Reflecting on CMX Summit 2017: Power of Story + Peak Moments = Community Strategy?

Standard

How can we, as community builders, use the power of story and peak moments to build better community strategy?

That is the question that challenged me during and after this year’s CMX Summit. And in the spirit of working out loud, I wanted to share what I learned at CMX and how I’ve been exploring that question since.

CMX Summit was an inspiring three days at the REEF in Los Angeles packed with sessions, strategy workshops and memorable breakout chats with other community leaders.

Among other insights, I walked away thinking about two ideas:

  1. How can we use the power of story to demonstrate the value and power of communities within organizations spread communities within organizations
  2. How can we use the power of moments to make the online community experience more valuable and enhance the member journey to transform visitors into members and members into community champions.

What got me thinking about those two big ideas was the Wednesday morning’s session, a wonderful one-two punch that I’m still processing weeks afterwards.

First Michael Margolis spoke about story and then author Chip Heath shared parts from his new book the Power of Moments.

Michael Margolis session: Why The Power of Story Is Key for Community Success

First, Michael took us through an exercise asking questions encouraging us to explore our personal origin story. He emphasized that, as community builders, we can’t share the story of others if we haven’t thought about, are aware of and are comfortable telling our own personal story.

We did this short yet fantastic worksheet activity as we took a minute to write down our answers to a few prompts about our life story and then we turned to a partner and shared the answer with each other.

This exercise resonated with me and it got me thinking about harnessing the power of the individual story of community members.

That five minute exercise reminded me how important it is to stop and truly focus on community strategy at a personal, granular and individual member level.

So often we think of community as a big group of people and yes, that’s important and true.

But far too often, and to the detriment of the greater purpose and long-term success of our community, once the community grows we often forget that community is made up of individual people who each have their own stories and vital personal narratives. And with those personal narratives community members bring their own stories to the community each time they log in.

“Wow!” I thought to myself as Michael spoke to us that morning. “Understanding our own personal origin story and being comfortable with telling our own story is so important to the success of our community strategy.”

So the next logical thought I had was “We must take time to stop and think about the individual stories of our community members. We must use the power of origin stories to enhance community strategy.”

But, why? And is it worth the time? I wondered.

Yes, it is. It’s worth every single second because when you think about all the individual stories of your community members you can better understand the broader impact and the shared purpose and share value of your community.

By thinking on both a broad strategic level and on an individual member level you can better uncover and connect the common threads and similarities of each member more clearly. And you will ultimately make your community strategic more complete and effective.

Essentially, by thinking with a story mindset, you appreciate the greater whole of the community. You appreciate how and why the community is connected. You can start to think about better ways to engage your members in ways that matter to them on a personal level. And you can begin to think of ways to bridge gaps through the intentional and strategic practice of storytelling.

Listing to what Margolis shared and learning more about the work he has been doing with Getstoried is important for community professionals to understand and put to use. For me, I saw two key ways this storytelling perspective can be a strategic community-building advantage.

  1. Harness and unleashed the power of your community’s origin story to inspire others.

Using the power of origin stories is an exciting way to tell the broader mission and value proposition of your community.

Like all superheros, your community has an origin story and you should spend time finding it and get good at telling your community origin story with passion and conviction. If you don’t have one, then you should begin to question, whether or not you should even be creating a community.

Once you discover your story, you need to begin to shape and mold it. How well you tell your community origin story and communicate it to your company, your customers, new members and doubters, and how well you connect your origin story to the value proposition of your audience and organization will directly influence the long-term success of your community.

And remember that your community story should connect in some way to the mission of your company. Your community origin story should amplify the value and promise your company makes to its customer or employees. Your community origin story should influence and enhance your customer experience at a profound level.

Like your community’s mission and purpose, your community origin story is the most important story to develop first because your community origin story will determine which individual stories you tell and how you tell them.

  1. Cultivate and discover your community’s individual member stories.

Margolis’ talk got me thinking deeper about how every broader community story is made up of an inspiring mosaic of individual member stories. And just like spending time crafting your border community origin story, you should dedicate time searching for and then using the power of individual members stories to inspire and engage your organization.

Where do you find individual stories?

You might consider looking first at your community use cases or success stories. You should also dive into your community itself and observe and listen to how your community members are finding value.

Make it a regular activity to connect with your members and ask them how and why (or why not) they’re finding value.

Ask your members about themselves and learn about their careers, hobbies and interests.

Reflect on what you learn and see how your member’s career and life stories connect to your community origin story. Getting to know what makes your members tick and building relationships with them is one of the reasons I love community building and I hope you love this process too.

Once you find your success stories it’s time to focus on a few and develop them. And, yes, there’s a powerful way to craft, refine and share them.

