Notes from Day one of The CR Connect 2019

This week I’m over in Boston, USA for the Community Roundtable‘s annual conference CR Connect. It’s my second year and, as you might expect, I feel even comfier here than I did last year. This event is like a wellness retreat for Community Managers – an opportunity to be with our people. A tribal meeting of like souls working in an industry full of people working in teams that are often as small as one person! The conference theme this year is “Community Leaders Ascend” with much of the content coming from Community Roundtable members and facilitated discussions. Below are some of my thoughts from the first day of action. (My notes are generally bulleted in my notebook).

The day started with a great run with the Running Club, it’s always a great way to start a conference day and, having missed out last year due to injury, it was great to get out with these guys, and to wear our new running shirts courtesy of the Roundtable.

Last year Community Roundtable founder Jim Storer encouraged us to be where our feet where whilst in town – this year, Jim’s opening advice was centred around the quote “There are no strangers here – only friends who haven’t met yet” – encouraging us to lean in and connect with people we haven’t met before.

After an exercise led by Head of Community Kelly Schott looking at the Japanese concept of Ikigai – “reason for being”, we jumped into Founder and spiritual leader of the Roundtable Rachel Happe’s thoughts on the state of our industry today. Rachel’s top 5 trends in the Community industry were:

  • Executives recognise that communities matter.
    There is no negative impact of having a community – only positive ones. That’s not to say there are no negative conversations.
  • Influence is more powerful than control.
    We are more disempowered than we think and as such have a lot of influence. We should be more aware of this and use it.
  • Communities are a means, not the end.
    There are many use cases that communities can help with and they will nearly always move you closer to the end goal by making the process better.
  • Community governance is changing corporate governance.
  • Community leadership is the future of all leadership
    Network centric thinking is the where leadership is heading, as opposed to last year’s thoughts about Community Management being the future of all management – leadership is key and how we use our leadership as Community leaders and professionals is key to the success of our programs and, ultimately our business.

Some quotes I noted from the panel discussion featuring Peter Broadley, Sarah Mahon and Jeff Ross:

On how people (us) often don’t see themselves as leaders:
Peter – “anyone who takes the initiative and opportunity can be a leader”
Jeff, with possibly my favourite quote of the day and qouting his local pastor – “”Finad a need and fill it. Find a hurt and heal it.”
Rachel – You have to care. You have to empower others. Rachel also referred to an interview with Jack Welch where he was asked “where are your former teammates now? Did you help them?” –
Sarah – “Leaders set others up for success”

These last couple of notes remind me of reading the book Sacred Hoops by former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson and how he got Michael Jordan to really become the leader of the Bulls on court and enable his teammates to also be awesome.

Something that’s important to me in fact – helping those I work with get to where they want to be and figure out the thoughts they have. This was a really great section of the day.

Applying this leadership to our communities and businesses:
Rachel: “People won’t engage if they don’t feel that they matter” and “We are all leaders when we need to be… and when the context is right”
Peter: “Community is one of our strategic pillars”
Rachel: “You are all the experts within your business. You have to lead. You have to ask the questions that need to ask to get what you need.”
Sarah: “Our businesses are more successful when our communities are healthy”

After this great session on leadership, we had four “Lightning Talks” where members of the network talked us through some great case studies of their leadership success. We saw cases from SAP’s Gali Kling Schneider, Claris’s Rosemary Tietge, Ounce of Prevention’s Keeley Sorotki and Academic Travel Abroad’s Jocelyn Flint. Some great stories of the ways that these great pros have used their leadership and influenced people in their Communities and their businesses for success.

In the afternoon I headed to a breakout session with Rachel Happe talking and moderating discussion about Centre’s of Excellence – quite a trending topic in many businesses right now – I know it’s something happening within our business in the R&D area so I thought I’d see what the deal was. Some notes I have include:

  • Organisational ecosystems can include many communities – each one requires different resources and metrics.
    – I took this to indicate that these different communities could include smaller groups, actual communities and even full networks.
  • We need to understand our communities and what their goals and benchmarks are. We should also be cognizant that systems and technology don’t really help us to see this.
  • Know what you have
  • We should likely have some kind of governance and onboarding process for new communities. This sparked quite a bit of discussion. My thoughts are more around the language and semantics of it – governance can be a dirty, scary, unapproachable word – we need to be careful to be seen to be enablers rather than blockers. the governance here is more about ensuring that communities don’t already exist for the purpose/topic intended. We need to help people understand that we are trying to help them be successful rather than preventing them from having a community. Rachel used a good analogy of being a trellis rather than a cage.

Centres of Excellence typically have two types of work flow:

  • Ecosystem Deliverables:
    • Measurement
    • Standards
    • Technology/Platform
  • Training and Enablement Services
    • Formal/Self-paced learning
    • Communities of Practice
    • Coaching and consulting
    • Resources and Tools

The last session of day one was the Big Idea Keynote which featured Dr Lakshmi Balachandra, professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College. Prof B was presenting to us on The Power of Effective Pitching.

We got an entertaining session on knowing who your audience is, what they care about and what interests them. Prof B focused on the apparent gender biases that her research has shown her, in that male investors are likely to invest ion male pitchers rather than female. We heard how masculine traits are more favourable than feminine ones, regardless of the pitcher’s gender. Calm pitches trumped excited, passionate ones and, although we often think investors buy into the person if they are seemed to be passionate, enthusiastic and experienced it was actually quite the opposite and they still go for pitches with a good business model, solid revenue potential and where the pitcher seems coachable and trustworthy.

Before closing for the day Kelly and Roundtable fellow Binta presented the annual CR Awards, with notable winners being Peter Broadley with two awards including the CR Network MVP. My friend Chris Detzel was awarded the CR Network Power User award but I think mine and probably everyone’s favourite was the amazing contribution to the industry award (I forget it’s actual name) that was presented to the brilliant Jeff Ross of Humana. A lovelier man in this industry I’m yet to meet.

Closed out the day with conversation, drinks and food at Boston’s Exploratuer restaurant.
Looking forward to what’s in store for Day Two. What were you favourite takeaways if you were in town?

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