Posts Tagged ‘Risk’

ESNchat-smallOne of the most satisfying things I’ve done professionally in recent years is to start the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in September 2013, to see it grow through the 13 months I hosted it, and now to see it have new life and new leadership going forward through The Community Roundtable (@TheCR). After sensing a void in the world of enterprise social networking in the summer of 2013, I started the chat to provide a regular, free, vendor-neutral place where practitioners and enthusiasts involved with businesses’ internal social networks could share insights and help develop the field of enterprise social.

My friends at TheCR were receptive to the idea of them becoming the leaders for the chat when I approached them in August 2014. They kindly agreed to take on the challenge and as of October 2 they have been the very capable facilitators of the chat. Now that a little time has passed since the transition, I’ve had time to ponder the journey of that 13 months. I’ll share a few simple reflections on the experience here.

I recall the first chat on September 12, 2013. I had secured the domain name and the Twitter persona, discussed it with a number of people in the field, and started promoting it as best I knew how (which wasn’t very well in hindsight). I recall how nervous I was before that first chat wondering if anyone would show up. Had I done all this planning in vain? Was it going to be a giant failure that embarrassed me publicly? I was jittery as the hour approached from the uncertainty of it all.

Thankfully, people showed up (phew – that was a relief)! We had a great discussion and the chat was immediately an important part of my week and an opportunity to try to move the needle of enterprise social networking forward in some small way.

While the subject of enterprise social networking is near and dear to my heart as the community manager for Humana’s ESN, this effort was never under the auspices of my work. It was just Jeff’s little effort for good or bad, for success or failure. I never counted a single hour of the time devoted to #ESNchat as time working for Humana. That makes it all the more satisfying now that over a year later we typically have about 40 participants, hundreds of tweets, and excellent conversation every week.

I am thankful for the 225 participants we had over that first 13 months and I enjoy seeing new faces every week in the chat. I am thankful for the great archive of topics we have accumulated over time and continue to build under TheCR’s leadership.

There were a couple of surprises and disappointments along the way. For example, I woefully underestimated the amount of time per week it took to host a one-hour Twitter chat. I didn’t track the time in detail, but my best guess is that it took on average about an hour a day seven days a week due to the planning, archiving, promoting, and notifying participants of updates. That was a bit more than I bargained for, but it was time well spent.

The only real disappointment I experienced in the 13 months hosting is totally my own doing in that I did not bring to fruition the ESN Handbook I envisioned as a collaborative effort among participants. Given the existing commitment of time just to pull off the chat (along with other work and volunteer activities), I couldn’t get the handbook done. There’s a collaborative ESN Handbook eBook/website out there just waiting to be created and annually updated for some entrepreneurial group (hint, hint).

Now that I’m a regular participant in the chat with no leadership responsibilities, I get to experience weekly what those 225+ others have experienced rather than frantically trying to host the chats and simultaneously take part in the conversation. Frankly, it’s a bit more fun now for me and a lot less stressful.

One of my key lessons learned for 2013 was to take risks. When I wrote about that end-of-year lesson, I had #ESNchat in mind. It would have been easy to bemoan the absence of such a free, public forum for ESN practitioners. It would have been easy to think someone else should do it. It isn’t easy for introverts like me (yes, I’m an introvert) to put myself out there so publicly and try to start something that could go down in flames quickly. But I gave it my best shot and with the regular participation of many talented, knowledgeable professionals whom I have come to know and respect, we succeeded.

Now when I sit back for a moment in chats led by TheCR, when I see new faces introduce themselves, when I read the kudos from participants who benefit from the chats, and when I develop new professional relationships with fellow ESN enthusiasts, I smile a quiet but very satisfying smile like a proud papa watching his child grow up and go out into the world on his own.

Chats only succeed when there are multiple people chatting. I may have started it, but only through others’ involvement has it continued, and I am grateful for each participant. I look forward to seeing where it goes from here. Where will it be in one year? Two Years? What innovations will TheCR introduce (such as the #ESNchat Mini-Decks they’ve already introduced)? What actions will come from the chats? What takeaways will be implemented in businesses of all shapes and sizes that make a positive difference in those organizations’ internal communications and social collaboration?

There is no way of knowing the answer to those questions, but I am quietly confident that such applications will be made and the impact will be significant over time.

Thanks to all who joined me in the venture. Continue to join me and so many others weekly on Thursday afternoons at 2pm Eastern time as TheCR leads us into the next phase of ESNchat. The future is bright!

Take RisksContinuing with periodic posts in December about the major lessons learned throughout 2013, today I turn my attention to the matter of taking risks. Each of us takes risks daily to some extent. We do so in relationships we establish, goals we pursue, changes we attempt, causes we promote, work we devote much time to, and incalculable other small decisions made consciously or unconsciously. Some also choose to take more obvious risks on a grander scale that may be devastating or even deadly if unsuccessful.

