Author Archives: mlavoie8

About mlavoie8

Enterprise Collaboration Community Manager at EMC Corporation, Hopkintin, MA, US. Six Sigma Green Betl with over twenty years of experience in learning, education, program and project management. Author of six workforce management books, and panel speaker at 2011 Enterprise 2.0 Conference.

Reward and Recognition – Secret?

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Interesting how managers react to Rewards and Recognition.  Seems to me there are two purposes to award an employee for ‘over the top’ performance:

  • First, of course, is to recognize extraordinary effort
  • Second, and I’d argue at least as important, is to make the employee visible; to show others what type of behaviors and accomplishments garnish rewards

I’ve been a manager long enough to know that you simply cannot thank EVERYONE, all the time.  But when I do recognize someone with an R&R, I’ve never considered it a ‘secret.’

Might have to rethink that in light of certain community events.

Here’s the story:

Employee is recognized by her boss with monetary recognition.   Employee, gratified and downright proud (as she should be) updates her community status saying “Just rewarded Gold award for……Love this company.”

Manager, well, you guess.

He calls the employee into his office to explain that “talking about R&Rs” can cause problems.

Well, it can.  As a Manager, our jobs include both recognizing AND encouraging positive contributions.  Will others question why this employee received an award?  I hope so – then they’ll know what level of effort and skill is required and will begin to strive.

Your thoughts?

Are “Secret” R&R awards a best practice in management?

The New CMO

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No, it’s not what you think.  The new CMO is a Community Manager Officer, the person who manages an intricate network of communities often numbering the hundreds.  Think of it as a very soft type of ‘policing’ to ensure relevance and a great user experience.

In addition to being engaging, thoughtful, kind, funny, personable, sometimes personal, intriguing, thought provoking, artful in negotiating, and  charismatic, we must also be the CMO.

The CMO, sometimes known by the more popular name Enterprise Community Manager, must:

  • Put the user experience front and center
  • Assess the overall health of the communities (yes, hundreds of them)
  • Set, hopefully in collaboration with community managers, guidelines for space creation and activity
  • Have sometimes difficult conversations about the activity, or inactivity, in a space
  • Make sometimes unpopular decisions when managing inactive spaces

Community Management is the most rewarding role I’ve ever held.  It is also one that has tested and expanded my abilities far beyond what I first believed the role to encompass.

So be kind to your Community Managers, and maybe even send a thanks their way.

  • Make

Think You’re Engaging?

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I’ll soon be adding the word ‘engagement’ to my business acronym bingo game, available upon demand (KIDDING!).  But seriously, engaging doesn’t require an advanced college degree, or hours of training, or even years of practice.  It basically means just being nice.

I attend several conferences a year, sometimes as a participant, volunteer, or to staff a booth and one thing always stands out.  Folks who staff booths have a very visible tendency to  sit in a chair behind a table.  That’s it.

Engagement RULE 1:  When staffing a booth at a conference, get up!  Stand at the front of your table, or better yet walk around, say hello, share a smile, and talk to people. Engagement begins with YOU, not with pamphlets, brochures, videos or demo equipment.

One of my recent booth experiences was literally embarrassing.  I was working with a non-profit group who provide holiday meals, gifts and an all around great time to the homeless and needy.  My role was to distribute one clean pair of socks to everyone in line.  First, they received hats, then gloves, then they reached my sock station.

I had noticed that the two people distributing hats and gloves said nothing to any of the recipients, simply stood with their hands outstretched, hats or gloves dangling for the taking.  Made me ache.

So I began watching people when they arrived at the hat station, and as they proceeded to gloves.  When they arrived at my station, I began to say things like, “Hey, it looks like you got a blue hat and gloves, want blue socks to match or want to get wild and choose brown?”

Engagement RULE 2:  Even in the most heartbreaking of situations, we have the power to offer people a choice.  People coming through the line began to smile, and in a matter of minutes I had a little crowd discussing their color choices.

At the same event, which I have to say is most wonderful overall, a group of ‘booth people’ sitting behind their desk were eating lunch.  Have I mentioned that this was a holiday dinner for over 2500 homeless and needy people?  As they waited in long lines to get their holiday meal, apparently the people in the booth couldn’t bear their own hunger until the  guests were finished.

Engagement RULE 3:  Common sense trumps education every time.

There’s no magical formula to engagement; and no remedy for those who lack it.

Be the change.

Community Administration is the New Orange

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Blame it on my Six Sigma training – I know, I know, it takes too long – but I’ve adopted a personal process when beginning any project.

Simple three steps:

  • As Is.  I carefully document, in horrific detail, every process aspect of what I’m working on.  In communities, I document permission levels, illustrate community hierarchy, identify what functionality is made available and what is not.  In short, I paint a picture of the world as is.
  • To Be.  Always have to have a goal, so I picture how i would like my piece of the world to be.  I want a vibrant community, one where there is ongoing, relevant conversation.  Did I say relevant?  Not only relevant to our particular products or services (and here’s where I acquired the “Che” moniker for being a revolutionary) but also relevant to our users who are not one dimensional techies but rather whole people who have families, interests, hobbies and aspirations.
  • How to Get There. Do we want a community where the majority of users do not have access to specific features and functionality?  Where there are 12 gates to securing a space?  Where only technical info and questions are abided?

