TRUE LIFE: Diaries of a Middle-Manager

So I get asked a lot how do I get my executives on social tools (see here), like Yammer. The people on the ground, the front line LOVE tools like this. Yet what I find most interesting is managing on Enterprise Social tools and what is the role of a manager in a networked community. This is  something I want to dig deeper than just my personal experiences, so if you have research, please share my way.

For a while, if not forever, managers had the role of dissemination of information. Similar to the role of parents to children, teaching their kids about the world in a way they think they should learn, however far away or close to reality that ends up being.

You’ll need to take note. I am a millennial. I manage millennials and Xers. I am managed by a Xer.

 

YES TEAM

You probably also have experienced this as well. Some roles of your organization are shifting. The role of IT. The role of Corp Communication. The role of Learning & Development. The role of Marketing…. To name a few.

I also think the role of the manager is changing as  well in the social space.

And I don’t mean, because I use twitter, I am a better manager (although that might make another good blog post). I mean internally social tools like Yammer break down the dissemination of information in ways that managers have been holding the keys for ages. What is the role of the manager when my CEO can simply read and “like” a message of my direct reports. How does that reflect on me? How does it reflect on them? Is it a good thing? And what does the role look like if my reports can interact with the CEO without my involvement? What DO they need me for?

 

Three areas for managers to focus —  team, individuals, the company.

  • Team operations – As a manager I have certain things that I liked to do when I attend meetings, as well as when I am participant at meetings. I create a space for us to co-author meeting minutes and notes. No more of everyone take their own notes and someone compile them at the end of the day (and sent over email). I also ask what are my teams “highs and lows” for the week in our Team Yammer group. I do this to see how they are doing and whats going on, what ends up happening is that the lows or the highs spark other conversations. When my team “wins” or does something great, I tag the conversation, this why at the end of the year /quarter or month we can celebrate the team (I used #YES_we_can because the team was the Yammer Education Services aka YES team).
  • Individuals – With allowing people to work out loud on their projects in a variety of groups openly, it allows me to never have to guess what my people are up to. Then during our 1:1s I can follow up on specific conversations or roadblocks and see how I can help remove them to get them to move forward faster. I also use the Praise functionality to give the pat on the back of something small or big, but something worth deserving.
  • The company – By staying connected to a variety of groups that might not be so relevant for my day to day job, it helps me keep an ear to the ground and a heart toward the future of the company. I know and find out things before most people do because I can peer into their groups or spaces and see what they are up to. This allows me to translate and share it with my team on how they should prepare or how our customers will be affected by the other work. As a remote manager this helps me stay connected and virtually walk the halls of other teams and projects.

Your teams need you to serve them. To motivate. To remove and unblock barriers. To help plan and prioritize. And to get into the action, offer up your own hands to get dirty in the work when you need to. Your team needs to be that connecter, and not to stand in the way of connecting the dots for them as they grow and succeed. You need  to help build their networks. And they also need you to get out of the way, and have the opportunity to do it themselves, no matter how much you want to just do it.  And this is amplified in a social networked world. They don’t need you to horde or disseminate the information. If you are like me, my team is educated and has good intention. They don’t need me to be a blocker, they need me to open  the doors and get out of the way. Because at the end of the day, its not about you, it should be about them.

 

Last week I attended ASTD (Now ATD) International conference and I sat in a session with Marcus Buckingham about performance management. His whole talk revolved around the manager employee relationship. He asked managers to ask their employees early and often: 1. At work, do you have a chance to do your best every day? 2. Do you know what is expected of you? 3. Are you colleagues committed to quality (with the definition of quality varying in each organization and team).  Help your employees find their strengths, focus on their strengths and understand the expectations of the quality that the organization needs. You can’t have this level of conversation without actually knowing your team, and really understanding them for who there are and where they’ve been.

 

How do you lead? How do you manage people on social networking tools like Yammer? Do you have anything else to add?

Catalyst West – Inspirational Leadership

Last week I had the opportunity to go to Catalyst West  – a faith based leadership event.

