A mature leader invites constructive feedback, also from own employees, to self-reflect on it, adapt and evolve. Only an immature, self-absorbed manager will reject such feedback.
Look at the ’30/40/50 Rule’: the same behaviors that made you successful in your thirties can make you stagnate, ’derail’, even lose your career in your fourties and fifties. In your thirties, you experienced success through yourself and got ahead through qualities like:
– strength through specialization
– pushing own points of view through
– direct control of your own objectives
In your fourties and fifties, as a Director, Vice President or higher, your success is realized through others, i.e. the people who report to you – so now you get ahead through:
– appreciating, motivating and developing others
– creating a sense of collaboration and unity
– being secure and well-grounded enough in yourself to both give and receive feedback from anybody around you constructively
– being a role model for your team, modeling the behavior you want to see from them
That is quite a commitment – are you up to it? Are you willing to engage in and take time for the self-development that it takes? For that self-development, it all starts with feedback. Not just from your superior and perhaps a coach, but from the very people who observe you most astutely: your employees. And not just through an anonymous 360-degree feedback tool, but face to face, in real conversation.
Take this team leader who blurted out: “Anyone who criticizes me will be fired!“ – Do you think that is the solution? He may have to fire one team after another … Or take this newly promoted Director with international responsibility who, in a leadership training, came to me after a session and asked, all concerned: “You seriously mean I need to become more relational and invest in my soft skills?“ When I confirmed, he looked rather concerned …
You know, I used to not be that good at taking feedback myself, still in my late thirties; I had my sensitivities … and I’ll be eternally grateful to my U.S. colleague Vannessa, who made me notice. When she offered me a comment on my team behavior, and I went straight into a defensive answer, she said: „“Hellooooo – I just kindly offered you constructive feedback, which means I just made you a gift. Shut up with your defense and reflect on what I said.“ I never forgot that – she was so right: Feedback is a gift, generously offered to us so we can notice our own ’blind spots’ and get a chance at evolving towards being a more ’adequate other’.
Later on in my training as a consultant and coach, learning how to receive feedback, reflect on it and evolve from that was a crucial part of my education, and I cannot recommend it enough.
One first thing to consider is whether you respect your own employees enough to give them their annual or bi-annual development session, and whether you prepare for that well. It is not just for their objectives and for determining whether they get their bonus – it is also about how they want to develop, both in terms of hard and soft skills, and where they want to be in three to five years. And it is about the often uncomfortable question: ’What do you, employee, want me, team leader, to improve on in my own management or leadership behavior?’
If you dare ask that question, and if you have made your employees comfortable enough around you for them to trust you and dare answer you honestly, then the feedback you receive will be a gift indeed. If you can receive it without anger and defensiveness. If you can reflect on it, see your possible blind spot, and practice a different approach in the future. That is (amongst others) what is required of a mature leader.
In case you are interested in taking a leadership development course or getting some personal coaching, feel free to get in touch – I’ll be happy to recommend both courses and/or coaches to you.
Usually I post my own texts, but I found this one nice and inspiring, so for once let me just post this text photo that made it’s way to me via Dina Sherif in Cairo, Egypt – because we can all need a little reflective thought break every once in a while. Perhaps you want to pick just one of these for today:
Companies like Intel, Google, Nike and General Mills want their employees to be less stressed and more focused. For this purpose, Intel for example introduces a nine-week mindfulness training to more than 100,000 employees in 63 countries – participation is voluntary and is supposed to increase both wellbeing and productivity.
What is mindfulness? It is generally described as attentive awareness of self and/or others in the present moment. Of body, feelings, and mind. A focusing and centering – active, open attention to the present. Also mindful of how we treat ourselves and each other. Are we hard on ourselves? Or do we take good enough care of ourselves?
At Intel, during weekly 90-minute sessions, employees learn to quiet their minds, listen mindfully, meditate, act choicefully rather than compulsively, relate authentically to each other beyond professional roles.
Desired outcomes are that people have increased individual wellbeing, are more highly engaged in meetings, and are better at team collaboration and more creative and generative together.
Such a program can clearly be part of HR’s Employee Value Proposition, improving work-life balance and employee health. The corporate programs will also attempt to prove not just qualitatively, but also quantitatively that mindfulness training at work leads to higher productivity, thus positively impacting the bottom line.
A new trend to sweep the international business world? Watch this space …
The quote is by Stephen Hawking. I just have to share here his opinion piece in the Washington Post of February 14, 2014, because it is so well and importantly worded. A MUST-read for all! He urges the international community, all of us, to end the war in Syria, and lobbies for a sense of collective justice – and against ever more setbacks for human civilization. Please read!
