community organization

It is the ability to develop a keen external awareness that separates the truly great communicators from those who muddle through their interactions with others. So, how do you know when your skills have matured to the point that you’ve become an excellent communicator?

Speak not with a forked tongue.

In most cases, people just won’t open up to those they don’t trust. When people have a sense a leader is worthy of their trust they will invest time and take risks in ways they never would if their leader had a reputation built upon poor character or lack of integrity. While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works. Trust is best created by earning it with right acting, thinking, and making decisions. Keep in mind people will forgive many things where trust exists, but will rarely forgive anything where trust is absent.

Get personal.

There is great truth in the following axiom: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Classic business theory tells leaders to stay at arm’s length if they want to remain in the dark receiving only highly sanitized versions of the truth. If you don’t develop meaningful relationships with people you’ll never know what’s really on their mind until it’s too late to do anything about it.

Get specific.

Specificity is better than ambiguity. Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is today. It is critical that leaders learn how to cut to the chase and hit the high points – it’s also important to expect the same from others. Without understanding the value of conciseness and clarity, it is unlikely you’ll ever be afforded the opportunity to get at the granular level as people will tune you out long before you ever get there. Your goal is to weed out the superfluous and to make your words count.

Focus on the leave-behinds, not the take-aways.

The best communicators are not only skilled at learning and gathering information while communicating, they are also proficient at transferring ideas, aligning expectations, inspiring action, and spreading their vision. The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving, you will have accomplished the goal. Even though this may seem counter-intuitive, by intensely focusing on the other party’s wants, needs & desires, you’ll learn far more than you ever would by focusing on your agenda.

Have an open mind.

Rigidity of a closed mind is the single greatest limiting factor of new opportunities. Leaders take their game to a whole new level the minute they willingly seek out those who hold non-conforming opinions and opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their mind. But there are people who are truly fearful of opposing views, when what they should be is to become genuinely curious and interested. Open dialogs with those who confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. Remember that it’s not the opinion that matters, but rather the willingness to discuss it with an open mind and learn.

Shut-up and listen.

Great leaders know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off (mostly down and off). Simply broadcasting your message will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes that you understand that the greatest form of communication takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue. When you reach that point in your life where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand that knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but by removing your ear wax, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator.

Replace ego with empathy.

Leaders should not let their ego write checks that their talent can’t cash. When candor is communicated with empathy & caring and not the prideful arrogance of an over inflated ego good things begin to happen. Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present with those who choose to communicate behind the carefully crafted facade propped-up by a very fragile ego. Understanding this communication principle is what helps turn anger into respect and doubt into trust.

Read between the lines.

Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader that comes to mind… you’ll find they are very adept at reading between the lines. They have the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know that there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by filibustering. In this age of instant communication, everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. Keep your eyes & ears open and your mouth shut and you’ll be amazed at how your level or organizational awareness is raised.

When you speak, know what you’re talking about.

Develop a technical command over your subject matter. If you don’t possess subject matter expertise, few people will give you the time of day. Most successful people have little interest in listening to those individuals who cannot add value to a situation or topic, but force themselves into a conversation just to hear them speak. They fake it until days have long since passed, and for most people fast and slick equals not credible. You’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters,” and while there is surely an element of truth in that statement, what matters very much is what you say. Good communicators address both the “what” and “how” aspects of messaging so they don’t fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of form over substance.

Speak to groups as individuals.

Leaders don’t always have the luxury of speaking to individuals in an intimate setting. Great communicators can tailor a message such that they can speak to 10 people in a conference room or 10,000 people in an auditorium and have them feel as if they were speaking directly to each one of them as an individual. Knowing how to work a room and establish credibility, trust, and rapport are keys to successful interactions.

Be prepared to change the message if needed.

Another component of communications strategy that is rarely discussed is how to prevent a message from going bad, and what to do when it does. It’s called being prepared and developing a contingency plan. Again, you must keep in mind that for successful interactions to occur, your objective must be in alignment with those you are communicating with. If your expertise, empathy, clarity, etc. don’t have the desired effect, which by the way is very rare, you need to be able to make an impact by changing things up. Use great questions, humor, stories, analogies, relevant data, and where needed, bold statements to help connect and engender the confidence and trust that it takes for people to want to engage. While it is sometimes necessary to “Shock and Awe” this tactic should be reserved as a last resort.