I feel like I need a whole week to process everything that I learned. I really want to unpack and figure out how each of the things that I learned apply.

Highlight of nuggets that I can’t get out of my head (some may need more context):

Andy Stanley

“Your current response to opportunity, adversity and calling is MAKING you currently.” 

“Better to make a difference than a point”

“Actions may speak louder than words and sometimes actions echo into the next generation”

Jim Collins

“Good is the enemy of great.”

“Never confused personality with leadership”

“Ask people what they think ahead of always telling them what you think”

“Don’t spend time being interesting, be interested”

“Good intentions is not a cover up for incompetence”

Tom Shadyal 

“Money doesn’t end poverty, love will”

“Without the low note in a song, you wont recognize the high note”

Chip Heath 

“We can never be perfect but we can be better. Bolder.”

“Thinking too narrowly concludes to narrow framing – focus on a different thing.”

“Take a step back from a decision. Add distance. Sleep on it. Think short term. Think long term.”

“10/10/10 Rule – When making a decision think whats the impact 10 min from now, 10 months from now 10 years from now.”

Christine Caine 

“The relay race hinges on exchange zone. We are a part of a divine relay. And its all about the baton. We are building the next generation. You are only here in your faith today, because the generation ahead of you didn’t drop the baton”

“Tolerance isn’t endorsement”

“The issue isn’t injustice. Its sin”

“Nothing can kill you faster than spotlight. It is better to be marked by God than being marketed by Man.”

I love nuggets. Not chicken nuggets (seriously, whats a chicken nugget?!?!)

Anyways, I also finished a new book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Its a must read. It was exactly what I needed to hear about leadership, women, families and relationships. I will write about that in an upcoming post.

So last week was one of the best weeks I have had in a long time. I was inspired  I had fun. I was encouraged. My cup is full. “Spilling over” is more like it. I feel like I have the energy to tackle the world. Sometimes I just need a few days of focused growth and learning. And last week was it. I felt like a sponge looking thru a new lens of opportunity and leadership.

When’s the last time you felt really inspired? What did you learn? How did you share what you learned? Did you actually change?

TRUE LIFE: Social Onboarding

This is a guest post by my team member Paul Agustin. 

First off, I want to thank Allison for this opportunity to contribute to her blog. My name is Paul Agustin (@PSAgustin) and I am the newest member of her team. Working at Yammer, I’m constantly amazed at its many uses in the workplace. I’m using Notes to take and maintain minutes from meetings with clients as we map out how to roll out training to them. I’m sharing Files with my colleagues for feedback and discussion, utilizing their countless stories and experiences. I’ve been able to discuss and share ideas on upcoming projects with co-workers on the other side of the country, some whom I’ve never even met. Yammer is really changing the way I’ve viewed “working.”  As I’m writing this, I can’t believe I’ve only been at this job for about two months. That’s not a typo. I’ve only been at Yammer for two months. How many people can say, they’ve been able to achieve full productivity in less than a month? (I should have written this blog a month ago, but I was off being productive at Yammer.) Since Day 1 at Yammer, I’ve been able to hit the ground running and I don’t think it would have been possible, if Yammer wasn’t used as part of the onboarding process. Now, you must be thinking, Yammer for onboarding?

From the get go, I’ve been immersed in Yammer. Before my official start date, I was given access to an external network called Yammerversity. This gave me a chance to work in Yammer right away and expose myself to its different features and functionality. (I came from a company that did not use Yammer, so this was my first exposure to it).

