Q & A with Matterness Author, Allison Fine
I love having the opportunity to share new books with you that will help you on your quest for Fierce Loyalty, especially when they are books that might not fall across your path in a traditional way. Here’s an interview with my friend and colleague Allison Fine around her new book, Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media. So much of what she has to say dovetails with my Fierce Loyalty work. I know you will get so much from her and from her book.
Oh, wait, but this is a good one, too: What fearless leaders know about power & promise of social media http://goo.gl/bA9y90
Q: Could you give us an example of Matterness in action?
A: One of my favorite stories in the book is about Jennifer James. Jennifer started the very successful Mom Bloggers Club, which has over 19,000 members, 15,000 discussions and 500 groups. And yet, for Jennifer, something was still missing. “How can we help other moms around the world with our megaphone?” Jennifer wondered. Bloggers for Social Change now engages hundreds of moms and finds sponsors for the bloggers to join and, in some cases, sponsor trips overseas for them in order to help spread the word about an effort to alleviate a disease or hunger or poverty. In addition, the moms are actually helping to shape policy. UNICEF asked help shape the agency’s Newborn Action Plan with suggestions of ways to encourage new moms to seek perinatal health care for themselves and their babies. Jennifer is in conversation with her community every day. She asks questions rather than broadcasts messages, she checks with her people on whether a campaign feels good and right, and changes direction when her community wants to go a different way. Jennifer leads her community by demonstrating every day that her Moms matter, not just to her, but to people and causes around the world.
Q: What can the concept of Matterness teach us about managing a community?
When people matter the most, the priorities of an effort change. Leaders that embrace Matterness see their organizations from the outside in, listen to suggestions and ideas, work with and not at other people and organizations.It is more of an art than a science, to balance the needs and desires of the entire community with the interests of the people who create the community. Matterness-focused leaders are open to the input of constituents, and have the courage to step out from behind their walls and logos and be real human beings, with flaws and vulnerabilities, because only real people as leaders will care about real in communities. Too often community leaders lament what they feel their community isn’t. We don’t have people who care enough or do enough or give enough. Leaders tap into the natural generosity, empathy and good will that exists in almost every community; we don’t need better people, we need better leaders.
Q: How can people use Matterness to help shape causes that they care about?
A: One thing we know about communities and social networks is that leadership can reside anywhere within the system. The job of leaders is to understand and acknowledge the influencers in their system (without diminishing other folks) and work with them not at them. People desperately want to help causes they care deeply about; however, causes don’t often give them meaningful things to do. In the book, I tell the story of Henry Timms was made the Executive Director of the 92nd Street Y, his HR director finally pulled him aside and said, “Henry, you have just one problem, you know all the answers.” Henry had always thought of his ability to recognize problems and come up with solutions as an asset. What his HR director was saying was that there are lots of smart people sitting around, and that his job as leaders wasn’t to tell people answers but to find them in the system. Nearly every person is sitting with a megaphone in their hand or on their desktop that gives them the ability to give their opinions, gather a crowd, organize a protest, raise money, and just generally stir pots (that’s my favorite thing to do!) Organizations have typically tried to keep these people at a distance because they seem so uncontrollable. Matterness is about embracing these people and working in concert with them, rowing in the same direction, and creating a more powerful whole.
Q: What Does Outside-In Leadership Mean?
As stated above, most organizations continue to work at rather than with their own people. Outside can feel like a teeming, chaotic mass of whackadoodles and wingnuts. And inside, with all of our perfect aligned plans, seems so safe. The assumption that only inside is safe is why I have the word “Fearless” in the subtitle of my book. It does take courage to takes one’s ideas out into the world and ask others to bang on it. It takes resilience to try a campaign by asking people to help, have it go imperfectly, and try something else instead. But, this is exactly why we have to step outside, because the work is too hard, too lonely, too exhausting to continue to try to do alone, inside one’s fortress walls. Working from the Outside-In means looking at your efforts through an outsider’s lens, it means recognizing that what an organization may want so badly to do, isn’t resonating with the community (at least, right now) It means moving towards a model of co-ownership of an effort rather than trying to keep pushing the boulder up the hill, alone, every single day. Ultimately, Matterness is a more energizing, less lonely, and more successful way of being in the world.