The reason for talking about “Engaging a Community” is that it becomes increasingly relevant in the Disruption Economy!
The Disruption Economy will strongly impact the way we consider Strategy, Organization and Leadership. As I like to explain, it will demand to evolve:
- From Strategy (a document summarizing the reflections of a selected few in their Ivory tower) to Strategize (a process of “intelligentization”, engagement and development of the whole organization)
- From Organizations (Pyramidal, hierarchical and siloed) to Organisms (Purpose-led, collective and agile)
- From “Leading when we (think we) know” to “Leading when we don’t know”.
It is in that context that we see the phenomenon of “Corporate Communities” rapidly emerge.
Have you ever asked yourself:
- Why do matrix organizations (such a great concept though) provoke so many frictions and frustration?
- Why were you promised, in the latest reorg’, that the power balance would shift in your favour and, far from that, you now realize that you are “a general without an army”?
- Why does your own leader seem incapable (unwilling?) to align everyone behind the same objective (aka. yours!) and arbitrate (in your favour) when “they” don’t follow your instructions?
The answer is that your organization is probably moving away from being… an organization towards becoming an organism and that your success, as a leader, increasingly depends on how you engage those outside your team, to form Communities. What is the difference between Teams and Communities?
In a team:
- The leadership and authority, the role and the hierarchy are clearly defined. There is a nominated boss and people in her team report to her
- Their objectives are aligned, they shouldn’t conflict with each other and all should aim at fulfilling the objectives of the leader
- Members may discuss, disagree, be creative vis à vis the leader’s injunctions but, at the end of the day, they will adhere or leave
- A team has clearly defined boundaries, rules, roles, objectives
- Teams tend to operate in “silos” and may “bond” against other teams.
A community is a very different breed of animal:
- You have no authority on the people who choose to join it. They have other bosses!
- Their objectives are not yours, and between them, they can even be conflicting. But the quality of the relationship will make them solve it without a forceful “Salomon Judgment” of the leader!
- You can’t force them to join your community: They don’t report to you, you aren’t the “hand who feeds them” and, often, supporting your project isn’t even part of their objectives and its success or failure will have no or little impact on their career
- They are “free agents” who won’t even need to publicly challenge you: they simply have to hold their energy back, consider your project as No 3 priority… and your plane won’t take-off!
- Communities have no boundaries, as little structure as possible. They tend to involve, not exclude, appreciate differences, not uniformity, they “Bridge rather than bond”.
Leading a team requires leadership. My Community (The Enablers Network) invest its time and passion into sharing our best knowledge with participants joining our learning experiences. But what differs when you seek to engage a Community?
- Joining a Community is a free act. I can be forced to but will leave my energy, know-how and passion at my desk! The first thing you need to reflect on is about the Purpose of your Community. How may it connect with people Deep Intent? Your Community’s Purpose has to be Meaningful, one I want to be part of: It is Personal, Emotional and has a Rationale, I see how I can support it!
- Invite don’t summon: Members of a Community are very sensitive to respect and they way they are invited to join the Community. The “Tell and Sell” (ordering, directing, convincing) styles will fail. “Involving and Devolving” (inviting, respecting, empowering) will be a better bet!
- It is your neck but it all relies on their goodwill: Yes, the pressure on you is high to deliver results and “sort this team out!”. Hence the temptation of ordering, structuring and directing. Unwillingly, we pass on our stress and pressure to members of the community. And that is the best way to turn volunteers into deserters, goodwill into opposition. If you want to maintain their engagement:
- Connect: Ensure that your Community is a forum where people who do not necessarily know, appreciate nor understand each other will create a vibrant network, inside and… outside of your Community
- Excite: People should join you because your Community and you have created a pleasant and exciting atmosphere (remember? Psychological Safety)
- Enjoy the time spent together: Make sure that “the smell of the place” is different in your Community from the traditional atmosphere of the organization. If people see your Community as a place where they learn, explore, have dinners together and get to know each other, they will request more meetings!
- Surprize them: Fascinate and surprise them. I was recently with a German CEO in a meeting for the Asian part of his company. He had simply brought outstanding chocolates which he was sharing each day of the week at the moment our energy was low. It was simple, human and surprising!
- Produce Results: and of course, a Community is not a Club. It needs to produce results otherwise it will be disbanded. Make sure you celebrate those victories!
When looking for a clip illustrating a Community, apart from music of the 70’s, not much showed up. Hence I chose to share this exceptional moment in a recent Santana show at the Montreux Jazz Festival. His band is a community and… it sees!