When sharing individuals member stories with stakeholders, skeptics and others who aren’t yet supporters of the community, I use a concept often used in movies called the “story arc.” I use the story arc in a couple ways.

  1. To help leaders and stakeholders understand the long journey and the gradual transformation a community and its members go through.
  2. I then take it a step further and use the power of a community’s story arc to illustrate how that community, and communities in general, can help drive value for their organization. Basically, I use story arc to make the community more  real, human and compelling to each audience I talk with.

With these approaches in mind you should use the story arc to re-frame how you explain community development. Reframing the value of community development in terms of how a movie character develops is important because it compellingly highlights and quickly demonstrates the fact that community takes time and, just like people evolve in their own life or during a movie, a community’s story and the story of it’s member’s evolves over time too.

Think of your favorite movie and how it took the lead character or other characters time (months and or even years) to grow and evolve into the hero that they are at the end of the movie.

It’s the journey and what the hero experiences along the way that matters.  And there’s no rushing this process. How a story’s hero responds to the challenges along the way is what makes the hero who she or he is.

Same goes for community. Community members are human and you can’t rush a community member’s experience. Sure, you can accelerate and cultivate the process in many ways, but you can’t rush the collaborative relationship that develops between a community member and the community.

It’s both important and exciting to think of how you can use the power of story and the story arc to help stakeholders understand how communities and community members evolve along the value-add journey.

For example, I’ve used the story arc many times to illustrate how a disengaged customer or employee transformed from a community critic to a fully engaged champion.

And I’ve used the story arc to show how an active community member transforms into a powerful advocate for the company brand and mission.

Simply put, the story arc is your framework for building your individual member stories and transforming them into a powerful tool for community adoption.  

Put together and told in the right way, a compelling member transformation story can turn a doubting stakeholder into a fully dedicated supporter of your community vision.

Build your tool belt: Be ready to share your stories at a moment’s notice.

That said, once you begin to develop your member stories, you should think of using your collection of individual community stories like a tool belt you can quickly pull from and be ready to share at moments notice.  

In the past, for each community I’ve helped launch and grow, I’ve made sure to put together a collection of unique individual community member stories that I could use when talking with different stakeholders whether I’m in a formal meeting or one of those “90 second elevator moments.”  

You need to be ready to share your best stories, but most importantly you should have a collection of stories to pull from because just one story won’t connect with everyone.

You must have a portfolio of short, yet compelling, community stories you can use in different moments, because the right story shared with the right person at the right time can be what gets adoption going and rolling at your company.

I can’t stress this enough. Don’t rely on just one member story or just your broader community origin story. You should think in terms of key personas.

Think in terms of your audience.  Think how you can create and find success stories in your community to inspire each of your key personas that you want to reach.

Think of what those doubting audiences need to hear and keep your story laser-focused on addressing all the needs and solving the problems that particular audience is trying to solve. Think “what does that audience needs to experience during the story you’re telling to move into action?”

Okay, so that’s what I was thinking about after Michael Margolis’ session. Now, here’s a few takeaways from Chip Heath’s session.

Chip Heath Session: How Can We Build Peak Community Moments?

Focused on highlights from his and his brother Dan’s new book The Power of Moments, Heath’s talk got me thinking more about all the key touch points of the community experience and how creating peak moments is so important to making the community valuable to customers and companies.

In his book, Heath focused on four key moments; moments of elevation, insight, pride and connection. In the context of community experience, what resonated most with me was the idea of building moments of elevation or what Heath calls peak moments.

To illustrate building peak moments, one concept that Heath shared was the idea of focusing our max effort on elevating the positives into peak moments. He used a scale of 1-7 and showed how most companies focus on improving the bottom rung (1-3) of customer feedback surveys instead of focused on improving the (4-6) more positive feedback issues and moving those to 7’s.

He then explained that this focusing on moving the 1-3’s approach is a waste of time and not very strategic either. Focusing on the negative moments is more costly and time consuming and often doesn’t support the law of 80/20 either, which states we should focus our efforts on the 20% areas of business that generate 80% of returns and revenue.  

Essentially, what Heath is saying is that we should work to take the good moments and use them to make great moments or “build peaks.”  We should find ways to make what is working and make those moments as best as they can be.

This concept and different perspective challenged me to think more about what it means to build peak moments for communities. And I began to ask myself a bunch of questions.

How can having a “build peak moments” approach help us build better communities?

Do we as community builders spend too much time trying to resolve negative issues? Do we get too focused adding new flashy features to the community instead of focused on the basics and what’s working and just make little tweaks to transforming the “good” UX/UI moments into great moments?  

Do we get too focused on growth and acquiring new members and don’t focus enough attention on building and nurturing the relationships with current “lurking” members moving them to active members and transform active members into empowered advocates?