We all live somewhere on a risk continuum and our perception of where we are on that continuum may or may not match others’ perception of the risk. It is difficult for me to imagine being on the extremely risk averse end of the continuum if I desire to make an impact in any area of life. Always playing it safe doesn’t appeal to me very much. There are too many needs and too much potential out there to stay only in the confines of the immediate, familiar, comfortable surroundings that bring little sense of risk.

I wrote about a month ago on the subject of taking chances and wrote in that post about the risk I felt launching the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in September for business professionals involved in their company’s enterprise social networks. I won’t repeat all of that content here, but as I reflect on 2013 and major lessons learned, the importance of taking that risk deserves a place in the top few lessons of the year.

The impact of that effort continues to grow in importance not just for me personally and professionally, but, I believe, for a much larger network of professionals worldwide. It has the potential of being a positive force in advancing the field of enterprise social networking – not so much because of what I’m doing, but because of the amazing people who are now involved with that weekly chat, and the value of their pooled insights being recorded week after week from which others can also benefit. It is filling a gap that I perceived to be there earlier this year. The success of the chat confirms that the gap is being filled.

I wouldn’t know some incredible kindred spirits around the globe I now know and communicate with weekly without taking the public risk of starting that Twitter chat. I would not learn weekly all that I’m learning for my own professional development and to help my company without taking that risk. As a side note, I am thrilled at the uptick in the quantity of requests for interviews, articles and speaking engagements that are coming my way as a result of contacts made over the past few months. That isn’t why I started the chat, but it does seem to be a consequence that will bring yet more opportunities to meet and work with some wonderful people I would not otherwise know.

In whatever area of your life you may be considering taking a risk, I encourage you to do your due diligence in weighing the possible outcomes. I also plead with you to not always follow the age-old advice of erring on the side of caution. You shouldn’t take enormous, life-changing risks daily, but you probably ought to do so at least periodically. For me, 2013 will be remembered in part as the year I started #ESNchat – perhaps a small things in the eyes of most, but a pretty big deal for me.

In the earlier post mentioned above about taking chances, I wrote:

“Sure, it’s possible that things might not turn out the way you wish. Taking the chance may cost you. But not taking chances is also costly. The minimum price you pay for avoiding risk is the uncertainty of never knowing whether you would have succeeded or not. The actual cost may be far greater.”

I’d rather take a risk and know if I fail or succeed instead of play it safe and never know what might have been. I’m grateful that one of the major lessons learned for 2013 for me is this: take risks.


Tweet: “Take Risks” – blog post by @JeffKRoss –> #risk

Go Ahead – Take a Chance!

Posted: November 10, 2013 in Risk
Tags: , , ,

diceWhen was the last time you really took a chance and tried something significant with no guarantee of success? Maybe it was related to your career. Perhaps it was taking a huge step in a relationship with someone. It might have involved financial risk or a shift in educational direction or geographic location. The last big chance you took might have been physically risky or mentally challenging beyond your comfort zone or embracing some belief you had previously resisted for years. Whatever comes to mind from your history of taking chances, how long has it been since you took such a leap? How did it work out?

Most of us have no interest in living in a constant state of uncertainty, moving from one major risky move to another day in and day out. The emotional toll of that kind of constant behavior would be too great, not to mention the other likely costs when several risks don’t work out positively. But if we aren’t careful, we can easily talk ourselves out of taking chances that we, in fact, ought to take.

Here’s an example of a chance I took recently…

As a community manager for a company’s enterprise social network (ESN), I value interacting with and learning from those in other companies who share similar responsibilities and interests. I belong to different organizations that allow me to be in touch with many social media professionals who share similar passions. However, earlier this summer I realized that there was no ongoing, regular opportunity for those of us responsible for ESNs to get together and share ESN-specific expertise. There are such opportunities for those who may use a particular vendor for their ESN, but not one vendor-neutral frequent gathering place for all in the field regardless of industry, vendor used or geographic location.

So I did my homework, talked with a few trusted colleagues, and then decided to launch the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in early September. I purchased relevant Web domain names, reserved the Twitter handle @ESNchat, started planning initial discussion topics, and began promoting it through various avenues. I felt like I had a decent idea, planned it out and tried my best to get it off the ground, but there was a giant unknown – would anyone actually show up and take part? Would it be a giant bust that left egg on my face for failing miserably and publicly?

When the first chat day rolled around and the time was getting close, I was more nervous than I recall about any other situation in recent memory. Ask me to speak to hundreds or thousands of people at a time and I’ll do it without a care in the world. Put me on live TV teaching or preaching and I’m as comfortable as chatting with friends in my living room. But in the moments before launching that Twitter chat with an unknown and possibly nonexistent audience, my stomach was in knots.