Don’t assume someone is ready to have a particular conversation with you just because you’re ready to have the conversation with them. You cannot assume anyone knows where you’re coming from if you don’t tell them. If you fail to justify your message with knowledge, business logic, reason, empathy etc., you will find that said message will likely fall on deaf ears needing reinforcement or clarification afterward.

The leadership lesson here is whenever you have a message to communicate (either directly, or indirectly through a third party) make sure said message is true & correct, well-reasoned, and well-supported by solid business logic that is specific, consistent, clear and accurate. Most importantly, keep in mind that communication is not about you, your opinions, your positions or your circumstances. It’s about helping others by meeting their needs, understanding their concerns, and adding value to their world.

The complexity of the current business landscape, combined with ever increasing expectations of performance, and the speed at which decisions must be made, are a potential recipe for disaster for today’s executive unless a defined methodology for decisioning is put into place. If you incorporate the following metrics into your decisioning framework you will minimize the chances of making a bad decision:

Perform a Situation Analysis.

What is motivating the need for a decision? What would happen if no decision is made? Who will the decision impact (both directly and indirectly)? What data, analytics, research, or supporting information do you have to validate the inclinations driving your decision?

Subject your Decision to Public Scrutiny.

There are no private decisions. Sooner or later the details surrounding any decision will likely come out. If your decision were printed on the front page of the newspaper how would you feel? What would your family think of your decision? How would your shareholders and employees feel about your decision? Have you sought counsel and/or feedback before making your decision?

Conduct a Cost/Benefit Analysis.

Do the potential benefits derived from the decision justify the expected costs? What if the costs exceed projections, and the benefits fall short of projections?

Assess the Risk/Reward Ratio.

What are all the possible rewards, and when contrasted with all the potential risks are the odds in your favor, or are they stacked against you?

Assess Whether it is the Right Thing To Do.

Standing behind decisions that everyone supports doesn’t particularly require a lot of chutzpah. On the other hand, standing behind what one believes is the right decision in the face of tremendous controversy is the stuff great leaders are made of. My wife has always told me that “you can’t go wrong by going right,” and as usual, I find her advice to be spot on. There are many areas where compromise yields significant benefits, but your value system, your character, or your integrity should never be compromised.

Make The Decision.

Perhaps most importantly, you must have a bias toward action, and be willing to make the decision. Moreover, you must learn to make the best decision possible even if you possess an incomplete data set. Don’t fall prey to analysis paralysis, but rather make the best decision possible with the information at hand using some of the methods mentioned above. Opportunities and not static, and the law of diminishing returns applies to most opportunities in that the longer you wait to seize the opportunity the smaller the return typically is. In fact, more likely is the case that the opportunity will completely evaporate if you wait too long to seize it.

Always have a back-up plan.

The real test of a leader is what happens in the moments following the realization they’ve made the wrong decision. Great leaders understand all plans are made up of both constants and variables, and that sometimes the variables work against you. Smart leaders always have a contingency plan knowing circumstances can sometimes fall beyond the boundaries of reason or control – no “Plan B” equals a flawed plan.

Tone-down

 

Pace yourself.

It is no use telling a super-bright person to start acting dumb – though I have heard such nonsense. What I can advise is to find the right moment to speak up. When discussions hit a stall point, offer suggestions. If others are intrigued, proceed. If people turn away, wait for another time.

Share your ideas with others.

Organizations love team players but not all teammates are created equal. Find people you can trust and share your ideas with them. Allow them to introduce them at meetings. Yes, in the short run others will get the credit but in time people will know it is you who are offering solutions that others can use.

Learn to take the spotlight.

No I am not contradicting myself: there are moments to step to the fore to show others what you know. You need to do it the right way. Show deference to superiors – that is, don’t tell them how to do their jobs. Offer a better way to do things.

Be thankful for your brilliance.

Your organization has hired you because you bring that ability to see possibilities where others see roadblocks. So adopt the mindset of a problem-solver rather than a puzzle player. What’s the difference? One who solves problems offers solutions that benefit others. One who fits puzzles together simply satisfies himself.

Smart people who know when to speak up and when to act on their initiatives are a special breed. Don’t squander your opportunities by showing off. Let your cool demeanor speak up for you.

Kick-Start with Good Content

Getting started on a new platform? Still testing the waters to see whether it’s the right place for your business to be? One suggestion that many seasoned social media marketers will tell you is to come out of the gate with loads of good content before you start promoting your new presence.