Through this, Yammer and I were able to achieve a couple of things:

  1. I became familiar and comfortable with my new job role.
    As more and more people continue to use Yammer within a company, it becomes a knowledge repository. Conversations specific to my team and around their notes and files, are a treasure trove of information on getting up to speed. Being able to see the discussions behind every webinar and presentation, really helped me to know what was expected of me and how I could immediately contribute to the team. Part of my onboarding process was to go through the Yammer certifications. As I was going through them, I shared my feedback on things that needed to get updated and how to improve some of the quiz questions. This was then used to update our certifications.
  2. I was able to learn about company culture and get access to job related resources.
    Cynthia, who led onboarding at Yammer (@CynthiaCHanson) put a fantastic Preboarding Note together that contained links to various e-Learning modules covering Yammer basics, the history of Yammer, and the culture of the company. By the time I stepped into the office, I already had a sense of the people and the company. Once I was given full access to the home network, I was added to a group called Yammer New Hires, which had additional Notes on benefits information and company sites I should be aware of. The best resource of them all though was all of the conversations that had already happened. When I had questions about our commuter benefits, I did a quick search and found my answer. If I couldn’t find an answer on Yammer, I could post it to the company (in the appropriate group, of course), and know that someone will be able to help me out.
  3. I was able to start to build relationships and network.
    The first thing you’re supposed to do once you’re granted access to the Yammer home network, is to post a #bammerintro. (Bammer is a nickname for a baby Yammer, or a noob.) In your Bammer intro, you are to introduce yourself to the company and share a bit about yourself. Folks across the company can “Like” your message and reply with their own welcomes and greetings. This one little exercise is a great start to building relationships. When I finally visited the company headquarters, people already knew who I was and I knew who they were based on our interactions in Yammer. I already felt like part of the team, before I actually met Cynthia, Natalie, Kristin  and Louise in person.
  4. I was able to feel engaged and valued.
    “Working out loud” in Yammer creates transparency in what I’m working on and what other people are working on to. Allison has mentioned me on conversations that she thinks are relevant to me or that I can provide value to. Through this transparency, I can see my comments and suggestions are being read and used. Just the other day, I put together a deck about what do now that you’re a Yammer Certified Power User. Allison loved the idea and wanted to use it in our other certification programs.

social generationThese are just a few of the ways Yammer has eased my transition to my new job. If you’re looking for a way to jolt your onboarding program, try making it a little more “social,” you’ll be pleased with the results. I know I was.

Thanks Paul! You’ve been great addition to the team and I know these learnings will be good for others to read. So, how about you, have you tried to “socialize” your new hires? What are you learning? How can a tool like Yammer help facilitate and enable those conversations and communities?

Strengths Finder – Activator

A few months or so ago my previous team and I did the strengths finder test. Have you heard of it?

Anyways – it’s an assessment of questions and you have to answer (within a few seconds) of how you would respond. At the end of it you are given your top 5 strengths, actions plans and tons of resources of how to expand on your strengths. When I was done, my top 5 were spot on. We met as a team a week or two later to discuss all of our strengths and how we can work better as a team. By knowing the strengths of our team members, when they start to drive you crazy because they ________ (fill in the blank) it’s actually because of who they are.  Like my one co-worker always re-working anything that you give to her, but it’s not because what you did was not good enough, it’s because she is a “Maximizer”.  She takes whatever you have given her (or from a group of people) puts its to a whole new level that no one else saw before.

One of my strengths is “Activator“. I like to take action. And it drives me crazy when people don’t do what they say they are going to do. Or if they have a need and don’t take action upon that need. For example, if I need to know how to do something – I try whatever venue I can to figure it out. I guess I didn’t know it was a strength – I felt like everyone does that when they don’t know something. Boy – was I wrong.

Recently I participated in a focus group about SharePoint at my former company. And while I don’t think SharePoint is perfect I do think its really powerful. You can do a ton of stuff. And we actually have custom and vendor training material posted about how to use it.  However, during this focus group everyone complained about how they were never trained.

Now I am all about training (HELLO ITS MY JOB!) but if I wait around, sign up and never go to training… and then complain that I never got trained – THATS A DIFFERENT STORY. For goodness sake – you do know how to use google, right?  Or are you still waiting for that training too?

Regardless – I need to work on my patience. Some people (myself) are very “active” and will not wait for someone to spoon feed them something, especially when we have so many resources and networks of people at our fingertips.  Others – would rather wait until someone tells them what to do.

What’s your strength? Does it bug you when others have the complete opposite of your strength? What do you need to learn in order to deal with other people in your organization? Do you understand the people around you and their strengths? Or are you just going wait…