To the extent that it is possible to manage a virtual network, I managed “Closeness at a Distance,” a private LinkedIn-based group, for the last 3 years. Before I concluded my role last month, I drafted the following farewell post to share 3 of my lessons learned as a “local virtual network manager”. The group is designed for the benefit of professionals who want to learn more about working well in virtual environments across geographies and cultures. It has grown and continues to live—now under the leadership of my savvy co-Managers who authored an important book by the same name—and I look forward to continuing on as a faithful member. Of our peak activity, select discussion titles included: “How to Create ‘Purple Space’”; “Anticipating 2014 & Remembering 1980”; and “E-mail Isn’t Dead, It Only Smells Funny.” [Insert your smiling face here.]
When asked about my future virtual endeavors, I responded that I was considering publishing monthly posts to grow my online identity by sharing my professional expertise and personal character. This is the first of my posts! Keep your “virtual dial” tuned in to this space where our virtual presence intersects. You can expect expert insights and thought partnership around the opportunities awaiting us in the diversity of our 'glocal' world.
Here are my reflections on lessons learned:
Give Without Mindfulness of Virtue: In his 1923 book, The Prophet, Lebanese writer, Khalil Gibran, shared a message about giving not for the glory of self, but for the good of others. He wrote, “And there are those who give and know not pain in giving…nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle [tree] breathes its fragrance into space.” Similarly, as a contributing manager to the Closeness at a Distance group, I learned to post content without the expectation of “likes,” comments or anything else in return. This may seem counterintuitive— Aren’t virtual networks to facilitate quick and easy exchange? My approach doesn’t mean that I don’t ask for readers’ engagement with my fabulously thought provoking and informative posts- I do! Though, I know that anything posted online is in competition with everything else to win hearts and minds. It’s what my co-Manager and virtual learning guru, Dr. Marcus Hildebrandt, taught me is called the 90-9-1 Rule: 90% of a virtual community will never contribute; 9% will contribute a bit; and 1% of members will generate most of the action.
Show Your Face: Create an online identity that represents value-add. As far as we want to participate as professionals in the global marketplace, our worth must be virtually visible. My Career Coach, Kevin A. Johnson of Chicago, has helped me discover how I have sometimes “under-sold” myself professionally, which has not supported me in establishing equitable professional relationships or opportunities. I make it a point to offer my full self in virtual interactions as I do f2f. In one of the public Closeness at a Distance webinars, another of my co-Managers and business-astute global consultant, Line Jehle, guided us through the how and why of building an online identity. Online, our identity is made up of our photo; how we share our personality through questions and comments; and, our professional credentials. We “sell ourselves short” within virtual networks when we do not show up as whole human beings to which others can relate and reach out.
Detach from Outcome: Why try to control people or ideas in virtual space? Influence here is about the power of attraction, as Stefan Meister, another of my three co-Managers and global management trainer extraordinaire, reminds me. Honestly, I had held the Harvard Business Review LinkedIn group as a model of a virtual network for its one-million-strong-popularity and non-stop activity. Though, the group I managed— while it has not evolved in the ways that my co-Managers and I envisioned— has taken on a character and an attraction of its own. It has grown sustainably and steadily in diverse membership, and remains sufficiently-sized to allow for people to both give to the group in meaningful ways and be seen. In my role, I learned to detach myself from anticipated outcomes after doing what I can strategically. Increasingly, I served the network open to the possibilities that community brought. And, perhaps the community has taken shape in the hearts and minds of members.
What are your thoughts on showing up with our full selves to a boundless virtual world?
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people. place. purpose.