Guest Post by Brenda Rick Smith – “What I’ve Learned In My First Month As a Community Manager”

Posted: May 7, 2015 in Community Management
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Brenda Rick Smith

Brenda Rick Smith

Note from Jeff: One of the smartest things a manager can do is hire great people and then get out of their way. With that in mind, I am thrilled to have Brenda Rick Smith as a new colleague on my team at Humana to serve with me as a community manager for our enterprise social network, Buzz. To say that I am thrilled to have her is an understatement. Her expertise, work ethic, communication skills, insights and humor make her a great addition to an already fantastic team. It is, therefore, with joy and gratitude that I am pleased to share this space for a guest post from her on what she learned in her first month with us at Humana. You’ll want to follow Brenda on Twitter at @brendaricksmith.

Here’s Brenda…

On March 2, 2015, I started my dream job. I became a community manager for Buzz, the social network for Humana employees, under the leadership of Jeff Ross.

Here are three things I’ve learned in my first few weeks on the job:

People crave community. There’s no getting around it – humans are social creatures. We are built to seek the comfort, wisdom, joy, drama and myriad other things that come from interacting with our fellow human beings.

Buzz has hundreds of groups covering just about every conceivable topic and interest. People pop in to ask questions (Should I upgrade to the new chat/conference software? How do I set up an email persona?), solve problems (Why is my pedometer not recording my steps properly?), get advice (What kind of wearable fitness tracker should I buy?), share victories (Here’s a before and after picture of me. I lost 100 lbs!) and seek support (Do we have a support group for coping with sickle cell anemia?)

I love watching people connect with each other. Buzzers freely offer advice and help. They are quick to praise and celebrate. For each message and comment, a need is met. For some, it’s the need to be heard and validated, and for others, it’s the need to be helpful. For everyone, these connections are a reminder that we aren’t left all on our own, but we can depend on each other.

Never underestimate the power of good documentation. When I arrived, Jeff presented to me a document that detailed daily, weekly and occasional tasks. With that document in hand, I could quickly master the basics of my job. When I had a question, I could refer back to the document and get it answered.

That simple document empowered me. I didn’t have to be dependent of Jeff for every single bit of information. It reduced the number of awkward “Wait…tell me how I’m supposed to do this again?” conversations we had to have. It set me up to have early successes, too. I felt good about myself and my new role when I was able to come in on day two and actually perform some meaningful work, thanks to the documentation.

Because I didn’t have to struggle with learning all these new basic processes, I’ve been able to get my feet on the ground and tackle other bigger projects pretty quickly. My mental resources haven’t been drained by these basic tasks.

The lesson here for leaders is simple: as much as possible, document what it is that you do. Jeff launched Buzz, and has grown and managed it solo for five years. I’m sure it’s been tempting for him to put off documenting his regular tasks because it takes so much time – a resource that’s been in short supply for him. But by taking the time to document what he was doing, he made it possible to share his load. That’s an investment that will pay off for Jeff, for me, and for Buzz in the long run.

Community takes courage. My first few days on the job, I was surprised at just how much I saw people sharing. Why would people share so much – personally and professionally – on an enterprise social network? I quickly came to the conclusion that people share so much because they trust their colleagues, and they trust this organization. They feel safe.

It also takes courage and maturity for an organization to truly embrace community. Associates might say things that are uncomfortable to hear. They might voice truths unartfully. They might even voice untruths.

But the reality is those things are going to get said anyway, whether it is in an online community, in an email, or in a water cooler conversation. Isn’t it better to have those conversations in the open, where others can benefit from the discussion?

It speaks volumes to me that Humana is willing to provide this type of platform for engagement, and that so many Humana associates embrace it.

I’m delighted to be part of this team and this organization. And most of all, I’m thrilled to play a small part in shaping a 42,000-member community.

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