Time and again in my work as a consultant and coach, I am approached regarding people at work having difficulty with each other: with behavior, with attitudes, with work style.
And ever so often, I find that conflict can be easily resolved – through mutual understanding of different personality types, and adjusted behavior towards being an ‘adequate other’ to colleagues, people reporting to you, and your superiors.
Here are a few aspects:
On a need to talk – or not talk …
You extroverts who are talkative and love bursting into somebody else’s office to quickly discuss an idea – do you realize that if that colleague is an introvert, your sudden ‘intervention’ is not welcome? That your colleague would much prefer you sleep over your idea, then send an email about it, and in the email ask to agree a date and time when to sit down and talk about this? The reason: Your introverted colleague processes information differently, and while for you as an extrovert, there is a direct connection from your brain to your tongue, for your introvert colleague, the information goes from the brain through the whole body – and only then to the tongue. But you can be sure that once you get an answer, it will be thoroughly thought through.
In turn, dear introverts, your extrovert colleagues cannot read your mind – they cannot actually hear what’s going on inside you. What is going on in there tends to be very rich – so it would be so generous of you if every once in a while you could actually speak some of it to share with the world around you! You might be too quiet in a meeting, just thinking a lot but not saying a word – and what a loss for the world not to know your thoughts … I mean it!
On detail vs. big picture …
Then, dear intuitive people, for you it’s enough that somebody gives you an idea, a rough vision – you can run and fly with it, you can say “I can see it all now!” Disappointed that you don’t get total enthusiasm from some other colleagues or your boss when you pass that idea or vision on? Well, that might be because they are not that intuitively inclined and literally can’t ‘see it all now’. What do they need? A fact sheet, dear friends! A one-pager with all the possible data you can generate. You need a budget for that ‘great idea’ from that less intuitively inclined person? Well, the one-pager fact sheet can help them greatly to also ‘see it all’ – and actually approve the money!
In turn, dear ‘facts and data’ people, you might have worked out a detailed concept with excel sheets, etc. – and you might send it to your colleague or boss with a detailed email explaining it all. Now, if your recipient has a clear intuitive preference, you can be sure of one thing: They won’t read it. No, they won’t. They might catch a few headlines and briefly skim over all your stuff – and will feel thoroughly stressed. It’s too much information for them!
So if you want to be sure they actually read you, keep the information as short as possible. Put the key thing already into the headline. Break information up in paragraphs, and bold all relevant text bits (like I’m doing here) – so that when your recipients skim through, their eyes catch at least the bold parts!
On criticism and feedback …
Thirdly, there is this thing about criticism – well, hopefully it would be constructive feedback. When you are in a meeting, pay attention to who tends to speak first, dissecting a concept or an idea and immediately pointing out the flaws. That person has a rational, logical preference. Keeping harmony is less important to them. They tend to be more focused on outcomes and results than on keeping happy relationships. Well, tough on those people to who harmony and relationships are very important. If their work or their ideas are criticized, they might take it personally, thinking that they are not liked … That logical, rational person can receive feedback more easily – they will take it as about their work, not about themselves. That other person, needing harmony and good relationships – will, if you need to give feedback, please assure them first that they are great people and you really enjoy working with them. Only after that, offer “and then there is this one thing that could still be optimized …”
On timely, structured process vs. last-minute, leave-everything-open approach …
Finally, there is this tricky thing about structure, process and order. Biiiiiiiiig issue amongst co-workers, and employees and their bosses. Just huge! Your colleague, the person reporting to you or your boss is always last minute with everything? Well, to tell you the truth: They love it! They thrive on that, they need it to feel good, to feel energized. You ask them to deliver something three days before a deadline? That paralyzes them completely, drains all energy from their bodies right there. They can’t function.
Of course, their last-minute style is totally stressful to you!! You are now in the pressure cooker, needing to work like a maniac to finalize your part of the deal that was dependent on receiving theirs.
The other way round, your own preference might be an orderly, structured one – you want to get started on an assignment on time, work your way through it step by step, not get interrupted, and be done well ahead of the deadline. Was it you who was done with her/his Master’s thesis one month before the deadline? Unimaginable for those last-minute people who only printed their thesis half an hour before having to ultimately hand it in!
So: working last minute is highly stressful for some, while highly energizing for others. Working according to a plan and being done well in advance is the preferred mode for some, but paralyzing for others.
