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This article was originally posted on my business blog: www.socialfire.ca/jblog/ownershipandsuccess

Have you tried to implement programs for your employees that didn’t deliver the results you were hoping?  I am mainly referring to team building or community involvement programs with a goal of engaging employees and boosting morale – but the lesson could apply to anything.

I have found that companies with young employees are the most creative in getting employee buy-in for extra-curricular programs.  It is probably because they are least invested in their career and aren’t afraid to say no, or just avoid opportunities, that more seasoned employees might feel they “should’ participate in.  If the employer is determined to get high levels of participation and engagement, they need to figure out the formula that works with their staff.

Some stories of ideas that do work:

Have your employees plan the program.  Give them a goal or an objective, and a budget, and let them run with it.  Trial and error, seeing your own ideas in action and being able to take credit for successes are very effective motivators.  If you want employees to volunteer as a group, let them pick the organization and plan an event.  Support them with time and resources to deliver an impact and watch them feel the pride.   This is completely different then saying: “Our company supports the xxx charity because it aligns with our values, please contribute to our fundraising drive.”

Getting staff to “invest” beforehand.  For example, putting on a ski-day – pay $20 to sign up and if you attend you get your $20 back.  The employer found that if it was free and easy to back out of, participation levels were very low despite up-front promises.  Getting people to put ‘skin in the game’, however minor, increases their commitment.

Lead by example – the management needs to walk the talk.  If you are going to hold a fundraising drive or a company picnic – the management need to be there with enthusiasm.  They need to donate themselves, roll up their sleeves to get dirty or volunteer to sit in the dunk tank.  Giving a program lip-service and expecting those ‘below you’ to be enthusiastic about it, is generally unrealistic.

Notice I didn’t talking about ‘making it fun’ or ‘putting a carrot on a stick’.  Although those concepts are important in certain situations, the key to making a social program successful is ownership.  The management and the employees need to feel and promote ownership of a program.  And this ingredient is required as a first step in program development – not as a later inclusion when people notice the lack of involvement.  Ownership of an idea leads to a commitment to see it succeed.

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I have been toying the idea of writing a blog article everyday for awhile.  It seems like an interesting exercise in creativity – but to what end, why?  Suddenly, tonight – just before midnight – I have decided it is a good idea.

I am proud of my business is shaping up, but I feel like I filter my messages, filter me, when I am in my business space.  I have totally embraced the the “this is me – ALL of me” approach yet.  So I keep my personality neatly sectioned  – but not isolated.  My blog is listed on my business website (http://www.socialfire.ca) and my art website (http://septembersart.wordpress.com) and they all link to each other.  So I am not hiding any part of me – just putting one foot forward at any given time.

Tonight – I am braising ribs for tomorrow night’s dinner.  Starting cooking at 9pm and they just came out of the oven.  Some good friends, who are also really successful business owners, are coming for dinner tomorrow.  I am ‘interviewing’ them for some articles I hope to run in one of the local papers – I am writing about company’s that are leading the way in terms of CSR/community involvement.

Oh – and I heard a fantastic bit of advice today – a quote I guess.  It is from Marie Forleo (www.mariforleo.com) and it goes something like this:  Operate like you can’t make a mistake.  Whatever it is your doing, imagine there is no possibility of doing anything wrong.

I love it – I am suddenly liberated to move on some things that I was nervous about….

This is a repost of an article I wrote for my business website.  You can read it there if you like: http://www.socialfire.ca/component/content/article/1-latest-news/36-our-backyard

This is an opinion piece about taking responsibility for our own community.

A few years ago my doctor went to Africa with family (wife + 3 kids) for 6 months to volunteer as a doctor there.  I remember asking him when he returned to his normal practice here in Kamloops “How do you adjust to coming back to work here?”

In Africa most of the cases would be life or death scenarios.  Look at childbirth – in Africa it is a very dangerous scenario for a woman, on average 1 in 16 die!  In the US that number is 1 in 2500. (stats from this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3206960.stm).  Compare that to Canada where healthcare is free and so many of his patients will be there due to cold viruses or are hypochondriacs who refuse to take responsibility for their body and health.  How do you remain passionate and supportive in such a different environment?

His answer has stuck with me for many years (I asked this question 9 years ago).

To paraphrase him, he talked about the fact that there are many problems in our community, but most people seem to ignore them – become desensitized.  It is much easier to travel to another country for a limited amount of time and focus on fixing a finite problem.  There is no lingering responsibility.  Goto Guatemala and help build a school – it is discrete and satisfying.  Conversely, if sign up to tutor children at a group home in your own community, is a much longer commitment and won’t deliver the same consistent gratification as a one time project.

