From Leading my Team to Engaging a Community

Friday February 7th, 2020 6 comments

No! I am not back to my Hippie times when I was teaching Rock Stars to ski or playing ice hockey as a goalie… This is what I looked like then, for those who doubt I ever had hair!

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!

  • Reasons to believe in Mankind!

    Thursday December 19th, 2019 0 comments

    Dear readers, dear friends, I owe you an apology for letting our blog down in the 2nd part of 2019! This is due to a lot of (wonderful) work. Since mid-August I am on a 7/7 rhythm. As this will slow down in 2020, I will get back to my weekly habit of sharing reflections and convictions which, generously, come…

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  • When “Guardians of the Temple” sabotage your Transformation

    Wednesday July 3rd, 2019 0 comments

    “No progress without transgression!” claims Hamilton Mann, Thales’ Digital Marketing & Digital Transformation Director, “Every innovation is a disobedience to a rule, a norm, a habit, a process, a way of doing things, an established thought, a belief system that the organization carries…” And what happens when the “Guardians of the Temple” seek to rein the mavericks in??? Two months…

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  • Is this truly a leadership topic?

    Thursday May 23rd, 2019 2 comments

    When Saul Bekin, a Brazilian consultant and business mentor, shared a TED speech titled “Sleep is your superpower”, and commenting it with “Unmissable”, I confess that my first thought was “Thank you for confirming that LinkedIn increasingly seems like Facebook nowadays!”. But, knowing of Saul’s other quality publications, I thought: “Why don’t you try to understand why someone like him…

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  • Learning to let go: The fifth step in Tuckman cycle

    Thursday May 16th, 2019 0 comments

    You probably all heard about a classic in team dynamics, called the Tuckman cycle: When assembling, a team (even a couple of people) tends to start with a stage called “Forming” (socialisation, need for inclusion), then it will naturally migrate towards “Storming” (affirmation, assertiveness), followed by “Norming” (reflecting, structuring and learning from the previous mistakes) and finally “Performing” which is…

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  • “Be the bird” by Hamilton Mann

    Thursday May 9th, 2019 0 comments

    Hamilton Mann is the Group Director, Digital Marketing and Digital Transformation at Thales, an 80’000 people French multinational I came across this article he recently wrote on the topic of innovation. The reason to republish it, with his consent, is that, exactly the same applies when it comes to Transformation, Change & Disruptive thinking. I really encourage you to read…

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  • Am I a stone carver or a Cathedral builder?

    Thursday May 2nd, 2019 0 comments

    I work a lot with the themes of Purpose and Deep Intent. A few days ago, I came across a very interesting Cassie Werber’s article dedicated to the same topic. Putting the record straight, INSEAD professor Gianpiero Petriglieri claims that, if it is fundamental to give meaning to our work, we shouldn’t expect anybody else to do it for us:…

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  • You never will be too empathetic!

    Friday April 19th, 2019 0 comments

    Recently, Korn-Ferry published an article about feedback, which was quickly interpreted by some as “too much empathy isn’t good!”. My reply to one of them was that, after 35 years of professional life, I was still expecting to find anyone loaded with too much empathy! As a leader, no one will ever demonstrate too much empathy! Empathy elicit outstanding contribution…

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  • Don’t waste your time communicating: ENGAGE!

    Friday April 12th, 2019 4 comments

    So many leaders still assume that the job has been done, once their Convention, webcast or confcall ended-up well! The Communication Pack is ready; the new Strategy, Vision, Organization or Roadmap has been explained and everyone will now cascade it, supported by a professional communication team… “Mission accomplished”, do the leaders feel by leaving the room. This is what happened…

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  • If you wish to bring radical change, avoid taking the wrong start!

    Friday April 5th, 2019 4 comments

    All of you, whom I had the chance to work for, probably remember this simple and elegant matrix, inherited from my leadership Professor and ex-partner, Chris Parker: The Challenge vs Support matrix. It represents the different sorts of culture that leaders create through using none, one or both of the Challenge (demanding, dare) and Support (benevolence, care) levers. As you…

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  • Shapership: The Art of Shaping the Future (Part II)

    Saturday March 30th, 2019 0 comments

    Aline Frankfort and Jean-Louis Baudoin are the founders of Creative Consulteam, a boutique consultancy in Creative Leadership. Summarizing their observations about leaders who manage to create a culture of innovation, they came up with the concept of “Shapership”.  This article is the 2nd part of the one published last week. Shapership is this capacity to Shape the Future and inspire…

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