How do you get around that? A boss I know sets his last-minute employee fictitious deadlines – 10 days before the real deadline. It works out great for both of them! The employee gets the pressure she needs to make her thrive – and the boss still has sufficient time to review and add own work on to what was delivered. Nobody has to work through the last night if they don’t want to.
A final part of this last-minute preference is: changing decisions and parameters. Not even remembering that certain things had been said and agreed before. ‘Normal’ for those last-minute people. Hugely stressful for those orderly, structured people with a plan. They will say “You can’t do that! You can’t change things now!” To which the last-minute person will say “Why not? Of course I can! I’m doing it now!” Those people who prefer the structured process will be stressed by sudden changes of parameters – whereas those people who prefer leaving things open to the last minute and being flexible to any possible change find it stressful to be ‘squeezed into a shape’ without being able to get out of that …
Of course, there are also still variations within a preference! You might be happy with a last-minute work style, but not quite as much as your colleague! E.g., you might like to have a concept ready two days before meeting a client, so other people can still review – whereas your colleague might be happy with writing up the concept half an hour before meeting the client … (Sounds familiar, too?) And that colleague cannot even understand what you are fussing about?
How do you deal with all these possible areas of conflictand disagreement?
Well, how about meeting in the middle? Developing some mutual understanding and each doing one’s part to move closer towards compromise?
Introverts who reveal a bit more and extroverts who talk a bit less.
Facts-and-data people who sacrifice a little detail and intuitive people who read their mails a bit more attentively.
Logical, rational people who slow down a moment before firing off their criticism, thinking a bit about who might be hurt by what they say. Harmony seekers who try to separate feedback about their work from the sense of whether they’re being liked.
Process-focused people who try to work on their flexibility towards changing parameters. And last-minute, leave-everything-open people who try to stick a bit more to a pre-agreed plan, and who take into consideration who in the ‘producing value’ chain comes behind them, and who of those might have to work through the night, the weekend, or past a deadline due to being on the receiving end of that ever-so-energizing last-minute work style …
Good luck with observing and understanding each other better, and with talking it through and getting to mutual agreement about workable compromise!
And if you would like help and support with that, feel free to get in touch – I am an accredited Myers Briggs Personality Types practitioner.
*’I’m not crazy, I’m just not you’ is the title of a book on the topic: http://www.amazon.com/Not-Crazy-Just-You-Personality/dp/185788552X
Relevance: Change and innovation in organisations, political systems, society
Both from an individual and from an organisational perspective, I have considered it useful and relevant to explore different concepts of ‘self’ and of ‘relational being’, and I noticed throughout the process how much intense curiosity and desire to understand I brought to this inquiry!
I assume that there are different theories, of constructing self as ‘separate’ or as ‘in relation’. Mead (1934) states:
“It has been the tendency of psychology to deal with the self as a more or less isolated and independent element, a sort of entity that could conceivably exist by itself.” (p. 164)
I noticed how, potentially based on my own early conditioning in my experience of family, I seemed to act from a deep underlying “theory-in-use” of ‘self’ as ‘separate’ rather than ‘in connection’.
“… the assumptions are looking.” (Bohm 1996, p. 80)
I found myself deeply curious to understand concepts of self-in-connection and to explore a new “theory of action” based on a relational understanding of being.
Concepts of self in connection
Ricard (2003) presents the concept of ‘self’ as constituted of four elements: consciousness, interpretive memory of consciousness, attachment to body and placement in a certain environment.
Bentz & Shapiro offer understandings of the conditions of self drawn from two German philosophers: Heidegger’s “Being-in-the-world” describing
“… the actual nature of human existence as bounded by the physical environment at a particular time and place with a physical body that has a biography and history and a being who exists in a linguistically infused world.” (p. 169)
And Husserl’s “lifeworld” referring to
“… the cultural assumptions built into people’s underlying ways of experiencing reality (Husserl, 1970).” (p. 97)
Dowrick (2001) points out how both body and gender play a role in perception of self:
“Your body continues to matter. You touch, speak, stare, pause, lean forward, lean back, look ahead, look away, all with your gendered body.” (p. 190)
I then found references to the relational aspect of constructing self in Bateson’s (1972), Mead’s (1934), Gergen’s (1999), and Griffin & Stacey’s (2005) writing:
Particularly from Gergen’s writing on Bakhtin (pp. 130/131) I drew an understanding that is essential to me: To be is to be relational. We are born into, formed by, and participate in a collective meaning-making process through dialogue, communication and relationship.
