Month: October 2015

Autonomy And Todd Nilson

Most people recruit someone to join groups for one of three reasons.

1) You want the group to be bigger. The problem with growing for growth sake is it doesn’t place emphasis on each member’s unique motivations. It’s a selfish way of growing the group – usually done for the benefit of you, not the members. Members are indifferent to a group’s size. They only want the group to be better. Sometimes adding new people helps. It brings in new expertise, energy, and perspectives. This leads to the next two.

2) You have a clearly defined role to fill. In organisations, especially, we recruit people to fill clearly defined roles. But roles are limiting and repetitive. A role is autonomy-thwarting. A role condemns people to act in line with what the role entails regardless of their own beliefs. A role doesn’t easily allow someone to express their creativity and ability.

3) You have a clearly defined challenge to tackle. A challenge is invigorating. A challenge attracts smart people looking for something special. A challenge lets someone increase their skill level and wake up motivated every morning.

The best way to engage anyone in any group is to highlight how they can use their existing skills and experience to tackle a challenge that impacts the group. That challenge should be slightly beyond anything they’ve done in the past.

Among my (many) mistakes in growing FeverBee is to hire people for clearly defined roles instead of clearly defined challenges. These days we’re much better. We define the challenges and new staff decide their own job titles.

We’ve spent the past 9 months finding someone to tackle the many exciting challenges when growing a consultancy practice. A few weeks ago, we found Todd Nilson. Todd has spent years growing consultancy practices and building internal/external communities at organisations like 7Summits, SPR, and a variety of recruitment companies.

We’re ecstatic he decided to join us and feel confident many of you will be blown away by what he brings to the table. Feel free to say hello to [email protected].

There’s an (admittedly unsourced) Steve Jobs quote: “It makes no sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people to tell us what to do“. It’s as true in communities and social groups as it is in business.

Warning People Is A Bad Idea

October 2, 2015Comments Off on Warning People Is A Bad Idea

If you lend a friend some money one week and he won’t lend you some money the next, you wouldn’t feel happy.

Your trust has been violated.

But what is trust?

Trust is the belief in indirect reciprocity. You might give something to a group/another person in the belief that they will help you later on. This helped groups survive in hunter-gatherer times. Everyone pooled resources and the group was stronger for it.

However, if a group is filled with too many takers, people will hoard resources instead of sharing. In modern times, this means knowledge, social support, or tangible objects (such as money).

Experts had a taker who constantly violated the group’s norm of indirect reciprocity. He asked for help, but never gave any. He contributed negative emotional states, but never tried to help others through theirs.

We shouldn’t accept this in our social groups any more than we would accept it in our friendship circles.

[tweet_dis]A group with too many takers simply can’t survive for long. The trust crumples.[/tweet_dis]

You could warn the individual, but they would react negatively.

If you warn them, they will get defensive. If you begin with a warning, they can’t change their behavior unless they implicitly admit their previous behavior was wrong. Not many people want to do that.

It’s far better to take the opposite approach. Use positive language. Create a clear reason based upon noble goals. Make it personal between people.

For example:

“Hey Mike,

I’ve been following your posts for a while.

I think you’re holding back a little and you’re more of an expert than you might think.

We have a few posts that would really benefit from you sharing some of your expertise.

Would you mind helping some people out? I’d really appreciate it”

The goal here is to make it a positive, not a negative. It’s to create a reason (help people). And it’s to make it personal between us. To say no, he has to say it directly to me – he’s not willing to help us out.

And some people will ignore the message. Some will only do it once. But if it works just a handful of times, it’s worth doing.

p.s. We’re now just 39 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:

Harassment Problems Rarely Have Simple Solutions

October 1, 2015Comments Off on Harassment Problems Rarely Have Simple Solutions

Read this post by Katie and consider what you would do if you were the event organizer.

What do you do if someone (especially someone with a reputation big enough to cause you problems) is harassing another member of the group?

This is an important challenge for all social architects.

The obvious answer, ‘remove the perpetrator’, isn’t as simple as it seems.

First you would need to:

  • Know harassment has taken place (it usually goes unreported).
  • Establish what constitutes harassment? A misjudged advance or repeated series of messages (how many?)
  • Ensure all members know what constitutes harassment (this differs by cultural backgrounds).
  • Provide a safe line for people to report harassment (do you let people do it anonymously? Who gets to see the report?).
  • Ensure the accused did commit harassment (does it need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? What if this usually comes to s/he said?)
  • Remove the harasser from the group (physically, how does this happen? Are you willing to publicly ask him/her to leave?)
  • Protect the person that made the complaint (how do you protect them from physical or emotional abuse outside of the venue?).
  • Protect your organization from legal repercussions. (What if you have signed contracts with the harasser to speak/sponsor your events?)

I can’t promise this is the best process, but it’s a process.

  • Write detailed rules. What constitutes harassment? Be specific and be clear about the intent of the rules as much as the words themselves. Give specific examples and identify the line between a misunderstanding and harassment.
  • Force people to understand the rules. Anyone participating in the group abides by these rules. Include this in any contract with speakers or agreement with attendees. Don’t include this in a legal block no-one reads, explain it at the beginning of your talk, in a video people have to watch when they join the community, or in a separate list of rules to sign when they attend the event.
  • Anonymous tip & clear person responsible to report harassment. Designate a specific person to report harassment and create an anonymous tip line. Anyone can submit any evidence or observation of harassment at any time. It probably helps if the recipient is a) female b) doesn’t have strong relationships with the major influencers and c) is trained and emotionally ready for the role.
  • One-strike with evidence, two strikes without. If there is evidence, remove the perpetrator immediately. If there isn’t, give a warning – ask for their side of the story, and offer a second chance.
  • Immediate revocation of any credentials/access/ability to attend the event or participate in the community. Do this by phone. Be factual, direct, and not argumentative. Let the individual explain why they can’t attend the event if they’d like to.
  • Ask the harassed what you can do to help protect them (they will know better than you). This step is important and often overlooked. The solution they develop for themselves will be superior to any solution you design for them.
  • Contact your legal team. Seek advice if you like, but give them a clear heads up and understand what you should and shouldn’t do in this situation.

This is the role no-one building any social group wants to perform. Unfortunately for you, there’s on-one else to do it. The temptation will always be to overlook it and hope the problem goes away. But that’s not what you’re going to do.

Twitter discovered you can be as defined by your inactivity on harassment than your activity. Your community can be the same.

p.s. We’re now just 40 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:


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