Then I started to think about all the important touch points of community through the lens of peak moments…

How can peak moments help us make our community homepage and what first-time visitors experience more impactful? How can peak moments make the onboarding experience more engaging and valuable for new members during the first 30, 60, and 90 days of joining the community?

And what about peak moments and how community managers approach their work…?

How can a peak moment approach help community manager change and evolve how they moderate discussions? How can peak moments approach help community builders be more strategic in their daily, monthly and yearly planning and execution?

How can we use peak moments to change relationships that are critical for long-term success of community adoption…?

How can building peak moments encourage collaboration, co-creation and knowledge sharing among customers and staff?

How can community managers use peak moments to facilitate new and deeper connections between members?

In addition to those questions, I walked away from Chip’s session with this thought:

If we think more about community strategy through the lens of peak moments, we can better focus on the most important member behaviors, scale those critical momentum-building actions and eliminate the unnecessary actions that don’t deliver value or don’t drive adoption or engagement.

Like the 80/20 rule helps business focus resources on what produces results, we can use peak moments to better focus how we spend community resources and stop wasting time on tasks or members that don’t deliver ROI or long-term results.

Simply put, having a “build peak moments” approach when creating and evolving a community strategy can lead to peak value and adoption for your community.

Without a doubt, the CMX Summit was a “peak moment” for me this year and I’ll be experimenting with these ideas and questions more as I continue to build strategy for the communities I’m working on. And look forward to sharing more of what I learned with you in the future.

 

Spread the love...

What An Amazing Ride It’s Been

Standard

Walgreens_community_management_farewell

 

What an amazing ride it’s been these last five years! I’m grateful for such a tremendously inspiring, challenging and rewarding experience of leading employee communities and collaboration at Walgreens. What an honor it’s been to have had so many opportunities to learn, grow and build new relationships and strengthen partnerships, and help the organization work better and stay connected. I’m looking forward to the next adventure in the business of community management as I head to California and begin the next chapter at Esri.

Cheers and thanks to all who have been part of this amazing journey and stay tuned for more as I continue to work out loud and share what I learn along the way.

Spread the love...

What I’ve Learned In 5 Years At Walgreens

Standard

walgreens5yearsredcouch

I recently celebrated five years at Walgreens, and as part of this career milestone employees are given a ceremonial 5-year pin and the team gathers around as managers and colleagues say a few words about the milestone and the employee’s accomplishments and contributions to the company. At Walgreens, this pin holds an important cultural significance as employees in the stores and at corporate proudly display their pins for 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years of service.

As part of the ceremony, there’s an opportunity for the employee to say a few words. And leading up to my anniversary I started to reflect on what I’ve learned.

It’s been an amazing ride these last five years as I’ve had the opportunity to build an employee community and collaboration program from the ground up, and do it with the help of, and in partnership with, a lot of talented and remarkable people who have influenced and changed me in profound ways. (If you’re wondering why my pin is on a mini-red couch in the photo above, read more here.)

So for my “5-year pin” acceptance speech here’s what I shared as I reflected on what I’ve learned these last 5 years.

I’ve learned…

  • How to take risks
  • How to persevere
  • How to believe in myself
  • How to make and grow partnerships
  • How to lead
  • How to succeed
  • How to fail
  • How to learn from my mistakes
  • How to deal and adapt to change
  • How to manage through ambiguity
  • How to inspire
  • How to be patient
  • How to be assertive
  • The value and importance of seeing a situation from both the 30,000 foot level while still executing on the ground level
  • How to learn from the past
  • How to cast a vision for the future and then execute on that vision in small manageable steps
  • How to be present in the moment
  • How to build a team
  • How to be part of a team
  • How to teach others
  • How to lead leaders
  • How to make something out of nothing
  • How to strategically experiment
  • How to believe and trust in other people
  • How to challenge others
  • How to challenge myself
  • How to grow and mature as a strategic communicator and a thinker

It’s amazing what you can learn in five years, isn’t it?

Spread the love...

5 Books That Should Be In Your Workplace Trends and Working Out Loud Tool Box

Standard

As I continue to explore how to work out loud and grow our employee communities at Walgreens I’m always on the look out to find good books that give me inspiring ideas and stories about how to work better and develop our community strategy. So I thought I’d share a list of books about working better that I’ve enjoyed recently and along with highlights and key takeaways.

The Future of Work

The Future of Work by Jacob Morgan continues to be a valuable resource for me ever since I read it back in 2014. The structure of the book is based around the five trends of the future of work. Morgan frames the trends as an opportunity and a blueprint to retain top talent, build better leaders and build a strong people-focused organization. He weaves in stories, data, research and case studies from the companies who are leading the future of work evolution.