According to Mead,
“It is the social process itself that is responsible for the appearance of the self …”
Building on that, Griffin & Stacey state that
“… each self is socially formed while at the same time interacting selves are forming the social.” (p. 5)
Bateson claims that
“… adjectives … which purport to describe individual character are really not strictly applicable to the individual but rather describe transactions between the individual and his material and human environment. No man is “resourceful” or “dependent” or “fatalistic” in a vacuum.” (p. 298)
He explains how characteristics of self are “… learned … in sequences of relationship” and are “… terms for “roles” in relationships …” (p. 304).
I found this confirmed in Critchley/King/Higgins (2007)
“… there is no such thing as an autonomous individual because individual characters and identities can only exist in relationship with each other.” (p. 55)
Is there a ‘self’? Or what is it?
Leading me further in my exploration was Hugh Pidgeon’s feedback to my Assignment 5: He pointed to how both the theories of Dialogue and of Complex Responsive Processes “put in question the whole notion of what is individual about the individual”.
Bentz and Shapiro (1998) explain that radical postmodernists deny the existence of ‘self’ as subject:
“Rather we are modules in information flows.”
Bateson seems to think similarly:
“I once heard a Zen master state categorically: “To become accustomed to anything is a terrible thing.” But any freedom from the bondage of habit must also denote a profound redefinition of the self. If I stop at the level of Learning II, “I” am the aggregate of those characteristics which I call my “character”. “I” am my habits of acting in context and shaping and perceiving the contexts in which I act. Selfhood is a product or aggregate of Learning II. To the degree that a man achieves Learning III, … his “self” will take on a sort of irrelevance. The concept of “self” will no longer function as a nodal argument in the punctuation of experience.” (p. 304)
From reading Ricard, I would assume that the self taking on a sort of irrelevance would be the Buddhist perspective as well.
From a theoretical perspective, I felt I could relate to and agree with the postmodernist view of people being ‘modules in information flow’ and a notion of self taking on a sort of irrelevance. I even found the perspective exciting. Nevertheless, I struggled with the concept. I noticed that ‘for practical purposes’, probably to give some structure to experience, most of us seem to “work with” that level of Learning II Bateson refers to. Most of us apparently choose to act ‘as if’ there was some kind of bounded self that makes quasi-autonomous choices?
Bohm (1996) argues
“… that boundaries are not really separations, but that they are there for descriptive purposes.” (p. 99)
The image of a ‘volume control’ came to my mind: Between a thoroughly closed understanding of bounded self and a thoroughly open understanding of being modules in information flows:
My assumption would be that each of us could find her-/himself somewhere along the line of this image in her/his (less or more conscious) personal construct of self?
A thoroughly closed perception might be, to me, a consciousness-cum-interpretive memory entirely not self-aware. Such a person might entertain an underlying, potentially subconscious belief in the existence of a “fixed” self (“a body of habitual assumptions”, Bateson, p. 314). She/he might possibly even go to the extreme of denying other views, holding on to one way of seeing in ‘uncritical subjectivity’ (Heron & Reason, in: Reason & Bradbury). That might represent an attitude of: “I am right, and you are all wrong!”
A thoroughly open perception could be, to me, a co-constructing understanding of self, in ‘critical subjectivity’ (Reason & Bradbury). Such a person would understand ‘self’ as a transitory space for an evolving process of ever-emergent, ever-modifying – and highly diverse – information flow and interpretive meaning-making. I assume there would be potential for such a process to keep expanding according to the range of environments experienced, and accelerating according to frequency of change experienced.
Bentz & Shapiro (p. 36) point out:
“… some theorists have warned of the demise of the identity, or self, as a hallmark of entering the postmodern age. Persons’ selves will split into multiple identities or exist merely as ever-changing nodes or agents in information networks (Weinstein, 1995).”
In comparison and contrast, Mead states:
“A multiple personality is in a certain sense normal … (…) … it is dependent upon the set of social reactions that is involved as to which self we are going to be.” (pp. 142/143)
Countering this, I take from Bentz and Shapiro:
“Contrary to some radical postmodernists … who advocate dissolution of personal identity …, most persons do not wish to be so deconstructed.” (p. 37)
I inquired with people around me about their concepts of self. I learned that some of them would indeed feel very uncomfortable with “being so deconstructed”! They expressed that it is important to them, even if they venture out into the world – experiencing other people, other cultures, other countries –, to create some bounded stability for themselves and adhere to a more stable notion of self (“Yes, I will be changed, but I will also remain the same!”). It is important to them to also have a sense of geographic and cultural roots and origin to which they want to be attached. I fully respect that attitude … and at the same time, I speculate whether there might be a correlation between the degree of a person’s openness to changing her/his concept of ‘self’ – and the degree of that person’s openness to change in general?
