Q: What’s the best way to engage with successful and driven people online? – N. Beil via Facebook
A: The internet opens up a lot of possibilities that allow you to engage with successful and driven people. The first step is to focus in on what topic/industry you want to network in. Once you’ve narrowed your focus, here are four ideas for engaging your hero…
1) Personal Blogs – Do a Google search for the person’s name and see if a personal blog/website shows up. If so, subscribe to their RSS/Email list to get updated on new posts. Then start engaging by reading and commenting on the person’s posts. Make sure to make your comments/questions insightful verses just saying “That was great!” or “Thanks!” While those type of comments are nice for a blogger to get, they won’t help you get on their radar. Another tip is instead of commenting directly to the blogger, find comments from other community members that you can respond to and respond. This tactic will not only get the attention of the blogger, but also positions you as a host or leader of the community. 95% of people will comment directly to the blogger, stand out by spending your time commenting on other’s comments.
2) Twitter – Search (NAME Twitter) on Google and see if a Twitter account shows up. Make sure to do this search on Google verses Twitter as the Twitter people search is unfortunately bad. Once you’ve found your hero, follow them. Instead of jumping right to asking questions, build up your credibility with the person by commenting on their Tweets and reTweeting their content. Once you’ve built up credibility, then you’ve earned the right to ask them a few questions.
3) Personal Projects- Everyone is working on something. Find out what project your hero is currently working on and offer your time (for free) to help grow the project. Some ideas are…
4) Facebook Fan Pages/Groups - On Facebook, search for your hero and find their personal/company Fan Page/Group. Like it. Then, just like with your hero’s personal blog, comment on posts and engage other users. Additionally, upload multimedia (video/pictures) content that relates to the topic. Just make sure it’s relevant.
These are four ideas that will get you networking in no time. Just like with washing clothes, the goal with all of these actions should be to rinse and repeat. Become a regular in your hero’s world as someone who keeps providing value. Over time that value will start paying you dividends.
Harvard Business Review writers Linda Hill & Kent Lineback recently wrote an article titled “The Three Networks You Need.” Here’s a quick overview of each network:
Your Operational Network – People you lean on to complete your day-to-day work within your job role.
Your Developmental Network – People you lean on for emotional support.
Your Strategic Network – People who work on the outskirts of your profession who dabble in the worlds that surround your own.
The article argues that operational and developmental networks happen naturally, but strategic networks don’t but are equally as important because…
“the forces that drive change in your field will probably come from outside your current world.”
Education is known for its walled gardens, but with shifting times and increasing external pressures, the need for Educators to build up their strategic network is extremely important so they can better be prepared for the outside forces that are driving change in their field. This theme was echoed at the last Student Affairs conference I attended:
We agree H.Ed. fails to use outside expertise. I'd argue further: H.Ed. doesn't repect or value outside expertise. Thoughts? #heresy#sachat
It’s an honor to have so many Educators include me in their strategic network and respect my opinion and thoughts even though I don’t work day-to-day at an institution. Instead, my time is spent working on identity development, technology, social media, and online engagement with hundreds of institutions and businesses. My view, and world, are different but often very relevant to the shift happening in Education. Some value my view, others refuse to listen.
I consider many within the #SAchat community to be a part of my strategic network because they DO work day-to-day at an institution. I lean on many educators almost daily for advice and suggestions. Some of my best ideas come from people who are totally outside the work I do.
What about you? If you were to map out your strategic network, what people from what worlds would you want to include?
“Average [organizations] give their people something to work on. Great [organizations] give their people something to work towards. The role of the leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” -Simon, Sinek. Start With Why. 99.
Kevin and I started The Student Affairs Collaborative in 2005 to test our hypothesis that a decentralized, open system of peer-to-peer learning built around shared interests would increase engagement and retention.
We wanted to create a community in which everyone was a teacher at some level, and everyone supported each other to become more involved.
In the beginning, 100% of the content was written by me, Kevin, and our speaker friend Del Suggs. We then bribed our student affairs friends with cookies to help us write content, and slowly, over time, the site gained a readership.The SA Collaborative started to become the go-to place online for student affairs professionals to receive and share knowledge from their peers. The growth remained steady, and then Twitter came along…
In 2009, over drinks at Panera Bread Co with Debra Sanborn, I pitched the idea of a weekly chat via Twitter for student affairs professionals, which would mimic the already established #EDchat (for teachers) and #JourChat (for journalist). She nodded excitedly at the idea, and a couple weeks later, on Oct 8th, 2009, we attempted our first #SAchat.