Leverage Your Networks

Community managers need to know what’s happening on all of their networks. Even if you’re not the Twitter manager, for example, you should have a good idea of the conversations, tweets and hashtags taking place that involve your company and industry. At this point, social platforms work hand-in-hand with one another. Conversations flow freely from one network to another and in order to be effective, social community managers need to be able to leverage their networks and bounce off one another.

Marketing Isn’t a Bad Word

Community managers often have to work extra-hard to avoid marketing faux pas—being perceived as using social networking platforms exclusively for business marketing purposes. But let’s call a spade a spade. When social media marketing is done right, it’s not a bad word nor out of line. Ultimately, it’s how businesses need to communicate in the 2010s.

Any marketing strategy and the resulting tactics should keep in mind the two key fundamentals:

1) the target audience

2) the goals.

Social media is not a magic bullet and should be used where appropriate just like television, radio or email marketing. Remember your target audience and goals, and you’ll be fine!

Never Say Never

Some days the proliferation of social media feels as if it happened overnight. One day many businesses were claiming social media wasn’t the right strategy for them.
In a few short years, businesses of all shapes and sizes have active presences on multiple platforms. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, etc., went from not making sense to being commonplace destinations. Who knows what will come down the pike next? With that in mind, it’ll serve you best to stay open, flexible and go with the flow.

Originality vs. Saying What Everyone Else Says

Vicki Flaugher writes, “A great content marketing strategy is key for social media success. You’ve probably seen people sharing others’ content, sometimes via RSS feeds, Paper.ly pages, retweets/shares, or by direct linking. Those are great strategies to provide useful content to your audience. They can be an adequate stop-gap measure while you build your own content, but it’s very very important in social media to provide original content.”

Vicki recognizes that not everyone feels that they have the time or expertise to create original content and offers these suggestions: Review a product, book, movie, event, research study or website. Interview an influencer. Create a video from a PowerPoint presentation. Be quotable by learning to say meaningful things in short blurbs. Don’t make it harder than it is (e.g., keep blog posts to single ideas, 150-300 words, keep your videos 30 seconds to 3 minutes tops, keep your interview to 15 minutes). Just start. You’ll get better as you go and you’ll be original.

Power to the People—Write On!

OK, so maybe this isn’t what John Lennon meant when he wrote the lyrics to the song, “Power to the People.” As a social community manager, you walk a fine line—being in charge of the content that your business posts and maintaining a number of presences, responding to and cleaning up inappropriate comments all the while, working your hardest to listen and respond to your community.

Qualified and Experienced Decisions

Marc Meyer points out that social media has matured. He writes, “Yes there are still lots of nuances to be learned and still lots of totally unqualified people screwing things up, but that’s in every industry, right?

The difference between five years ago and now is that there are more and more qualified people out there who are able to make educated and qualified and experienced decisions on what to do with social media initiatives.

Respect Cultures

To get the most out of social media we need to understand those (social media) communities. So we respect their cultures and treat those we encounter online with the same courtesy and understanding as anyone we deal with in the offline world. We do not impose ourselves on such sites. We are guests and behave as such.

Shout-Out and Give Thanks

Give thanks—If someone retweets one of your tweets don’t forget to give thanks. Example: Thanks for the shout-out @manamical. Check out their tweets for more great advice.

Things You Should Know About Your Audience

Pam Moore writes that many businesses have the problem of using social media tools without first doing their homework to understand their potential audience.

She says, “You must plan before you act in social media if you want to have a positive return on your investment. Random acts of marketing (RAMs) and social media (RASMs) will get you nothing but in the red come month-end!”

Pam suggests five things you should know about your audience to create content that inspires:
Who is your audience?
What are their pain points?
What does your product or service do to minimize or mitigate their pain?
How can your product or service inspire and help them personally and professionally?
How is your product or service positioned?

Sales Coach

Frenemy

A frenemy is someone who befriends you so that you think he is a supporter. In reality, the frenemy is only acting the part and is truly working against you. Frenemies are extremely dangerous, because they lull you into a false sense of security that you are winning the sale, when they are really coordinating a plan to defeat you.

Well-Wisher

A well-wisher talks to you on an intimate, friendly basis. He provides information that you consider proprietary. However, the well-wisher is an extremely amiable person and is probably providing the same information to all the salespeople competing for the business.

Weak Spy

Weak spies are observers who provide you information about the internal politics of the selection process. They report the thoughts of the various selection team members and keep you informed on the progress of other vendors.