And while feeling intrigued by postmodernist thought, I still wonder that there must be ‘something’ in a person that makes choices? E.g. I might be surrounded by right-wing fundamentalists who try to influence me – but still choose a firmly democratic view for myself, and attach importance to that?
“It is because human agents are conscious and self-conscious that they are able to cooperate and reach consensus, while at the same time conflicting and competing with each other in the highly sophisticated ways in which they do.” (Griffin/Stacey, p. 5)
Conscious and self-conscious … Is there a ‘self’ making choices? In contrast, Bohm (1996) says:
“… thought has come to attribute itself to an image of an observer, a thinker. This gives it much greater authority, because it has then apparently come from a being who should know what to think. (…) I am suggesting, however, that thought is a system belonging to the whole culture and society, evolving over history, and it creates the image of an individual who is supposed to be the source of thought. (…) … thought tells you the way things are, and then “you” choose how to act from that information.” (pp. 81/82)
So is the ‘something’ that chooses nothing other than a current, potentially accidental, kaleidoscopic patterning of cultural and social influences? Taking that view, I could on the one hand see how a concept of ‘self’ would indeed take on a sort of irrelevance – until I experienced, on the other hand, how upset my ‘self’ got and how strongly ‘it’ acted up when I felt my needs were ignored by some colleagues.
With an apparently strong sense of self combined with apparently little regard for other views, they had assumed they could make some important decisions about my professional future for me. Was that just my patterns rebelling against their patterns?
I shared all those aspects and my confusion about them with Kevin Power, who is now studying for his Ashridge doctorate in organisation consulting (ADOC). While he agreed that mind constructs a concept of self, he said something like:
“It’s okay for you to perceive some kind of bounded self – don’t go yet towards trying to fully understand a concept of complete deconstruction and dissolution, otherwise you’ll go mad! Stay where you are right now – for the moment, it’s fine to construct ‘self’ as a kind of ‘punctuation’.”
I must admit that I found his words comforting and calming, and later on, I found something similar with Bohm (1996, p. 103):
“… that the body is a sort of “focus” of life at a certain place. (…)
In addition, he (the individual) has a self-image, by which he tries to identify himself.”
Mead’s “me” and “I”
In grappling with understanding concepts of self, I finally found it highly helpful to consult Mead, who I had strangely avoided reading up until then. What felt helpful? His distinction of “me” and “I”: To him, the self, the personality, is an ongoing social process (or “conversation of gestures”, p. 179) composed of “me” and “I”.
The “me” arises out of society, community – as societal gesture received from “the generalized other, which represents the organized responses of all the members of the group” (p. 162). I would understand that as the social conditioning of the person.
“The “I” is in a certain sense that with which we do identify ourselves. (…) The “I” is the response of the organism to the attitudes of the others …” (pp. 174/175)
In my understanding then, consciousness is (socially conditioned) awareness of self and other, and “I” is choice, as individual expression arising out of the social “me”. This individual expression would be a complex responsive process, a complex interpretation (or kaleidoscopic reorganisation) of and reaction to “me”: as creatively choiceful ego – and as such an emergent construct. This choiceful “I” then contributes to the social process of the group/community by influencing back.
Personally, I find it exciting to evolve towards a rather open understanding of self:
expanding the “me” through experiencing every kind of diversity there is in the world, different constructs, various ‘generalized others’; willing to be influenced and changed by that, and considering multiple points of view simultaneously in the choiceful construction of “I”. Especially for my practice as a consultant, taking that attitude feels important to me. I guess what matters is both awareness of and non-attachment to that current “I” construct – open to reviewing and modifying choices!
