I've decided to blow the cover of social networking as a silver-bullet solution that organizations can use to achieve the non-dues revenue and retention levels of their dreams. There's a lot of other effects that social networking will have on our organizations and I'm going to start to discuss them in a series of blog posts.
The first dirty secret pertains to organizational health. If social networking is to work, or if you are finding that social networking is not working, then you might want to look around and assess your organization's culture, operation and communication methods, and general viewpoints. Perhaps it is coming from the top, or perhaps you have particularly strong volunteer members that are working in outdated ways or based on "old school" philosophies that are throwing off the social network's ability to grow and thrive.
Social networks require the following elements in order to be established and grow in a healthy manner:
- genuine interest/care about individuals and the overall group
- storytelling ability
- principle-based discipline
- continuous, positive reinforcement
- open communication
- constructive feedback
If you want to assess your own organization, ask yourself the following questions:
1) Does our Executive Director/CEO have an open communication channel with the Board?
2) Does the Board support the ED/CEO?
3) Does our staff openly share information and regularly gather together to share information, or is there a generally an attitude of information hoarding and concealment?
4) Do we think of our membership as "Them" and the staff as "Us"?
5) How self-absorbed are each of our staff members? Do we have a culture of supporting internal team members?
6) Where do our pictures go from events? (This is seemingly an innocuous question, but it can often lead to sniffing out people that don't share or are control freaks)
7) Do we believe in knowledge management (Do we see the value in keeping/archiving content for future members, staff and generations?)
8) Do we respect what our members do?
9) How well do we listen to the 'norm' or to various groups or are we really only influenced by what one or 2 people are saying?
10) How often do we change direction? Are we able to set a course for programs, initiatives, strategic plans and then act on them, or are we continuously swayed by popular opinion and cave to any push-back from vocal members?
11) Do we have managers that micromanage and/or cannot see the big picture?
12) How often do we use firefighting mode as an excuse for not taking the time to think about how our daily actions add up to steer us down a course of action? Can we see how our daily efforts add up to a larger direction?
13) How often do we receive and give praise? Is it a foreign idea to praise, pick out and show gratitude to individual members or do we feel like this isn't fair or we are playing favorites and should not do this?
14) Do we truly know our members? Have we looked at their education, demographics, how they work, what influences their worldviews, intentions and motivations for joining, or do we go on first blush and make assumptions? Same is true for our staff-do we know each person's skill set, velocity, resiliency, and aspirations so we know how to successfully motivate, discipline and reward?
15) Do we genuinely feel like we are doing good work--i.e. we are having meaningful impact on our membership and the greater world? Do we have "oneness" with the overall membership and understand how we fit into the greater population and what makes our individual contributions valuable to the overall group?
16) Do we have the emotional and psychological resolve to face ourselves individually and as a group to self-assess and to put a plan of action together to shore up any weaknesses and make organizational changes that will make us stronger and healthier?
People love checklists--they typically love self-assessment to see how they stack up and to identify benchmarks. Unfortunately, this is the easy part. It is step one and does that courage, but the harder part is to then formulate a plan for how to make, execute and evaluate a plan for improvement.
Why does this come up with social networking? What is the connection? Social networking is a new way of communicating, and ultimately, a huge threat to organizations that are weak in any of the outlined areas above. When you have an entire population connected or even the perception of connection or opportunity of connection, you bring in transparency. Transparency means that people are cross-checking your story and assessing your worth (credibility, legitimacy, attitudes, contributions) against your actions and those of other participants in the group. This blows the cover on posers and liars and cheaters and people that try to hide and people that are wholly self-absorbed and greedy/small in their worldviews and operate from fear (fear of failure, fear of exposure, fear of being abnormal, etc) . This is typically where you find resistance to social networking--there is a reason that they resist--look for it! If these attitudes are allowed to persist and influence your organization's ability to adopt the growth strategies that are inherent in social networking, your organization is going to go into stasis and/or slowly degrade.
The good news is that if you adopt the elements (or strengthen) of a healthy environment, good things come of it that benefit the entire group. Transparency leads to more trust. Trust leads to more open communication. Communication leads to more rapport which leads to stronger relationships which leads to more sharing and working together. A positive feedback loop is ultimately created and supported by influencers that are thinking about the organization's good. This is the end goal of social networks from an organizational perspective: you want to use them like you would physical exercise to the body. It hurts at first, but if you stick with it, the long-term effects are far reaching. You get into the positive feedback cycle where you get more oxygen which makes you feel better and thnk better, your body looks more fit and your skin/eyes are bright which makes you more confident, you get more energy which allows you to do more, and on and on. Ultimately, your overall health improves.
Organizational health is no different. The key to improving organizational health and behavior is to find a formula that works and that you can stick to--just like any health program.
We'll explore more Dirty Secrets in future posts.