The main theme in Morgan’s book is that if companies don’t acknowledge, embrace and take action on the trends of the future of work they will do so at their own peril. There’s an opportunity cost at stake for those companies who don’t take action on the future of work trends because these trends have a tremendous impact on maintaing a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

I’ve used concepts in this book to help our teams, change agents and community champions at Walgreens understand the bottom line impact and business value of what is happening in our employee communities and the value of having a community-focused business model and organizational structure.

The stories and data in this book have been helpful in explaining why changing how we work is important to improving the customer experience, because, a company needs a strong internal collaboration and community strategy in order to successfully execute their external customer strategy.  As you read The Future of Work I hope you have the same inspiring discoveries and can put the shared knowledge to good use in your organization too.

Show Your Work!

Show Your Work! is the follow up to Austin Kleon’s bestseller Steal Like An Artist. Show Your Work is not a workplace type book, but still, it’s a must for your tool box if you’re a writer, designer or any sort of creative person who wants to learn how to get noticed and grow your craft by proactively and consistently sharing your work. That said, even if you’re in the corporate world you can still take advantage what Kleon says and learn how to share your work to further your career regardless of what you do for a living.

I love how the book is designed as it gets to the point and is easy to read in a few settings then you can dip in and out when you want to get some quick inspiration and motivation. I love the truth-packed quotes and the openness of Kleon’s writing style. He gives you a welcomed insight in to his creative process and doesn’t sugarcoat or romanticize the creative process. He gets down to business but does it in a fun and inspiring way.

The call to actions that Kleon mixes in are also simple when helps you build momentum and take things one step at a time, which is always a sound way to go when beginning any creative process.

As I wrote my three words for 2016 and set the stage for a successfully and productive year, I took to heart what Kleon says about the value of cleaning out our “creative house” and why being a creative hoarder can hold us back from discovering new ideas. So I took a look at my own “creative house” and deleted a bunch of old blog drafts and got rid of other creative baggage that was holding me back.

This is definitely a book that I’ve turned to when the creative writing battle wages on and the always present adversaries of doubt, procrastination and overthinking as they nasty villains try to keep me from showing my work. (I actually re-read it to work through finishing this post!)

Work Rules!

Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock is a great read that takes you inside the mind of Google’s head of people organization. I learned a lot about how Google runs its HR organization and what I love the most about this book is its openness, experimental and adventurous read. It’s inspiring, yet practical and realistic.

One of Bock’s goals with the book was to share what he has learned both in his career and during his time at Google. Bock shares details on various experiments he ran at Google to refine communication between managers, leadership and thousands of Googlers. I love the level of details he uses to share the thought process behind emails that were sent, why they made certain decisions to change the hiring process and what he’s learned from succeed and failing as leader and a manager over the years.

My two big takeaways:

  1. First, Bock stresses the importance of always making decisions based on data. Many times throughout the book he shows how most decisions made at Google involved some sort of data-based decision. I love this because too often we make communications, culture or business decisions without solid data. With the increasing use of communities and Enterprise Social Networks within companies and our growing understanding of Big Data, I believe leading companies will make it a priority to use the data from their internal networks to make all types of better business decisions and discover future leaders in the ranks.
  2. Secondly, I love learning about how Google experimented with “nudging” to improve communication and collaboration among the middle management. Nudging is such an important concept to realize and champion change in a large organization. I’ve used nudging to build communities at Walgreens and it was fascinating to learn how Google did it for their workforce too.

No doubt, Work Rules!, is a challenging, provocative and dangerous read.  It will force you to think about what’s working and not working at your company. It will make you feel uncomfortable (in a good way.) It will challenge you to think about all the ways you can improve your teams and empower your people. It’s definitely a must read for leaders or those aspiring to lead, especially managers who want to learn how to lead their teams better and get insights into how leaders like Bock think.

Working Out Loud

workingoutloudjohnstepper

Working Out Loud by John Stepper is a guidebook for how to work out loud to better your career and life. With the workforce constantly changing and job uncertainty a constant reality, it’s an extremely timely book because it gives you an actionable and simple plan to create, build on or discover a new career path.

I’ve found that you can read it a couple different ways. One way is to see it as a book to create a career you want by following the steps and starting the working out loud circles that Stepper maps out.  The other way is to see it as a stand alone resource for changing how an organization can work better.

That said, at Walgreens, I’ve begun to experiment with introducing concepts Stepper presents in his book, such as reframing how we share work knowledge, which is to see working out loud as making contributions and teaching employees a new way of working that’s focused on helping others and the broader organization to solve problems together versus working in silos or only sharing for selfish and self-promotional reasons.

Working out loud is a new concept that’s been around for several years but it’s just now starting to take root with the increased use of Enterprise Social Networks within companies.