I assume Kevin’s “going mad” reference might be about fear or discomfort arising from assuming self-lessness – and I assume the concept in question might be less about self-less being than about non-attachment to self as current patterning? While my inquiry continues, for now I assume that such an attitude of non-attachment can be helpful in just staying present and noticing:
“Open presence is a clear, open, vast, and alert state of mind, free from mental constructs. It is not actively focused on anything, yet it is not distracted.” (Ricard, p. 190)
Bateson, Gregory (1972)
Steps to an Ecology of Mind
The University of Chicago Press
ISBN 0 2260 3905 6
Bentz, Valerie Malhotra & Shapiro, Jeremy J. (1998)
Mindful Inquiry in Social Research
Sage Publications, ISBN 0 7619 0409 3
Bohm, David (1996)
Routledge Classics, ISBN 0 4153 3641 4
Critchley, Bill, King, Kathleen & Higgins, John (2007)
Organisational Consulting – A Relational Perspective
Middlesex University Press
ISBN 1 9047 5014 7
Dowrick, Stephanie (2001)
Intimacy & Solitude
W.W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0 3930 3627 8
Gergen, Kenneth J. (1999)
An Invitation to Social Construction
Sage Publications, ISBN 0 8039 8377 8
Griffin, Douglas & Stacey, Ralph (2005)
Complexity and the Experience of Leading Organizations
2012, or MMXII, is a Sunday child – the year started on a Sunday. As the nursery rhyme goes, “the child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe, and good and happy“. How did 2012 turn out for the world? And how was the year for you personally?
The world is supposed to come to an end on December 21st – let’s see what happens … but even the World Bank is now warning of climate change and states that’time is running out’ and things need to change. Storm ’Sandy’ was only a warning …
In terms of how we interact with each other, this year we experienced the Greek government’s debt crisis; worried more about Iran’s nuclear plans; too silently witnessed atrocities in Syria’s civil war, Egypt struggling with democracy, and Israel and Palestine ending their truce.
I may not be alone in wondering about the future: Are we standing still? Are we going down an apocalyptic path, or do we make transformational choices?
Bill McKibben said: “Climate change is the single biggest thing that humans have ever done on this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to stop it.“
The Indian author Arundhati Roy shared: “Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day,I can hear her breathing.“
It’s our choice …
Personally, I am excited to now start work with colleagues who research on ’Harmonic Vibrancy’ – the perceived quality of relationships within an organization. Their research is part of what they call ’Ecosynomics’: The Science of Abundance and the Principles of Collaboration. In terms of future trends, that’s where they see the emphasis.
I would like to apply the concept of Harmonic Vibrancy to the notion of sustainability: To me, sustainability is, quite simply said, about the quality of relationships – those we have with those closest to us, with colleagues, with stakeholders and … with the environment.
Here’s hoping that 2012 turned out good for you personally, and that 2013 will be fulfilling. Wishing you joyful end-of-year celebrations and a harmonious, collaborative and transformational start into 2013 — Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year
Have you heard about crowdfunding yet? It’s all the latest hype in the Community Involvement field, and a trend that will not go away – the Tsunami wave is only just starting.
Crowdfunding is new – the word did not exist before 2006. It first started in the US with websites like kickstarter.com and indiegogo.com. Now everybody can do fundraising from the public, in the fields of music, art, film, design, sports, or social projects – if only their pledge is convincing. And you’d be surprised what kinds of projects receive successful funding – be it in the thousands or even millions! The principle is simple: If many people each give a little, a lot can be financed! A film company that looked to raise Euro 1 million within three months to supplement a movie budget had raised that amount already after – one week! A pledge to raise USD 5,000 for a victim of mobbing generated USD 650,000 across the US within only six days!
Leading companies have now discovered crowdfunding as a means to enhance stakeholder relationships and stay in touch with communities – crowdfunding is about a metamorphosis of the ‘Like’ button in Social Media into a monetary contribution. Leading companies now take their Community Involvement projects public and give stakeholders a chance to participate as co-funders. Contributors join a funder community and usually receive a thank-you gift for their donation, starting with books and DVDs and not ending with personal meetings with celebrities or international leaders of change – depending on the size of the contribution.
The most advanced has been Unilever: The company started its ‘Waterworks’ subscription billing campaign via Facebook app in June 2012 – and got nice media attention for it. Have a look.
This is about more than a one-time donation – subscribers get billed for 10 cents a day. In return, they receive regular updates about the project’s success, and video news from water workers in different countries. Contributors find they share personal values with Unilever, and together they can bring clean drinking water to 500 million people up until 2020. 1 billion people use Facebook. If 100,000 globally participate in the ‘Waterworks’ initiative, donating 10 cents per day, that will gross USD 3.6 million in one year – and a lot of clean water can be generated from that amount …
My client Skype just started a crowdfunding initiative to further support their charity partner Peace One Day, the organization behind International Peace Day, endorsed by the United Nations and taking place every year on September 21. Peace One Day works on peace education around the world, and thanks to the partnership with Skype, peace education is now brought to many schools around the world via virtual classrooms, in 15 languages. Through the crowdfunding initiative www.SkypeforPeace.org, Skype invites the public to co-fund the initiative – and Skype will match every dollar contributed.
