Most of us write the way we think.
If we want employees or colleagues to share more knowledge, we might send them an email asking them to participate in a discussion.
Please can you share your recent experiences about upgrading our project management system with the rest of the company in our community?
What do you think Mark’s feeling when he gets that email?
Mark’s not twiddling his thumbs waiting for something to do, he’s busy.
He gets this email and suddenly thinks “dammit, can’t he see I’m busy…why is he dropping this on me?”
This is extra work for him with no reward. There’s no acknowledgement of his current status here. It’s not clear how much time he should spend on this nor when it needs to get done by.
Is this an important project or something that needs a few bullet points?
As a result he likes you less for not understanding his situation and dislikes the community for giving him extra work.
So let’s try and fix this…
I know you’ve got a lot on your plate at the moment, but could you please take 10 minutes this week and share your recent experiences about upgrading our project management system in our community?
Mark will appreciate the empathy. He’ll like you more. It’s also clear how long this should take and when it needs to get done by. It’s less confusing.
But he’ll still like the community less.
It’s still extra work that he has to get done.
I guarantee he’s going to expend the absolute minimal possible effort to get this off his plate.
It doesn’t make him want to share knowledge.
I also guarantee he’s going to be less likely to participate in the community in the future because he associates it now with extra work.
Positioning It As A Burden Or An Exciting Opportunity?
This isn’t the exception by the way, it’s the single most common problem that’s killing internal communities.
I’d estimate for 90% of the clients we visit, they’re common complaint is our employees tell us they don’t have time to participate!”
That’s entirely because it’s framed as extra work.
The very messages we send out asking people to participate makes them less likely to ever participate.
What would the world of social sciences say about this?
Mark has to feel it’s his decision to share knowledge, that it will help other people he cares about, and a sense of accomplishment over acquiring this knowledge.
Mark has to feel good about this knowledge. He has to feel proud about sharing it and want to share it.
Let’s isolate these as a few separate things:
Mark should feel:
- Good and proud about the knowledge he has to share.
- A sense of achievement at having gained it.
- It helps other people (he cares about).
- It’s his decision to share the knowledge.
So let’s once try this once again….
Congratulations Mark on the upgrade to the new project management system.
I’ve already heard from both EMEA and R&D groups that it’s now saving them a lot of time and that’s all thanks to you. I know you worked like crazy to get it done, so congrats!
I’m also wondering if we can help our partners (notably Sarah in the accountancy group and Louis in Marketing) upgrade their systems too. I know they’re struggling a little trying to get this done this month.
What do you think? Are there any specific tips that you gained doing it which would really help them out?
Now we’ve created a message which first primes Mark to feel positively about his achievement and gives him a great sense of competence.
Next we explain how valuable this could be to other people he knows (by name), and then we ask him what he wants to do.
Notice that we phrase the request as a question instead of an instruction.
And all this takes about 30 additional seconds. But those are a really crucial 30 seconds that determine whether Mark will ever participate.
By the end of this he feels positively not just to the single action but to the community as a whole by association.
He’ll feel positively about the next request too and is more likely to become a regular.
The Most Basic Principles Help A Lot
Nothing about this is complicated or difficult is it?
Yet it’s still the number one thing killing most internal community efforts. We keep framing the community (unintentionally) as extra work.
And this is just the most basic level here.
During our Tactical Psychology workshop we want to take you from the beginner to an advanced level.
We’re going to teach you how to increase engagement and change member behavior without expensive technology changes, going through gladiatorial combat for approval from middle-management, and waiting ages for help from others.
This is all stuff you can apply the very next day.
You still have time to enroll in our workshop on June 6. You will be joined by community managers building internal, B2B, B2C, non-profit communities. The 625 USD fee includes our live lessons, case studies, coaching/breakdown of each problem you face, as well as lunch, breakfast, coffee throughout the day and more.
Prices rise this Friday. If you need approval from your boss, best to ask now.