Strong Spy

Strong spies are not only observers, but also disseminators of information. They promote you and your solution to others within their company when you aren’t around. Strong spies have a deeper, more personal connection to you than weak spies do. They’re more akin to confidants than acquaintances.

Guide

Guides are trusted friends who will courageously defend you and your solution, since they have a vested interest in your winning. Guides can be considered best friends. Not only are they confidants who provide all the inside details about the internal politics of decision making, but they also help you plan and execute your strategy to win the business.

Guides are usually seasoned employees. They’ve worked at the company for quite some time and understand how to get things done. They have the business acumen and the experience to provide adept advice on how to win the deal and get the contract signed. Most importantly, after helping devise the wining game plan, they play an integral part in executing it.

The ideal coach is the person with the highest authority or influence involved in the selection process. When this person becomes your coach, you will enjoy a unique advantage.

The journey is just beginning.  As we seek to grow entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems in new places, it is clear that we still have far more questions than answers.  But it is thrilling to watch the birth of a community of “doers,” and it will be exciting to see how it grows and impacts the world.

Business, not charity. 

To create sustainable economies, Alex Dehgan, the science and technology chief of USAID, recommended to everyone: “Treat the developing world as customers, not poor people.”  This is a huge shift from past thinking in economic development, where business was often treated like the enemy, not the cure.

Capital as pragmatic tool.

When talking about the role of social impact capital, Randall Kempner, CEO of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, stated: “I’m not in it to create a new asset class.  I’m committed to create a new middle class in the developing world.”  We are moving beyond thinking of capital in simplistic silos.  Freely-flowing capital is a pragmatic tool to grow businesses which can give consumers what they need.

The world wants new solutions.

Gerardo Corrachano of the World Bank remarked: “People tell us, we have done everything you’ve told us to do, and we don’t see the results.”  The old economic solutions of the past are providing less utility than before.  New frameworks and tools are needed.

We can “design” economic systems.

It is possible to apply design thinking to entire economic systems, not just innovative products.  At the Summit, we divided attendees into “Houses” (a la Hogwarts).  Houses did real work to “design” innovation ecosystems during live, interactive sessions to create useable results.

People are hungry to pitch in. 

We asked for volunteers to pitch their ideas for building Rainforests, which we uploaded to YouTube.    The top 5 vote-getters were chosen to pitch on-stage with a live feedback panel.  The lesson: individuals are fired up and ready to act.

Be a “psychic welder.”

This is the phrase that Nola Masterson, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist, used to describe her method of connecting people together to create value.  Innovation ecosystems thrive on human connectivity, not just raw inputs.

Emotion is the medium.

Ade Mabogunje of Stanford’s Institute for Venture Design observed the role of human nature in designing Rainforests: “In design, you have to know what materials you are working with. With human design, the material is emotion.”  Systemic economic growth is tied to human emotions and our ability to regulate those emotions.  Ecosystems can thrive when people overcome fear and leverage passions.

Innovators learn by example.

Phil Wickham, CEO of the Society of Kauffman Fellows, observed that: “Inspiration is the greatest IP, and that’s what’s lacking in developing regions.”  The lack of good role models can be a severe bottleneck on economic growth.

The human recipe matters.

We started with basic raw ingredients—a conference room, 400 human beings, some props, some ideas—and we created our own miniature Rainforest.  Over the course of the Summit, even we were blown away by the power of the buzz, the diverse interactions, the collaboration, the spontaneous experimentation happening everywhere.  This proves that, with the right recipe, Rainforests can be contagious.

No longer top versus bottom.

Alex Dehgan of USAID said: “This can’t be just top-down, and it can’t be just bottom-up. It’s got to be both.”  The interface between bottom-up innovation and top-down policy is both the challenge and the opportunity.  The big question: can we bridge that divide to create new solutions to elevate human welfare everywhere?

Promote yourself

1. Be interesting

You already know what interests you, but you should consider what will interest your followers. Learn about them through research and their own self-promotion so you can find a way to connect their interests with what you have to promote.

2. Be authentic

Share the real you. Say what you truly believe and not what you think others want to hear.  Being likeable helps too. Getting others to promote you openly will actually work even better than talking about yourself. If you can’t engage other people to talk about your accomplishment, then maybe it’s not worth talking about.

3. Provide value

Value comes in all shapes and sizes from an entertaining story, a lesson, or a simple joke that makes people smile and breaks up their day. Creativity in your delivery may even get people to share your promotion.

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