Crowdfunding generates new attention and gives a fresh boost to the social brand dimension. Of course, good marketing and communications around such an initiative are important! However, with the tsunami only beginning, first movers really have a chance to differentiate themselves and get noticed.
If you’d like to find out more about crowdfunding, get in touch – and if you happen to be in Berlin on October 26, you may want to attend our session on crowdfunding at the Kulturinvest Congress.
If you want to get started, I’ll also be happy to connect you to the people who developed Skype’s microsite.
Best of luck to you in exploring this new area of community engagement!
Weltweit werden immer mehr Projekte über Crowdfunding finanziert. Was genau ist es?
Die Begriffe ‚Crowdfunding’ oder auch ‚Crowdsourcing’ sind im Sprachgebrauch seit etwa 2006. Es handelt sich hier, kurz gesagt, um ‚Mittelbeschaffung aus der Menge’.
Im Zeitalter des Internets und der sozialen Medien sind wir alle miteinander vernetzt, und wir alle können innerhalb von Sekunden Meinungen beitragen. Genauso ist es jedoch mit Geld: Wir alle können auch innerhalb von Sekunden, über Kreditkartenzahlungen, Bankeinzug online oder PayPal Gelder beitragen. Wenn jeder Einzelne nur eine kleine Summe gibt, aber viele mitmachen, kommt so in kurzer Zeit sehr viel zusammen. Man denke nur zurück an Karlheinz Böhm und seinen ‚Menschen für Menschen’-Aufruf damals über ‚Wetten dass’. Im Grunde war das damals das erste Crowdfunding-Projekt in Deutschland. Hätte Herr Böhm seinen Aufruf im heutigen Zeitalter der sozialen Medien gemacht, wäre womöglich spontan noch mehr Geld zusammen gekommen.
Beim Crowdfunding geht es also darum, dass viele gemeinsam durch einen kleinen Beitrag von jedem viel bewegen. Gemeinsam formen sie spontan eine ‚Community’, und Projekte erhalten zweckgebunden Kapital. Ein deutsches Wort für Crowdfunding ist – hört sich allerdings weniger attraktiv an – ‚Schwarmfinanzierung’. Der Projektschwerpunkt liegt meist auf künstlerischen und kreativen Projekten. So sind Kategorien wie Design, Kunst, Mode, Musik, Film, Video, Foto, Events, Ausstellungen, Theater sowie Sport häufig vertreten. Das Prinzip eignet sich jedoch genauso gut für soziale Spendenzwecke.
Welches Projekt erfährt zur Zeit die grösste Aufmerksamkeit?
Pepsi Refresh ist sicherlich in aller Munde. Hier stellt das Unternehmen Pepsi die Gelder, und Besucher der Website schlagen Projekte vor und geben ihre Stimmen ab für die Projekte, die Förderung durch Pepsi erhalten sollen. Pepsi Refresh ist jedoch in diesem Sinne kein Crowdfunding, sondern ein Crowdsourcing.
Die erste Crowdfunding-Plattform wurde 2009 in den USA mit Kickstarter.com eingerichtet. Bereits über 10.000 Projekte sind hierüber finanziert worden. Die Initiatoren versuchen meist mit einem Video von sich oder dem Projekt zu überzeugen. Nach dem gleichen Vorbild sind mit indiegogo.com und rockethub.com weitere Crowdfunding-Plattformen online gegangen. Mit pozible.com oder sonicangel.com sind die ersten Länder außerhalb von Amerika mit dem Thema Crowdfunding im Bereich Projektfinanzierung online gegangen. In Deutschland sind seit 2010 die Plattformen Startnext.de, Inkubato.com, mySherpas.com und pling.de vertreten.
Besonders interessant ist das Projekt ‚Diaspora’. Für die Entwicklung einer Internetplattform suchten vier Studenten 10.000 US-Dollar. Mit der Plattform wurde Facebook der Kampf angesagt und angekündigt, ein Pendant zu entwickeln, welches bessere Vorkehrungen im Bereich Datenschutz treffen wird und die Daten seiner Nutzer dezentral immer auf dem eigenen Rechner des Anwenders speichert. Dies fand enormen Zuspruch in der Bevölkerung, die das Projekt gemeinsam mit mehr als 200.000 US-Dollar überfinanziert hat. Unter den menr als 6.000 Spendern befand sich auch Facebook-Gründer Mark Zuckerberg. Im Interview mit dem Magazin Wired sagte Zuckerberg: “I donated. I think it is a cool idea.”
