human (the usual "we all make mistakes).

 

Size matters

Leaders usually are not born writers. I still regularly preach to them that brevity is what they should strive for. Leaders are comfortable hiding behind lengthy statements, writing out every aspect, 10 paragraphs instead of two. They are used to misusing email this way and they are likely to misuse blogs the same way. But this is online reading - short is great.

 

Don't leave your personality at home

Corporate leaders are, again, comfortable hiding behind corporate speak. Our best leadership bloggers are the ones who bring their personality into their blogs, that share their thoughts, opinions, impressions - "leave the leader out of it and just be yourself" kinda thing.

 

Location, location, location

Different leaders use different places, some use their personal blog (on their profile), others blog on a space - but my best practice is really for leaders to create their own group and center it around their blogging activities. Leaders like to say that their door is always open ... but since most staff is elsewhere in the world ...! For one of our C-suite leaders I've created an Ourspace group - a virtual office - where anyone anytime can come in, read his blogs and ask questions, too. The good thing about groups is that people will join it - which again makes them feel a stronger part of something.

 

Responding to comments

Leaders tend to be pretty busy and are always afraid of getting to many comments - I tell them that they don't need to worry about comments. If there's something I feel they should respond to, it will alert them specifically - it'll make them look good and it'll be empowering to the employee (and all readers) if something is noted and addressed by the leader.

 

Leaders like numbers

Once they get into blogs, they want those blogs validated by numbers of views and comments. Explaining the numbers is important. A topic, an image, a snappy title, the day of the week, the time of day, public holidays etc. etc. can all lead to either 500 or 2000 views. It helps to explain it as low viewer numbers might turn a leader off the idea of blogging. Key is consistency - keep at it, keep the blogs coming and the loyal followership will grow organically. But the numbers will always fluctuate.

 

On we muddle!

Cheers

D

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