Author Archives: mlavoie8

About mlavoie8

Enterprise Collaboration Community Manager . 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.

In my Mind I’m Goin’ to Indiana……NOT


Admittedly, I’m no expert in state or federal law.  Here’s what I’ve heard: the Governor of Indiana signed a bill into law that allows shopkeepers to decide whether or not they sell their goods or services to gay people.  Haven’t read the full law yet, but have some intriguing questions:

  • How does a shopkeeper know who is gay or straight?  Is there a manual, handbook, or secret sign that they look for as shoppers enter the door?  Or maybe we should mark or tattoo every LGBTQ person to make them easier to identify (sound familiar)
  • How does a gay person know that s/he is not welcome into a particular shop?  Seems as though shop owners who won’t sell to the LGBTQ community should have to post a sign outside their doors, “Heterosexual Customers Only.”  The other shopkeepers could post a sign “Love One Another,” or not, as they please.
  • Does this law mean that shopkeepers can discriminate JUST on the basis of gender identification and/or whatever they consider ‘gay,’ or does it mean that each and every shop owner can sell ONLY to those of whom they approve?  What if you’re Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslin, Atheist or Hindu?  Black, white, brown, or any variation?  Men, women, gender neutral?

And has anyone heard of the phrase ‘slippery slope?”

This law is so UnAmerican that I cannot believe that any State official has the right to supersede our constitution which proudly proclaims “Men (hopefully with the understanding that this includes women) are all created equal.”

Time to get off our Twitter and Facebook accounts and do what Salesforce and Angie’s List have already done.

If you live in Indiana, regardless of whom you choose to love, frequent stores that spread love….and not hatred.

If you own or manage a company doing business in Indiana, get out.  Let the American people, and the world, see that we have indeed, learned from the past.  That this may indeed be the first rudimentary step to segregation that we know can lead to unspeakable horrors.  “When they came for the homosexuals, I did nothing because I wasn’t a homosexual.” Regardless of who you love, all we have to do is love one another.

Must it be this difficult.

Separation for the Faint of Heart


After accepting a voluntary (stress the word voluntary) separation package in order to attend to some personal business, I began to notice some strange things happening.

It was about three weeks from the announcement of my impending separation, and my leaving the building with my one box of 14 years of accumulated ‘stuff.’  Yup, one box,  I travel lightly.

Here’s what happened:

  • Almost immediately, I began hearing from people whom I had not heard from in years (within the company).  Awesome.
  • Many expressed surprise (aren’t you a company ‘girl?’) while the rest were envious
  • My email stream, often 300+ messages a day, dwindled to a mere dozen or two.  That felt a little awful as it was either due to the fact that I had no ‘juice’ anymore; or maybe folks just wanted to make my last few weeks uneventful.
  • The envious had no idea what they would do with their time if they had seized the opportunity

The last point particularly troubles me. Don’t get me wrong; I do think about what will happen when my package expires.  Will I get a job?  A job I like?  A job as awesome as the one I left?

But this is week four and I have yet to have a great deal of free time.

I’m learning to code (like a sixth grader, but still!); I’ve read a number of books and not just the junk fiction which is all I could manage when working but rather on topics that I find interesting (food industry, transgender children etc.).

So if you don’t know what you’d do if you didn’t have work, please accept one suggestion.  Find something to do outside of work; don’t make work your whole life.  None of us is irreplaceable, and none of us can foretell the future.

Balance your work with an equal or heavier dose of your life – whatever that may entail.

Be well.

At the Crossroads


I was just reading an article the other day about women abandoning the technology sector in record numbers.  My own personal ‘voluntary separation,’ which I’d rather think of as a sabbatical, may or may not align to others’ reasons.

Yes, I’m tired.  I’ve worked 14 years at the same great company, and have had some extraordinarily challenging roles.  In each, I flourished under the self-imposed stress and produced what I’m told are awesome results.

So what changed?  Started end of last year when my Mom started a rapid decline due to Alzheimers disease. She’s had it for several years, but it’s certainly more noticeable these days.  Then, my 86 yo father-in-law fell ill and died three weeks later.  You might not find that to be unexpected given his age, but he was robust, living on his own, driving his own car, and in general all-around good health as confirmed by a routine doctor’s visit three weeks before his illness.

I felt adrift; I found myself wondering how I could continue to contribute in that crazily wacky world of technology where everything needs to be done NOW (although I realize that this is a self imposed rule) and began yearning for meaning.

So I leapt into the proverbial flames and accepted a generous voluntary separation package, That was two months ago, and this is my third day not working….at least in the traditional, paid sense.

I’ve visited with Mom, whose forgotten how to smile (sad); restarted my meditation practice; read some great books and look forward to the future.  I’d like to think that I’ll return to my fave company, and that they would have me, at the end of my sabbatical but I guess that’s the thing about the future….you never know what it will bring.

I’m still debating whether my decision was awesome or ridiculous, but all signs pointed me right to where I am today.  I can see no further so wish me bon voyage!

Reward and Recognition – Secret?


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


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?


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


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?


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