10-POINT PLAN: Negotiate a Commitment from Leadership
Inside the Business, Leaders Are the First Brand Ambassadors
You can’t move on the social web without hearing about building communities. Social media jobs are still filled with positions for community managers. It’s true that now, more than ever, having a loyal base of brand ambassadors is a key to visibility, trust, attention, reputation, position in the marketplace — all of which are critical to a solid, growing company.
The conversation and the new positions hardly mean anything if the people talking and hiring don’t deeply understand and invest in the people who are building, being, and branding that community.
It’s about people, people. Instead of thinking about the corporation as an amorphous entity, executives need to remember the individuals at the heart of every organization. Ok, so it’s not exactly an earth-shattering insight, but it’s a sign of how far we’ve drifted that people’s health, hopes, insights, and talents have come to be seen as mere grist for the grinding wheels of capitalism. –Helen Walters, It’s about People, People, Bloomsberg Business Week
In the original website version of Cluetrain, Chris Locke wrote, “we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it.”
Recognizing a situation and dealing with it, however are two different things. The “dealing” has barely begun.
Maybe there’s a reason that the best known experts at community building seem to come from solo practices and smaller firms where those self-same experts have been both the leadership and the hands-on people doing the community building.
Because the first and possibly most critical step “dealing with it” — establishing community over transaction” is to negotiate a commitment from leadership.
3 Ways Leaders Demonstrate Commitment and Intentionally Build Community
A conversation from a time in my publishing career.
Editor: “Do you ever want to be president of the company.”
Editor: “Why not?”
ME: “Because I don’t want everyone to be discussing what mood I’m in every morning.”
Whether it’s a dynasty, a corporation, a project team, or a two-person operation, the person who controls the finances and the paychecks gets a lot of attention and approval controls. With that power of position comes the responsibility to the health and vibrancy of the organization. That responsibility cannot be delegated, because everyone looks to that position to see which behaviors are modeled, supported, and rewarded.
The emperor sets the culture.
It also makes clear sense that to inspire fans, you have to be one. Know what you love bring it with to ignite the community fire.
Build the first fire under the folks who set the culture. Their behavior will telegraph and prove whether the community you’re offering has a chance to grow and thrive.
The Role of Leaders in Lighting the Fire
Whether we start a community initiative with a team, a department, a corporation, or a company of five — the role that the highest leader takes in the process will have a tangible effect on speed and depth with which a community forms. Leaders who demonstrate commitment and intentionally invest in building community offer living proof that the business believes is there for internal customers.
The people becoming a newly forming community want to know they’re investing in something real and lasting. Based on past promises and experiences, they will mete out and measure the depth of their own commitment by the commitment they see offered by loyal leadership. Leaders who show up — not to run the show — but ready to learn, participate, and work as colleagues and partners are irresistibly attractive. They add credibility, power, and meaning to the idea of community.
Leaders live values-based leadership by finding every opportunity to build a high-trust environment. Here are a few ways that leaders can help build an environment where community can take form, thrive and grow.
- Leaders announce their intention to participate. The most important sign that a new loyal community group relies upon is the public words and actions of the “guys” at the top. If we want loyal fans to invest in us, we have to invest in them. Leaders talk about their commitment to the community. They say it out loud and often. They also say how and why. They demonstrate that commitment by making specific promises about observable behaviors and keep them. A simple promise to refocus the role of leader to advocate for internal customers as heroes and one way of doing that is enough to start the community investing.
- Leaders come out of their office. An open door isn’t enough. The “open door” policy is a myth. An open door expects the less powerful to interrupt the work of leadership. Community grows where the people spend their time. Loyalty is a relationship built on communication, compassion, competency and consistency. Leaders who are committed to building a loyal community invite a two-way relationship. They demonstrate that commitment becoming friendly, familiar faces — ready to listen, help, and solve problems — in the places where people actually do the work. They see their role as service to the internal customers who help the company thrive.
- Leaders are learners and schedule time for it. They reach out to heroes in the business to gather ideas and information. They schedule time to learn more about what makes people good at what they do. They demonstrate their commitment by asking more questions than they have answers and by dedicating a consistent block of time on the calendar — 5 – 10 hours a month — learning from their internal customers what motivates them and how to help the community thrive.
Leaders who see the value of an internal community of loyal fans understand their role and responsibility in helping that community thrive. They make a great place to work and they let employees help define what that is. They establish systems that protect and manage the environment so that folks can work without worrying.
Leaders model and reward high-trust behaviors that bring out the best in others. They admit their own mistakes, speak with care, and share information because they value and respect the people who work with them. Even more they plan and provide opportunities every one in the community to grow, knowing that growing community members mean a growing community that thrives.
How to negotiate these points with leadership?
Be a leader and a fan yourself. Be willing to start small and prove how performance can rise when people are truly engaged in what they’re doing. And remind leadership of the 7 Reasons Why Investing in an Internal Community Makes Solid Business Sense that I wrote about last week.
What examples of great leadership promoting an internal community can you offer?
To follow the entire series: Liz Strauss’ Inside-Out Thinking to Building a Solid Business, see the Successful Series Page.
–ME “Liz” Strauss