I support helping out the global community, so don’t construe this article as me saying we shouldn’t volunteer or fund-raise overseas.  But there are so many people with altruistic intentions and sufficient resources – how do we get everyone to channel some of that energy to fixing problems in our own backyard.  How can we ignore, or claim to be powerless to help, the bums wandering downtown or the line up at the food bank; then go visit a foreign country and build a well or bring clothes to an orphanage.

We need to do both.  We to see everything going on around us at home – in our country, in our neighborhood, even in our family – as well share our wealth with the global community.  Try to be fair with your resources.

On the flip side, I find it interesting that most business CSR initiatives are locally based.  In Kamloops for example, the last United Way Day of Caring was a group from RBC building a community garden downtown (http://blog.unitedwaytnc.ca/?p=4663), Interior Vault is big supporter of the Food Bank (http://interiorvault.com/about.html) and many businesses are stepping up to help out with volunteers for the Western Canada Summer Games (http://www.2011wcsg.com/sponsors/).  So maybe business entities are compensating for the tendency for individuals to look elsewhere.

Food for thought.

Crayon Tips

Now I need to brainstorm with pencil crayons

In the past few months I have been introduced to a new community of very successful people.  It all started with me engaging a life coach, the amazing Janet Whitehead (www.musingsandmud.com), and it grew from there.

This community label themselves as right brain or creative entrepreneurs and they approach traditional business differently.   Some examples are www.whitehottruth.com, www.goddessguidebook.com, www.rightbrainbusinessplan.com – all quite successful people around the world who are executing their business a little differently than most.  Their focus is on listening to their creative side and propelling it into a successful business.

I come from a very left brain adult career.  I have a BSc with a triple minor in Math, Physics and Chemistry and I have worked in computer programming for 14 years.  But, before that I wanted to get a BA in Fine Art and I did a year in England getting my Fine Arts A-level, so there is an artist hiding in me somewhere, an artist who hasn’t done much in 30 years (ugh – 30 years!).

Anyway, a couple of things have sort of ‘rocked my view’ of the world in the past couple of months.  One of them is how many people are out there, being very successful, by proudly displaying all of the true colours.  And part of the reason for this is that technology has made so many different people so reachable.  We all know this, we hear people talking about it all the time – but when you finally see first hand the effect it could have one your own personal success it really hits home.

The other aha moment is how much fun it is to combine creativity with any task, no matter how logical it may be.  All of a sudden I can’t brainstorm on my laptop anymore – I need big sheets of paper and pencil crayons.  But the ideas roll of my tongue now and I can tackle daunting tasks with a smile and renewed confidence.

The title of the blog is ‘the new communities’ – because in the context of starting my own business, it is these new communities that are having a big impact on me.  I am learning that you can create any product or idea, and if you can put it out there in cyber space with passion and authenticity, then you will find a market.  That is a really cool opportunity.  Everyone I talk to in my “real” circle of friends is totally focused on ROI, business plans and pleasing the customer.  These are all obviously important concepts – but this big carrot of reaching people who really want to buy exactly what you want to sell, without compromise is very appealing – and new to me.

The Goddess Guidebook, for example, is probably not that marketable in the small town where the creator lives – but with passion and a smile she has reached out to the world and found 1000’s of customers who totally appreciate her work.  I am not one of her customers – and if I met her and saw her product a year ago I would have shook my head at it.  But seeing her success shows the accessibility we now have to all sorts of different communities of people and some of these communities are individuals scattered around the globe.  Without the Internet, these spread out collections of individuals would never be able to join together and strengthen their talents.

It is a new paradigm for me – I feel like I have just joined a new cult and my friends are rolling their eyes at me.  I am having fun though.

I have spent the last couple of months creating a business: Social Fire (www.socialfire.ca).  Today it officially opens for business in Kamloops, BC.

The company is still in its infancy, and much of what we want to do is new territory for the business community.   I am so excited that this is all actually happening – my body is practically vibrating with enthusiasm.

As I encounter hurdles, I will try to write about them.  Conquering hurdles generally results in a good story.  So far it has been one foot in front of the other.  Now that total control is no longer in my hands – the clients /marketplace will provide direction – things will get a little more interesting.

My pie in the sky goal is to be nominated as an Ashoka Fellow (www.ashoka.org) one day….  Check out my company website, fill out the survey and wish me luck.

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