The answer is that I want a community that builds affiliation which I define as a relationship with our community members.  Technical to start?  Yes.  But the relationship between our members, and with our members, relies upon so much more than simple back and forth Q&A on this feature or that.

Relationship ‘mixes’ people of various interests, gets them engaged and talking, surfaces likenesses and differences and offers a completely new way to relate to PEOPLE.  Remember them?

Affiliation is the Tie that Binds

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When i think about the online communities that I participate in, outside of work, there is one glaring reason why I’m there…I share an interest in common with the other community members.  Whether a love of sewing, knitting, crafting or more serious connections of illness or care-giving, my participation in communities is directly tied to my affiliation with the other members, an affiliation based on a particular interest or circumstance.

Each type of affiliation – interest or circumstance in my case – is time bound. My hobbies and interests change, and sometimes medical or caregiving conditions conclude and my affiliation is ‘lost.’

Managing a technical community, the common affiliation is – as you would expect – one based on technology.  It can also be drilled down to an affiliation based on a particular product or service, particularly if experiencing an issue.

Summary:

  • affiliation is interest or circumstance bound
  • affiliation is generally timebound

Leaving the question of how to build affiliation that goes beyond these timebound ‘needs’ and expand users participation into building collaborative relationships with each other that are NOT dependent on their primary need (ie. technical assistance).  Bringing ‘em back, you might say, even if there is no pressing problem that must be resolved within minutes.

I don’t propose to have the answers, but I can say that affiliation:

  • Brings people back to a community when needed, and also during those wide spans of time when help is not needed but rather can be offered to others
  • Demands that our communities offer more than slick navigation, easy to find information and answers.  It demands an environment that’s visibly ‘buzzing’ with conversation – even if off topic
  • Harnesses the power of the individual, and the collective, to share, connect, offer feedback, and dare I say it – even play a bit.

How do you drive affiliation in your communities?

Failure is Always an Option

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It’s odd how many companies are seeking to drive innovation by supporting ‘failure.’   “It’s OK if you try something, if it doesn’t work we’ll just move on to another idea.”  “Not all ideas are successful, we must be able to try, and to sometimes fail.”

As an employee, it’s comforting to hear that.  Nice to believe that I can (and do) make mistakes, and that my name won’t come to mind when workforce changes are being discussed.  Awesome to have that validated when I do make a mistake, as I recently did.  Make mistake, own it, apologize and move on. Failure is indeed an option, at least on my level.

As you rise through the management and executive ranks, though, failure is met with much anxiety.  Not on the part of the executive necessarily, but if affect those who may have directly or indirectly contributed to a fail.  Often simple things, like hyperlinks in an email that were tested three times but don’t work after publishing a company email message.  Not earthshaking in my world, and in fact a great opportunity for an executive to acknowledge that he (in this case) too makes mistakes.

Only problem is that no one wants to tell the executive.  Hours are spent on analyzing the issue, researching hyperlink redirects, trying to contact platform experts when in fact the error was made in email.

I get why folks don’t want to give execs bad news, even news as benign as, “We will have to issue a correction message to the workforce.”  No one wants to be responsible for the action, or for reporting it.

But without allowing our executives to ‘live the values’ that we seek to propagate in our organizations, we devalue them and continue to drive the ‘no failure’ mentality.

Me?  I make mistakes; usually small but sometimes more significant.

My reaction is always the same:

  • Fix the problem I caused
  • Research/consider how it happened and make whatever changes are necessary to prevent a reoccurrence
  • Apologize to those who were affected or inconvenienced.

Imagine if our execs did that.

How might that change the fundamental relationship among employees, regardless of job level?

A Most Natural Progression

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During the past three years or so, I’ve been managing an internal community that has flourished, particularly with an upgrade project that launched our new and shiny version in June, 2014.  The months following that were the best of my career, seeing users easily adopt what is, in essence, an entirely new platform as this was our only upgrade in seven years.  But then something happened.

Alot of things happened.  After eighteen months of planning the upgrade…POOF!  There it was, and folks didn’t need the amount or type of support that we had anticipated.  We didn’t need to market the community, or to entice employees to participate; they just did.

I was left with the proverbial “Well, what do I do now” question; a question that is very rarely on my mind.  With a new community manager in place to help me support the post-launch environment, a community manager whose talent and skill are unbelievable I have to say that I floundered a bit.

But not that much in the grand scheme of things.

Now I make what, in retrospect, is a very natural progression to managing engagement on our customer and partner facing community.  This is a new area for me, and one where I hope to bring some humor, laughs, and collaboration in a space that is technically oriented.

My fave song lyric sums it up “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

B