So, when co-workers and leaders at Walgreens ask me what working out loud is and how they should do it and why they should do it and how and why we should use our employee communities to further the concept, I guide them using the understandable framework and examples that Stepper presents.

Stepper ends the book with the call to create working out loud circles. To be honest, I’m still figuring out how working out loud circles fit within our employee communities and broader employee work experience. But even though we’re still figuring out how to integrated circles into the our communities strategy, I will tell you that I’ve dog-eared several chapters and pages and shared them with leaders as I explain how working out loud can help us work better at Walgreens.

For example, I’ve used working out loud as a way to explain who employees can take an active role in our community and collaboration strategy at Walgreens. I’ve integrated elements into our playbook and how we measure success and progress in our communities.

Stepper’s book is filled with honesty and actionable inspiration. Some of my favorite parts are the contributions chapters and the letter that Stepper wrote to himself in which he tells the story behind how his own “ah-a” moment led him on the path to write the book and create the career he encourages us to create. It’s all very inspiring stuff that I’ve taken to heart as I continue to work out loud in my own life and take daily steps and an active role to chart my own career path.

Show Your Work

showyourworkbozarth

Though it has the same title as Kloen’s, Show Your Work by Jane Bozath takes a different scope on the phrase and explores how organizations can leverage working out loud and sharing your work to improve engagement, share knowledge and break down information barriers across the company.

Bozarth is a learning and development pro and it shows throughout the book. The flow of stories and how they’re presented hit on the key pain points that would keep an organization from getting value from teaching their employee to share their work. But Bozarth doesn’t just point out the issues. She provides real and helpful and practical tips and solutions using stories from others who are sharing there work and having success at doing it.

I read the book through a few times and I keep it within arms reach on my desk at work. Being a change agent for working out loud and showing work is hard and can be a lonely endeavor, and many times I’ve used Bozarth book to refresh, inspire and reenergize me. I often use the book to quickly show others on my team and our communities advocates why and how to share their work.

I love the simple, yet impactful stories Bozarth shares.  Its coffee table design makes it easy to dip in and out and grab a thought and then put that thought or insight immediately into action. Like the others book above, this book is a must have for any working out loud champion.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review and I’d like to hear what books are helping you to work out loud and share your work.

Spread the love...

What I Told Grad Students About The Future of Work and Internal Communications

Standard

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 9.34.03 AM

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to graduate students at Depaul University in Chicago about the future of work and internal communications.

Looking back on this talk I was surprised and delighted because it was not only a chance to talk with students about the future of work that’s unfolding within organizations, the talk was an opportunity to reflect for a moment on my own career journey. It was a chance to give back and share what I’ve learned as I’ve seen and experienced first hand how internal social media, community management and other elements of the future of work are transforming and involving the conversation between companies and their employees, making it more transparent, meaningful and relevant behind the firewall.

Here are a few of the presentation slides, highlights of what I shared, plus a few extra thoughts and post-presentation reflections mixed in.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 8.12.24 AM

As I mentioned in my working out loud like a toddler post, my son has challenged me to think about what the future workplace will be like. Seeing the world through his eyes inspires me to think about the changes we need to make today in the workplace to create the best possible future work experience, a work experience that won’t hold back or limit employees but instead will inspire and empower future generations to thrive at work and in their careers. This new way of thinking isn’t just about technology. It’s also about changing that way we approach management, leadership and give employees the tools they need to be inspired about the work they do.

To explain some of the key behaviors that employees will be exhibiting in the future, I shared a picture of my son watching a Ted talk on an iPad and related it to the Seven Principles of the Future Employee that Jacob Morgan has spoken about in his book The Future of Work.

Watching my son grow up and watching how he uses technology to learn about the world around him, it’s obvious to see how today’s workplace must evolve. Organizations must be ready for my son’s generation. But what I stressed was that many of the elements of the future employee and the future of work are already here. I told the grad students that the organizations, at least the ones that want to be relevant and in business 10 years from now, need to adapt to the reality that’s coming and one that’s already here.

Expectations and Opportunities

Looking at my son, I can’t help but see the importance of championing these new ways of working today. He’s going to expect to have these tools to do his job, and if employers don’t change and adapt these new tools and management approaches they’re going to have very frustrated and disengaged employees. And even worse, those employers who don’t evolve will be seen as “behind the times” and won’t attract the top talent and thus will be at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace.

I explained that those entering the communications profession have a tremendous opportunity to be champions and change agents themselves. I encouraged the students to not be a spectator in the future of work. Be an active catalyst for change where ever you work. Put yourself out there. Take risks. Experiment. Challenge yourself and others no matter where you sit in the org chat (if the org chart still exists.)  Make mistakes and learn from them. Always be improving. Figure out what works and what doesn’t. The career path always favors the risk takers, linchpins, and early adopters. And when companies allow ALL their employees to think, act and work in this new way, the company is at a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.