I remember telling my wife how nervous I was that it was just going to be me and Debra tweeting back and forth for an hour, and it would never take off because there were no student affairs people on Twitter. I kept a shot of vodka close by to calm my nerves just in case .
The chat started extremely slow, but within 15 minutes a couple of people joined us from out of nowhere. Twitter hasn't opened up its history past Feb 2010, so the data can't be verified yet, but I remember the hour generating around 100 tweets and 10 people participating. 80% of those tweets came from me and Debra though :-/.
This week marks the one year anniversary of #SAchat, and the community has exploded in celebration. Last week, I jokingly declared that the SA Collaborative editors were bringing fireworks to the party, and fireworks they did bring! I've personally received tweets, emails, phone calls, faxes, and even postcards in celebration.
Where We Are Now
The last seven days of #SAchat'ter generated 2,500 tweets with 300 people participating! The hashtag #SAchat is the go-to place on Twitter for student affairs. Many people have the hashtag saved as a favorite search and keep it open all day on their 3rd party clients, which further solidifies its validity.
The SA Collaborative is now five years old, and has around 700 subscribed readers, 3,900 Twitter followers, 17 content contributors, and is the #1 ranking Google search for "Student Affairs Blog."
As expected, lots of additional niche student affairs chats are popping up with varying success. Most are initiated by the community, but some of the established organizations in the industry are launching their own chats. I say, the more the merrier! It makes sense that as the all-purpose #SAchat grows, sub chats with a more narrow focus will emerge. Once you've found the music fans, now you want to find the old-time-bluegrass-with-a-fiddle-in-the-band music fans because that is what you are really into.
A large percentage of the community only knows my name because of the generous outpouring of gratitude I've received over the past week. I tend not to overly participate in the weekly chats or blog. It's not that I don't care or have time, it's that you all will learn far more from your peers, who walk in your shoes 24/7, than from me being an outside supporter of student affairs. So I'll happily continue on from behind the scenes helping the community grow by facilitating as many relationships as possible, so we all continue to stay on the dance floor dancing together.
Why This Community Continues To Grow
Every community is comprised of champions, participants, and lurkers. This is also called the 90-9-1 rule in which 1% of a community will be the champions, 9% will participate, and 90% will simply lurk. Wikipedia is the most famous example of the 90-9-1 rule. The challenge of community organizers is to provide the right incentives to the right people so they stay engaged in the community. Champions want an audience to help and support, like they received when they were just starting off. Participants want an easy way to engage with people like them around relevant topics and to learn from the champions. Lurkers want a way to watch the activity between the champions and participants, and when ready, a way to easily test the temperature of the water.
I continuously work with the editorial team to make sure we are moving the community in the right direction. For the champions, that means making it easier for them to share their amazing knowledge to an increasingly larger audience. For participants, that means providing quality content, a fun atmosphere, and peers like them they can connect with. For lurkers, that means keeping the community as open as possible and providing baby steps of engagement like the TuesTally.
We're only a couple of weeks away from launching a directory for the #SAchat community that will further facilitate relationships and learning communities around shared interests. I want to help the student affairs graduate students find, participate, and learn from the #SAGrad community. I want to help women who work in housing find, participate, and learn from the #wihsng community. I want to help first year experience people find, participate, and learn from the #FYEchat community. I want to help the #RLchat (Res Life people) community grow, the #SAASS (assessment people) community grow, etc, etc, etc. The new directory will make all of this possible, and I predict it will challenge the established student affairs organizations to rethink how they engage their community. Heck, the #SAchat community has already turned some heads!
Challenge #1 – If you don't already have a blog, start one and add it to our student affairs blog directory. Write about your experiences at work so we can then share them with others who can learn from you. You're already a teacher to someone, they just haven't met you yet.
Challenge #2 – Help the community grow. Bring one new colleague to the next #SAchat. Email the SA Collaborative link to five new people. This party has just begun.
Challenge #3 – Think about how the lessons of this community relate back to your campus in terms of student engagement. How can you move away from being the gatekeepers of engagement and more toward being the facilitators of relationships around shared interests? How can you apply the 90-9-1 rule? How can you support more peer-to-peer learning among students? How can you help your students find old-time-bluegrass-with-a-fiddle-in-the-band music lovers like them? If it’s worked for you here in this community, there’s a strong possibility it will work for students on your campus.
