Engagement as a Shared Function

You ever heard the expression, too many cooks, not enough broth? I feel that way about engagement as a shared function. It sometimes raises my hackles, just like when you’re reminded about that TPS report cover sheet you forgot to include:

Which drives me crazy because shared engagement with prospects, members, and/or the greater community shouldn’t get me frustrated. Associations layer engagement through different parts of the organization deliberately. The value of the membership fee or participation costs should designate it so. Community engagement drives event registration drives online participant drives membership numbers, and so on.  I’ve been trying to figure out what drives me so crazy and this morning, as I was reading my email, I think I figured it out. It’s not the layered engagement, it’s the backbiting it takes to get the engagement out to the community. It feels lately that people very concerned about perception of responsibility and who is going to get the credit or the blame.

What’s leading my thoughts around this, is that I often get emails with feedback that does zero good. It’s something along the lines of “well, I’m one of the five people who helped design this, why wasn’t I included in every conversation ever had, and it’s not exactly like the original one I, who was one of the people who helped originally design this, so here’s my understanding, what I’m now aware of, and oh yeah, please let me know how “my department” can support this.” You didn’t really offer feedback, you passively aggressively disagreed with the direction taken. Also, hey there, founder’s syndrome, how you doing?

I’m all for consistency. I’m a habitual creature myself, but when you’re trying something new or you’re looking to be innovative (i know it’s a word that has both good and bad connotations but it fits here) for engagement and you’re trying things out, shouldn’t one loosen up a bit and try different things out?

Engagement is meant to be engaging, dammit. It’s not supposed to be about you, your process, it’s about whatever that allowed people to engage. For heaven’s sake, memes and Twitter wouldn’t be so stinking popular if controlling the engagement channels was truly something you could do. People will be people, and they will engage how they want. And they either will or they won’t. Sometimes you can help guide the conversations, but most of the time, you have to step back and watch it happen. If you’re hosting a weekly thing, this means each week, you get an opportunity to help shift the direction, but it’s not always going to go the way you, your board, your CEO, or whoever it hovering over your shoulder wants to go.

That’s the joy and the blessing of an association and/or non profit. The phrases “less is more” really rings true even when you’re not comfortable with it. We know you mean well, but take a breath, step back, and ask yourself, am I really giving my feedback from a place of actual collaborative forward movement or am I upset they didn’t ask me before they changed that?

Britney Spears

img via etsy.com/shop/thelittlevinylsaur

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