In Deutschland war 2011 das Startjahr für’s Crowdfunding, und das bis dato größte Projekt in Deutschland startete das Kölner Unternehmen Brainpool im Dezember 2011. Für den geplanten Film zur TV-Serie Stromberg wollte das Unternehmen bis März 2012 eine Million Euro einsammeln. Innerhalb von nur einer Woche war jedoch bereits die eine Million Euro erreicht!
Ist Crowdfunding nur ein momentaner Hype oder wird es eine zukunftsfähige Finanzierungsform?
Da das Engagement von Stakeholdern, das Kreieren, Pflegen und Erhalten von (Kunden-)beziehungen über soziale Netzwerke und generell ‚Open Sourcing’ sowohl von Geldern als auch von Ideen seit Jahren als Trend wachsen, ist davon auszugehen, dass es sich hier absolut nicht um einen momentanen Hype handelt, sondern um zukunftsfähige, gemeinschaftliche Umgangsformen. Dieser Trend folgt der allgemein stärkeren Demokratisierung der Welt durch das Internet und die sozialen Medien. Speziell das Crowdfunding wird an Bedeutung wachsen, da hier auch kleinere, unbekanntere Projekte, wenn sie nur als ausreichend interessant herausragen können, durchaus auf ansehnliche Finanzierungssummen kommen können, ohne auf die öffentliche Hand oder Großsponsoren angewiesen zu sein. Junge Bands z.B. nutzen die Methode erfolgreich, um Geld für die Aufnahme eines ersten Albums zusammen zu bekommen. Benedikt Fuhrmann bekam erfolgreich 50.000 Euro zusammen, um seine Ausstellung ‘Ein Blick Iran. Ein Land, da leben Menschen‘ inklusive Vorträgen und Musikkonzerten in einer katholischen Kirche in Bayern zu realisieren.
Ein Aufruf zum Crowdsourcing oder Crowdfunding ist auch gut für die jeweilige ‚Marke’, gibt ihr entweder erste Bekannheit oder aber neue, frische Energie! Man kann durch das Crowdsourcing/Crowdfunding auch ‚Communities’ kreieren und mit ihnen in Kontakt bleiben bzw. sie emotional beteiligen, da ja die Beitragenden in der Folge auch erfahren möchten, was mit ihrem Beitrag geschieht und welche Wirkung erzielt wird. Hier kann man über das Internet, geschickt gemacht, regelrecht Unterhaltung/’Entertainment’ zum Projekt bieten (z.B. auf Facebook) – oder aber in einem ‚geschützten Bereich’ ausschliesslich Spendern Zugang zu besonderen Informationen geben. Man kann Beitragende auch noch weiter involvieren, im Sinne der ‚open source innovation’, und sie nach ihren Ideen fragen, oder sie durch kostenlose Downloads oder Freikarten dankbar ‚belohnen’. Spender können auch im Abspann eines Films genannt oder zu privaten Lesungen oder einer Vernissage eingeladen werden.
Hier gibt es also endlose Möglichkeiten, Kunden und Stakeholder enger an sich zu binden und Beziehungen zu kreieren. Das Ganze zieht gleichzeitig Kreise, da Teilnehmende in der Regel ihre eigenen Aktionen auch Freunden und Bekannten weiterempfehlen, wodurch ein Schneeballeffekt entsteht. Also auch eine Methode, Kultur, Sport und soziales Engagement weiter zu verbreiten!
“This fourth edition of the Global Compact International Yearbook showcases many inspiring examples of businesses turning challenges into opportunity, leveraging their competencies, capacities and resources for the common good. I hope these diverse expressions of support for the UN’s global mission will inspire many more businesses to follow this path and bring corporate sustainability to true scale.“ H.E. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
I feel honoured to have been asked to contribute a chapter to the yearbook. It is titled ‘From Corporate Handouts to Corporate Partnerships’. Based on our book ‘Corporate Community Involvement: The Definitive Guide’ (see http://www.cciguide.com/), my contribution argues against mere corporate philanthropy and for truly involved, collaboratively impactful cross-sector partnerships. Get your free download of the chapter here: From Corporate Handouts to Corporate Partnerships
Parallel to the publication of the yearbook, a new, advanced website of the Global Compact International Yearbook has been launched: www.CSR-Manager.org. The aim of both the website and the yearbook is to create a global overview of achievements in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and to build up capacity for more comprehensive and sustainable management of these activities. Both the yearbook and the website offer proactive and in-depth information on key sustainability issues to stakeholders around the world, and each promotes unique and comprehensive knowledge exchange and learning in the spirit of the UN Global Compact principles.