My excitement for this community is overflowing. I believe we are pushing not just student affairs forward, but the entire educational field. We’re working our tails off over here at Red Rover to duplicate the successes of this community with the students on your campus. Wait till we launch the #SAchat directory, then you’ll really see what I’m talking about.
It's an exciting time at Red Rover, you can feel the momentum as all the pieces inch closer to each other. The team, the sales/marketing strategy, the development, the user support systems, the market, and the philosophy.
Today we held a town hall meeting with all the new team members. We walked through the back story of Red Rover, where we are now including guiding principles, and where we want to be in 12 months. It's fun. It's exciting.
Kevin told the back story this time and it's fun for me to sit back and hear him walk through how all the pieces fit. To explain why we went from SuperCamp, to urban camps, to Dance Floor Theory, to tech training, to Red Rover. And throughout all of it, the vision stayed the same, and the mission of x+1 remained intact.
I used to divide tasks into high, medium, and low urgency. High meaning I'd take care of it within the week, low meaning sometime in the future, and medium meaning sometime in-between. I've since simplified my prioritization to only high and low urgency, and ditched medium.
Why? Every time I have to decide how to label a task it costs money both in time and opportunity costs (other work I could be doing). With the addition of a medium label, my time to prioritize took too long because I didn't have a clearly defined set of rules as to what constituted a medium level task. Where as high and low were clearly defined.
With only high and low prioritization levels, my organization time has significantly dropped and I'm much more effective at responding to the most important tasks first.
Try it out yourself by ditching medium level prioritization and clearly defining what it means to prioritize something as high or low.
Fred Wilson continues to rock his MBA Monday's with a follow up to last week's post of the same title. This week, Matt Blumberg guest posts and provides some amendments to Fred's list of CEO responsibilities, as well as adding three behaviors he thinks every CEO should embrace.
First, three corollaries – one for each of the three responsibilities Fred outlines.
• Setting vision and strategy are key…but in order to do that, the CEO must remember the principle of NIHITO (Nothing Interesting Happens in the Office) and must spend time in-market. Get to know competitors well. Spend time with customers and channel partners. Actively work industry associations. Walk the floor at conferences. Understand what the substitute products are (not just direct competition).
• Recruiting and retaining top talent are pay-to-play…but you have to go well beyond the standards and basics here. You have to be personally involved in as much of the process as you can – it’s not about delegating it to HR. I find that fostering all-hands engagement is a CEO-led initiative. Regularly conduct random roundtables of 6-10 employees. Send your Board reports to ALL (redact what you must) and make your all-hands meetings Q&A instead of status updates. Hold a CEO Council every time you have a tough decision to make and want a cross-section of opinions.
• Making sure there’s enough cash in the bank keeps the lights on…but managing a handful of financial metrics in concert with each other is what really makes the engine hum. A lot of cash with a lot of debt is a poor position to be in. Looking at recognized revenue when you really need to focus on bookings is shortsighted. Managing operating losses as your burn/runway proxy when you have huge looming CapEx needs is a problem.
Second, three behaviors a CEO has to embody in order to be successful – this goes beyond the job description into key competencies.
• Don’t be a bottleneck. You don’t have to be an Inbox-Zero nut, but you do need to make sure you don’t have people in the company chronically waiting on you before they can take their next actions on projects. Otherwise, you lose all the leverage you have in hiring a team.
• Run great meetings. Meetings are a company’s most expensive endeavors. 10 people around a table for an hour is a lot of salary expense! Make sure your meetings are as short as possible, as actionable as possible, and as interesting as possible. Don’t hold a meeting when an email or 5-minute recorded message will suffice. Don’t hold a weekly standing meeting when it can be biweekly. Vary the tempo of your meetings to match their purpose – the same staff group can have a weekly with one agenda, a monthly with a different agenda, and a quarterly with a different agenda.
• Keep yourself fresh…Join a CEO peer group. Work with an executive coach. Read business literature (blogs, books, magazines) like mad and apply your learnings. Exercise regularly. Don’t neglect your family or your hobbies. Keep the bulk of your weekends, and at least one two-week vacation each year, sacrosanct and unplugged.