I told the students that they can influence the future of work regardless of age or work experience. I encourage them to be bold and be courageous when they face adversity in the workplace.  I was also real with them. I explained that though it’s an inspiring opportunity, it’s not without it’s challenges.

Road blocks are certain to come. I’ve faced many in my career and I expect many more to come my way. I shared with them a glimpse into how rolling out the future of work at any organization, large or small, is like running a marathon.  And if they weren’t long distance runners yet, they should consider starting because it’s a great metaphor for the exciting challenge that lies ahead.

Sharing a few personal experiences of when I had to push back and challenge my managers and leaders during my career, I explained how many of the old ways of working are still deeply engrained in organizations and you will get push back and resistance. Bet on it. Embrace it, I told them. See it as opportunity to grow and develop yourself. If you don’t embrace it, you’ll get frustrated and stop making progress. You must push on and not get discouraged by setbacks.

Why push hard against adversity? Because that’s where the real learning comes in. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes and successes. Yes, without a doubt it’s an immense challenge to transform a company from the old ways of working and lead them into the future of work. What I’ve learned over the last five years at Walgreens has been priceless and each day that goes by I’m reminded of what I learned, and I challenge myself to apply what I’ve learned to in the past to help me in the present and plan for the future. Because that’s what the future of work is all about. Fail quickly so you can learn quicker. And improve faster.

I only had a short time to talk and I wish I had more time, but what I did share was that I love the rewarding feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. I love the opportunity to help fellow co-workers and leaders do their jobs better.

Connecting people and building relationships is what inspires me, and it’s one of the things I love about what I do for a living. Yes, it’s hard work. But it’s worth it because I know that my work doesn’t just impact the company but it goes beyond the firewall and helps customers too.

Making Cluetrain A Personal Manifesto

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 8.12.42 AM

It was fun sharing this above slide because it was a chance to reflect back on and unpack a bit of the-way-ahead-of-it’s-time wisdom from the Cluetrain Manifesto. It was amazing to see what’s evolved, and what’s not, since Cluetrain first came out in 1999.

Looking at the Cluetrain Manifesto in context of internal communications and community management was a blast as I focused on a few key areas; corporate intranets, importance of communities within organizations and the need for a human voice. I explained to the grad students how we are working hard at Walgreens to integrate these concepts into our daily flow of strategic internal communications.

I shared personal stories of how over the last five years I challenged both myself and others at Walgreens to put the concepts of the Cluetrain Manifesto into action. I explained how it takes bold thinking and courage to step from behind the proverbial and unfortunately pervasive corporate curtain and speak to employees in a real human voice that’s honest, vulnerable and transparent.

Risks, Rewards and Why Humans (Not Robots) Are The Future of Work

daft punk

I shared stories of how I’ve taken risks (and reaped the rewards) during my journey into the future of internal communications. I explained how we utilize technology like Enterprise Social Networks and concepts like Working Out Loud to have real, meaningful and transparent conversations with employees. I shared examples of how members of our corporate communications team have modeled the behaviors of the Future Employee and The Future Manager.

And most of all, I stressed the importance of not thinking that it’s all about technology. Yes, much of the future of work does involve using technology and though I am a big fan of Daft Punk and their robot rock, we don’t need to be robots or be robotic in how we work in the future. We’ve already done enough of that in the past. It’s time to be human.

The future of work needs leaders who are human and are courageous enough to reprogram the system with their humanity. Leaders that are brave enough and smart enough to be vulnerable, admit and learn from failure, embrace their humanity and use all those human elements to transform the workplace and how we work.

Why is being human so important for the future of work? Because, honestly, at the heart of the future of work are humans, humans with which we need to communicate and engage with in an authentic and personal way.

Humans that need to be cared for and guided mindfully and thoughtfully along the way. Humans that need to be encouraged and told (often) that it’s okay to work is this new way.

Humans that need leaders to show that the future of work is blessed by the organization and is top priority for the company.

Humans that need to be led through this new and often scary behavior change.

The Future of Work Needs Leaders and Partnerships

Okay, so I made the point that you can’t have the future of work without real people and we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that just because IT rolls out new technology that employees will know exactly how to use it and know exactly how it should be integrated in to their daily flow of work.

The other important things we need are leaders and partnerships.

Looking at the five trends of the future of work we clearly need leaders at all levels of the organization to guide the workforce. We need to look at leadership differently. From the C-suite to the front lines, I believe we need everyone to be empowered and to have a sense of leadership and ownership of the future of work. The challenge, and opportunity, ahead of us is to complex to only have a few people leading the way and charged with guiding employees through all the psychological, emotional and sociological parts of the human experience that’s unfolding before us. Traditional hierarchies, old ways of management, and department silos won’t get us to where need to be. I’ve seen progress in other companies who are making inspiring changes but we need to continue to push to make it the future of work a reality not the exception.