Fortunately, about 25 wonderful people showed up that first week and we’ve had great chats weekly since then. I have developed some new relationships with people across several continents from various industries as a result. Other opportunities to speak or be interviewed for articles have come to pass through connections made and I expect far more of those kinds of things in the months to come. In fact, I’m thinking that 2014 may need to be the year that I finally write a book on the subject or at least collaborate with others to write one together to advance the field of enterprise social networking.

So there’s my example of a business-related chance that I took a couple of months ago that is turning out well. I have no idea where it will go in the months and years ahead, but I’m hopeful that the chance I took makes a positive difference in the field over time, regardless of whether I may personally benefit from it or not.

As you’ve been reading this, perhaps you’ve had one or two chances you’ve been considering taking come to mind. They are surely very different than the one I described above, but they are potentially significant for you. So what will you do? Will you take a chance and act on the idea?

Sure, it’s possible that things might not turn out the way you wish. Taking the chance may cost you. But not taking chances is also costly. The minimum price you pay for avoiding risk is the uncertainty of never knowing whether you would have succeeded or not. The actual cost may be far greater.

I don’t know anything about the chances you’re considering taking or whether you should do so or not. I suspect, though, that a lot of people reading this will do more than just satisfy an urge or random curiosity by taking a chance they’re considering. It may well be that taking that risk is exactly what you need to change an important part of your life forever.

I’m not suggesting you be flippant, fail to consider the possible cost or fail to plan. I’m just encouraging you to consider taking a chance at something important to you even in the face of uncertainty. I suspect many (and maybe most) of life’s greatest adventures and accomplishments begin that way.

Martin LutherIf you’re looking for a book review of something hot off the press, you’re in the wrong place with this post.  Today I completed the brief treatise by Martin Luther written in 1520 called Concerning Christian Liberty, also called On the Freedom of a Christian.  I downloaded the free Kindle version a while back not knowing how long it was and was quite surprised to find that it is only a few dozen pages long.  In this final of three treatises by Luther in 1520, he writes about the Christian’s freedom from the law (i.e., Christian liberty) once justified by faith, and that the Christian should have a desire to serve and do good works from the motivation of love and service to one’s neighbor rather than as a means to earn favor with God.

I’m not of a mind to critique the contents of this or any book by Martin Luther.  I am deeply indebted to him as a Protestant.  I am aware of the criticisms that some have against a few of his views and actions, especially from his later years, but those do not negatively reflect on his core writings which were of great significance in the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.  For the very valuable truths contained in the writing, I suggest you take the short amount of time it takes to read it yourself.

Instead, I want to share here some reactions to reading a significant document nearly 500 years old.

1. It is refreshing to read people who write what they think and who are not afraid to offend, even if speaking the truth is offensive.

For example, in this treatise, Luther prefaces the main body of work with a letter to Pope Leo X in which he repeatedly speaks well of the pope’s personal character, but in which he clearly condemns the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church:

These things are clearer than the light to all men; and the Church of Rome, formerly the most holy of all Churches, has become the most lawless den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the very kingdom of sin, death, and hell; so that not even antichrist, if he were to come, could devise any addition to its wickedness.

Come on, Marty, tell us what you really think!  It should not come as a surprise that Luther was excommunicated from the Church a few months after sending this to Pope Leo X and only a few weeks after setting fire to the papal bull (edict) from the summer of 1520 in which Leo warned Luther of excommunication unless Luther recanted many of his statements.

This frankness with which writers used to say what they think, even in the sometimes lengthy and pointed titles they gave to their writings, is refreshing.  We could use a little more of that today.  I appreciate the frankness, even if I don’t always agree with the statements of those who exhibit it.

2. There is great value in being reminded of the historical roots of one’s faith.

Too many modern “Christians” think that what they believe is up to them alone, that the ultimate judge and jury of right and wrong is their personal conviction, whatever they decide to define as truth.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If the Scriptures are authoritative in all matters of faith and practice as Luther reminded his generation, then truth is not subject to the whims of nations or small bodies of believers or any individual’s interpretation, and it certainly isn’t determined by 21st century American political correctness.

To go back to the Scriptures and find truth that is soundly preached by Luther 1500 years later and still soundly preached now (at least by some) 500 years after Luther, provides a consistency that serves to remind modern believers that we are not in this alone.  Others have gone before and, if the world continues, others will come behind to always hold forth a light of truth and hope for the world until such day as its Creator decides to bring it to completion.