Kevin and I have had some great conversations around his role as CEO. I'm not CEO, but I feel 100% responsible for making sure he, as CEO, is acting on the responsibilities outlined above, even if that means he delegates his work to me because he is slammed with other work. If you ask Kevin, he would tell you how much he'd love to just do what was listed above, but the realities of a startup get in the way. My job is to keep pushing us to be able to allow him to focus on the list above. It's what will take us from $1M to $10M and beyond.
"The diary industry tried for 20 years to convince you that milk was good for you and the sales went down. Then they tried "Got Milk" and the sales went up."
"Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
Eight months ago, a Twitter friend, @cindykane, challenged her followers to have an empty inbox. Up until that point, my inbox was consistantly 100+ deep, so the idea was intriguing. For the past eight months, I’m happy to report my inbox has continued to stay at zero. However, learning a good system took a bit. Here are my five steps for anyone to achieve and maintain inbox zero.
1) Create an ‘archive’ folder and move your entire inbox to the folder. See how easy it was to reach inbox zero Joking aside, this simple action frees you from the weight of seeing 100+ emails every time. You can always revisit the ‘archive’ folder if needed, so don’t panic.
2) Remove yourself from every and all newsletters/listserves expect the most important. This will quickly reduce your inbox volume, and be honest, how many of them do you actually read? I concluded I really only read two of my twenty subscriptions. (Check out unsubscribe.com)
3) Create rules to filter messages away from your inbox to folders. I appreciate getting Facebook and Twitter email updates, but I don’t want them in my inbox, so I have a folder, with a rule attached, that moves all emails from Facebook or Twitter to it. This way I can batch review them at once verses individually in my inbox.
4) Disable all new email notifications. Don’t let your inbox control you with a Pavlovian dog like sound. Instead, react to your inbox on your own terms. Check your inbox in batches throughout the day instead of on an ongoing basis.
5) Your inbox is not your To-Do list. This is probably the biggest single important piece of advice I can give you. Rewire your relationship with your inbox from a To-Do list to an air traffic control tower. Every piece of mail that comes in has four actions…
Unsubscribe / Mark As Spam
Act right away by replying or reading, than archiving. And I mean RIGHT AWAY.
Move it to a ‘Task – High’ folder which marks the email as high importance that you’ll act on within the week.
Move it to a ‘Task – Low’ folder which marks the email as low importance that you’ll act on in your free time…whenever that is. (read more on high vs low prioritization here)
Five easy steps. Start now and try this system for one day, then two, then a week, a month, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can actually maintain inbox zero.
TK 11/30/12 UPDATE – I’ve since been using www.followupthen.com extensively as a way to replace both my “Task – High” and “Task – Low” folders. You can learn more about how it works in my other post.
Having only one day "in the office" before I head out again tomorrow automatically sets up some challenges as to what to focus on. The fires in the kitchen tend to need the most immediate attention. So I plowed through my emails/tasks and knocked out everything marked with "high priority, high urgency." This is a common pattern after a few days of traveling, stuff just builds up. Good news, I was quickly able to bring my inbox back down to zero in minimal time.
With a growing team, I opted to spend the rest of my time focused on them. I set Megan up with taking on the larger role of customer care by defining a map of what our current customer care looks like with some open questions for her to figure out.
Megan and I then met to talk about renewing her contract and reviewing her role within Red Rover. She's a wonderful asset to us and so much of it was verbally acknowledging the great work she is doing as well as giving her a little pay bump.
We also turned the tables by asking her to give us a review of the company. Specifically we asked her to define what she thinks the principles of the company are, what we are doing that she likes, and what we can improve on. Having the newest members of a team review the company gives as close to an outside objective observer on the inner workings of the company as you can get.
I ended my day with a trip to Pivotal Labs in Tri Beca to meet the new programmers working on Red Rover as well as have dinner with Kevin to talk about several things. Every time Kevin and I meet, we have a fairly long list of topics to cover, but time never seems to be our friend as we plow through several pieces quickly to keep time integrity with other appointments. We both know the importance of prioritizing the "high priority, low urgency" tasks, but haven't put it into practice lately. We'll get better.
Lastly, on a totally unrelated note, my brother (Daniel) called last night to announce that he and his girlfriend (Andrea) were getting married today! It's kinda sorta a 9 year in the making non-pregnancy related shotgun wedding. It makes total sense for health and financial reasons, so Annie and I popped out the shot glasses and toasted them with some VeeV. It sounds like there will probably be a more official gathering soon to celebrate their nuptials, so I'll hold my emotional congrats till then. But for now, CHEERS!