I ended with the truth I’ve shared with other audiences stressing to the students that it’s critical that strategic partnerships are formed between communications, IT, HR and legal. Those areas of the company must find a way to work together. They must have a shared vision, a clear roadmap and a unified purpose to make the future of work a reality for their organizations. It’s been a key element to success of our community and collaboration initiatives at Walgreens. And if those partnerships are not formed and a priority, the future of work will only be a fragmented effort with limited impact and worse, a failure.

It was a blast and huge pleasure to speak to students about the future of work and internal communication. And I loved the conversations I had with the students afterwards. Special thanks to Ron Culp for making this talk happen and I hope I inspired a few brave and courageous souls to join the journey. And judging by those chats I had with students, the future of work and internal communications looks bright, indeed.

Spread the love...

What My Toddler Is Teaching Me About Working Out Loud

Standard

 

20150329_103450

I was inspired by this Working Out Loud post by John Stepper. It’s a post asking what you can do to accelerate working out loud (WOL). I’m accepting John’s challenge and I’m going to do “my something” and share with you how my son, a toddler, is inspiring me to think differently about and better understand what it means to work out loud.

What is Working Out Loud?

If you’re new to working out loud, basically, as John states, it’s defined as “…making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”

I’ve continue to be inspired by WOL these last few months and I’ve been embarking on my own journey to better understand how I can work out loud more in my life and career. The concepts and framework of working out loud have inspiring possibilities to impact the workplace and as part of my journey I’m going to be sharing more examples about what I’m learning in my personal life and experiment with working out loud as I lead the development of our collaborative employee communities at Walgreens.

It’s Simple…Just Watch A Toddler Play

Alright, now that you’re up to speed on what WOL is, here’s what my toddler has taught me about working out loud.

I was playing with my two-year-old son and it occurred to me that the way he plays is a living example of working out loud. One of the most important parts of working out loud is the goal to make your work observable and that’s exactly what my son is teaching me. This is why I now have a wooden train track and plastic building block on my desk at work to remind me of this important lesson.

It’s simple. Watch a toddler play and you’ll see many examples of what it means to make your work observable. It’s refreshing to think of working out loud in this context. Toddlers do such a great job of making their work observable as they’re creating it, and they also show you what it means to invite others to participate with them. They almost do it to excess and extreme which can make it frustrating, but there’s even a valuable lesson to learn in that moment of frustration.

Sure, toddlers might not be completely cognitively aware of what they’re doing, but nonetheless, it’s pretty amazing to experience firsthand the super powers toddlers have to demonstrate (and remind) us adults how to work out loud.

My “A-ha” Moment

When did this truth really hit home for me? The moment when my son looked up at me with a piece of train set in his hand and said “Daddy help me,” a light bulb went off in my head. He smiled at me and I back at him. In those moments when we engage each other as we build puzzles, construct train sets and color inside (and outside) lines of his favorite coloring books I get the opportunity to really make working out loud a more personal and emotional experience.

When my son and I are playing together I get the opportunity to not only connect with him but I have the opportunity to think deeper about what it means to collaborate as adults and further the discussion about the skills needed for the present and future of the digital workplace. I get to test and experiment for myself. And because of these moments the concepts of working out loud become more meaningful and applicable in my life, career and work to build employee communities at Walgreens.

Recently my son and I were putting together a Thomas the Train set and everything went into slow motion as I watched the scene unfold. He built his half of the train set while I built mine. He paused to watch me and I then paused to watch him work at connecting the pieces and give the trains a test run on the tracks. Then the moment came when we connected our parts together. Bam! Whalla! A massive smile lit up his face and the “a-ha” lightbulb in my head grew brighter and brighter with thoughts. The bigger picture of what was happening in this single moment became clearer.

He’s learning how to collaborate and he’s helping me to rewire my brain so I can unlearn all the bad stuff that keeps me from working out loud as an adult. He teaches me to keep it simple, to not let my own fears and inhibitions get in the way of sharing what I’m working on with others. He’s teaching me how to ask for help so I can improve my own talents and hopefully make more meaningful contributions to those around me. How cool is that!?

The Truth About WOL Meltdowns

Yes, this is all inspiring stuff. But I have to be honest with you. It’s not always that simple. He (and I ) certainly have our struggles. He has the occasional toddler meltdown and at times he rips pieces out of my hand when I least expect it, which is frustrating and really tests my patience. Yes, there’s another lesson to be learned here. As I’ve come to learn, working out loud can be messy too. Working out loud is not about perfection. It’s about making progress towards a bigger goal over time. What that might look like. And messiness, imperfection, and failures are all part of the journey. If you’re not failing, getting occasionally frustrated or messy when working out loud then you’re probably not working out loud at all.