3. It takes immense courage to go against powerful authorities.

After years of speaking and writing according to what the Bible taught, and with full knowledge of the implications of his opposition to the papacy, Luther was pointedly asked at the Diet of Worms (a formal deliberative assembly held in the town of Worms, Germany) in 1521 whether the writings laid out before him on a table were his and whether he stood by their contents.  His eventual reply was:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.  May God help me.  Amen.  (p. 460 of Martin Luther by Martin Brecht, Fortress Press, 1985-93)

Whether those authorities are in the church, government, business or other parts of culture and society, it is no small task to buck the system.  You have to be deeply committed to your cause and willing to suffer the consequences that come with crossing lines vehemently guarded by others.  Not everyone who does so lives to tell about it, yet those who are so compelled couldn’t live with themselves if they failed to try.  Sometimes the paths we walk are lined with the remains and efforts of those who tried that path before us.

4. Worthwhile writings last.

It’s also true that some worthless and harmful writings last, but I’ll file that fact under “Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good.”  That I can go to the Web or the Kindle store and download for free or little cost complete writings centuries old is amazing and one that more of us ought to take advantage of.  A decade ago I would not have dreamed that I would be passing time in a doctor’s office earlier this week reading Martin Luther on a smartphone.  Such writings have lasted because they are significant and we should read them for the same reason.  Given the relative ease with which technology gives us access, we have no barrier stopping us if we are interested.

As I stated above, this isn’t a book review so much as a reflection on a few takeaways from reading the book.  As I continue my goal of reading and blogging about a book every other week throughout 2013, I intend to continue the pattern of alternating between work-related professional books and a variety of other topics of more personal interest.  Next up will be another professional book.

What have you read lately?  What’s on your list to read next?

ElephantintheRoom-Leo_CullumHow many times have you been in a conversation with others and wanted to bring up some obvious topic, but failed to do so?  How many times have you sat in meetings, heard proposals, watched presentations, discussed important matters, or been embarrassed on behalf of someone else, all the while dying to say what is really on your mind, but never mustering the courage to say it?  Why do we hold back and so often fail to acknowledge the elephant in the room?

In the case of meetings at work, perhaps you can’t bring yourself to openly disagree with someone higher up the org chart.  Maybe you are the kind of person who avoids conflict at all cost, both in personal and professional settings.  Maybe you fear the known or unknown consequences of being that person to bring up what you and probably many others wish someone would address.

If you don’t acknowledge obvious issues, it is very possible that the consequences of failing to address them will be worse than doing so.  For example, if you have relationship issues with someone, but try to keep the peace instead of putting matters on the table, aren’t the potential emotional and physical consequences of holding it all inside worse than the temporary awkwardness and unpleasantness of the dreaded conversation?  If you are being pitched a plan of action by a manager or someone higher up than you in an organization, and you know that the suggested path has major flaws, aren’t you complicit in failed and potentially harmful business decisions if you do not raise the concerns you have?  If others are trying to get you to go down some path that could be dangerous or have serious negative consequences personally and/or professionally, don’t you have the responsibility to listen to your intuition and interject a cautionary word into the conversation?  If someone’s dress, hygiene, personal habits or behavior are the subject of much discussion behind his/her back, isn’t the decent thing to do to have that needed and difficult private conversation in order to help the other person?

When it comes to acknowledging elephants in the room, few seem willing to be the one to step up and do so.  Oh, how we need more people willing to take that step!  Doing this doesn’t mean you have to do so in an unkind, harsh, abrasive, offensive way.  Besides, you won’t likely succeed in promoting positive change with that approach, anyway.  Instead, with a genuine heart of compassion, caring, and concern for what is wrong or what might fail, you have an incredible opportunity to change the path of a person, group, or entire company from darkness to light, from failure to success.  Those on the hearing end are usually able to sense genuine concern; they will most likely be able to see the intentions of your heart and hear your message, even if it is one that is difficult for them to hear.

Nobody benefits from having a bunch of “yes” men around.  While I’ll never be in a position of corporate power by virtue of the position held, if I ever was, I would hope to be fortunate enough to surround myself with men and women who always speak the truth, even when it is hard for them to deliver the message and perhaps harder for me to hear.  If it is my thoughts, plans, attitude, behavior or anything else that is ever the elephant in the room, then I desperately need and want someone to tell me that.  Do it gently and kindly and (if possible) privately, but by all means, do it!  I’m a big boy.  I can handle it.

I have no idea what life situations you are in where you feel you need to bring up something “obvious” that nobody else is saying, but I suspect you can think of one or two such situations at this time.  I strongly encourage you, in the interest of doing what is most helpful and kind and beneficial in the long run, acknowledge with whomever else needs to hear that there is an elephant in the room.  The benefit gained from the honest conversation will far outweigh the temporary fear of negative consequences that has held you back so far.