February 21, 2010
I connected more than usual to Seth’s post from yesterday, Moving the line (the power of a zealot). He taps into the conundrum of the community that I exist within, where there is angry division over standards of behavior. Seth correctly observes, “It’s not the principle, in fact, it’s just the degree of compromise we’re comfortable with and content to argue over.” He’s absolutely right!
One of the real challenges is that communities have changed over time and do not respond to the same stimulus and admonitions they used to. We now live in the world of the long tail (many niches), having shifted more and more toward autonomy. As such, individuals expect more fidelity and tolerance for their personal needs/desires than ever before. This requires that communities be more articulate and transparent about what they represent.
I addressed the shift from community to autonomy in my post One Book, Two Months, discussing Putnam’s seminal book, Bowling Alone, and noted that our ability to choose our affiliations is very positive and welcome — we are no longer forced/trapped by ‘tradition’ and/or whatever you were raised. This has meant that community organizations must create compelling reasons for affiliation. And with greater choices, people change affiliations based on whether their needs (autonomy) are being met.
It is no longer sufficient to be an organization that met the needs of past customers to be successful in the future. Every organization must become customer-centric to the currently affiliated (and those they desire to attract). Customer-centric means that when people talk about their experiences they RAVE about how well they were treated, how much they liked the staff and community, and how easy it was to accomplish the ‘why’ of their affiliation.
Organizations must therefore solicit feedback, measure performance, and adapt accordingly (compromise, coexist, and tolerate diversity for mutual benefit). Per Putnam, this must be part of building mechanisms with the tools of our technological age. To survive, organizations need to rise above where they have been, creating accessible guidance and embracing scalable personalization.
Lastly, the shift toward autonomy has intensified long view imperatives for zealots (and the leadership managing the zealots) within diverse communities:
- Zealots need to understand that they are successful when they “move the goalposts” (and not expect to hold out for their ideal if they are a minority).
- Zealots must legitimate the needs of the non-zealots enabling a customer-centric environment (tolerate diversity) to create (more and more) reciprocity, trust, and mutual aid (if they desire to participate within a given community).
Without acknowledging and adjusting to the realities of the shift toward autonomy, some communities are likely to sustain more and more disaffiliation leading to extinction.
Is your community harnessing the tools of the technological age to create coexistence, accessible guidance, and scalable personalization?
June 30, 2009
I said in an earlier post (One Book, Two Months), I continue to be interested in the evolution of communities and organizations – how to increase collaboration and to reduce feelings of isolation. Today’s post was sparked by connections among:
- A whispered negative comment at a community meeting, “Did you hear that the Smith’s are leaving?”
- An uplifting positive email from a former colleague mentioning that a mutual colleague, who had worked for me, was a panelist at a recent career seminar and had said very complimentary things about how I explained the details of his position during recruitment, how I had piqued his interest enough to accept the job, and how I had been a good coach/mentor later after he was hired.
- And, continued thinking on my last post, Applied to Soccer.
What these three things have in common are the ebb and flow that exists in every community and organization, which occurs like the ebb and flow of the flock of birds in this estuary photo. My three examples differ in tone and timing: negative, positive, arriving (hiring), participating, and departing. Organizations and communities evolve (grow and adapt to external change) as people depart and others arrive, so it is important to prevent stagnation, but there is no need to be negative.
Arrivals are recruited to perform specific functions (in organizations) and are assessed to ensure fit to the organization or community through shared goals, values, and vision. With each arrival the community/organization is infused with the new, the fresh, and dreams. Arrivals generate hope for the future.
Departures, on the other hand, are subdued, because there is loss. The losses come in many flavors: a valued contributor choosing to go elsewhere, a respected contributor departing under organizational contraction, and/or the loss of an aspiration because goodness-of-fit was not achieved (or outgrown).
Managing arrivals is easy because they are naturally positive – hope is good. Conversely, managing departure can be hard. The key to success in managing departure is to ensure shared goals during participation and dignity in departure.
Dignity is infused when leadership conversations are respectful and there is a history of communication around expectations and goals (positives are reinforced and negatives are identified and corrected early). Although it takes more effort to stay positive and to over-communicate, that extra effort nurtures joy, enthusiasm, and loyalty. Thus, the long view advice is to lead with dignity upon arrival, during participation, and upon departure.
Are you infusing your community/organization with dignity?