All this said, as I reflect on what my son is teaching me I’ve been thinking about a few other truths.

How I’m Overcoming The Hard Parts of WOL

First, working out loud is hard to do. It’s not natural for adults. If it were easy I wouldn’t be writing this post. So because of that we need toddlers to re-teach us. Unfortunately, as adults, we’re often taught and rewarded for being competitive, being perfect and working alone until the project is finished. These “work in silence” and “work in secret” behaviors get reinforced in many areas of our lives as we get older so that’s why working out loud is hard to do at first. So what I’ve found is that it’s important to recognize this reality because it helps to set the right expectations so we don’t try to do too much too soon and get discouraged, all of which can stop us before we even can make progress towards lasting change, meaningful transformation and big breakthroughs.

Like running, I’ve realized that once you get going working out loud does get easier and it begins to feel more natural. You begin to become more comfortable. Once momentum builds you begin to build up and strengthen your working out loud muscles. And, like running, you have to put the miles in to get the rewards and benefits. I’ve never had runner’s high as a result of standing still.

You have to struggle and wrestle at first. Heck, just writing this post took several tries before I won the wrestling match and “publish.” Like I’ve done on many blog posts before I fought to keep the momentum going. That’s what matters most. A series of small wins leads to bigger wins. And as I watched my son do his thing building and tearing down his block towers and building them back up again, it all inspired me onward.

While writing this post I took a look back at my own career and I reflected on all the work it took to start Live Fix back in 2005. Didn’t necessariily know what I was doing. I just started and built on each live concert experiment one by one.  So it became clear that I’ve been working out loud all these years by writing about life and the live concert experience and doing podcasts. And doing so has led to several pivotal creative breakthroughs and more career opportunities, which is one of the many benefits of working out loud.

Now at this stage of my career I feel as though I’m leveraging working out loud in a new and exciting way that I haven’t before. I have an idea of what that exactly means but then again I don’t. And I’m totally okay with that because I’m learning as I go just like I did back in 2005. What I do know is that I’m excited about the opportunity to join with others who like me are introducing and championing working out loud within their organizations. It’ll be interesting to see where things are at five or ten years from now.

In writing this post I struggled to put together my initial thoughts and labored through my share or doubt and confusion looking for the right words to express my thoughts and emotions about working out loud in this phase of life. When fear, doubt and procrastination were looming, I utilized one of John’s wise tactics. I leveraged Twitter to help keep me accountable and motivated. I tweeted that I was working on a post in a effort to make my ongoing blog post visible and get initial feedback on the post.

woltwitter

And it worked! One of my twitter followers tweeted back right away that he was interested in this post as I was writing it, which I thought was awesome. So I continued on and moved ahead writing the post even though the lizard part of my brain was thrashing around with fear, doubt and uncertainty. Like I mentioned above, I’ve also been practicing, modeling and experimenting with WOL in our internal employee communities and corporate communications at Walgreens and I’m learning a lot about what works and what doesn’t work when introducing working out loud to a large and complex organization. I’ll share more on future posts about what I’m learning through those experiences too.

Generosity = Motivation

The other part of working out loud that’s helped me work through the negative emotions and mental barriers (and inspired me to hit publish on this post) was the generosity elements associated with WOL. At its core, working out loud encourages us to see and re-frame our work as contributions for the greater good and benefits of those around us. When we openly share our work we’re thinking of others first and not focusing on our own doubts and fears. By sharing what we’re learning we’re being generous because there’s a genuine and authentic knowledge share happening. By working out loud others are benefiting from the things we’ve learned and hopefully what’s shared helps make the lives of others better and more meaningful.

That’s a beautiful and very liberating way to frame things and I can tell you that seeing things from this “be generous” perspective makes the fear of not being perfect or failing really small and almost a non-issue. Seeing things though a generous lens helps me to not be so selfish in my fear and instead focus on helping others around me with what I learned in life. The opportunity to be generous is a great motivator and inspires me for sure.

More WOL questions coming up next

Here’s a few more questions I’m looking forward to exploring on future posts:

  • What is the impact of working out loud in a large organization? What should we be testing and measuring?
  • How and why are the concepts of observable work and working out loud critical to the future of work?
  • Why is it important for companies to learn how to work out loud? And how will working out loud impact a company’s ability to adapt and remain competitive in the marketplace?

Until next time, and to continue John’s original inspiring question, let me know…what are you doing to accelerate working out loud? What has a toddler taught you about working out loud?

Spread the love...