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Being Helpful

by Eric Kraus
I’m re-branding my definition of an Enterprise Social Network (ESN). The term ‘social network’ all-too-often implies something like Facebook — which people use as a platform to connect with friends/family and share stories, pictures and coordinate events. With that as a definition, the term ‘social’ itself can have a negative connotation with some people.Often, I hear co-workers say:

I’m not a social person…

The reality is that most of us are social by definition. We prefer to interact with others and exist in a community, rather than be alone. Even in the modern digital world of email, instant and text messaging, people still hang out by the breakroom and share stories and insights, ask questions and naturally collaborate on work.

Enterprise social networks were designed to harness that existing ‘social’ conversation and share it with people outside of the breakroom — across the whole enterprise.

You can use an ESN to be social –BUT– their value is in connecting people and their knowledge, across the company, to get work done.

So, to re-brand the enterprise social network definition, I had to first breakdown the major activities/benefits the network provides.

Connect With Others

For medium/large enterprises, chances are you’ll never meet a fraction of the people doing great work across your company.

ESNs help organizations be a community. Members of the network contribute-to and draw-from the network for the better of the company. The network gives people the ability to lean-in and take interest in helping others succeed.

The ah-ha moment came to our team a few months ago when Larry Kuhn, a colleague of mine from another team (and different geography), helped us on a customer issue we had been struggling with for several months. My team was one of several supporting the issue. After exhausting all of our local resources and escalation paths, I encouraged the issue owner to post the problem to Yammer. Proactively, Larry found our conversation, jumped in and made connections to new resources in the organization, whom we didn’t know. Those resources engaged with us and the customer and the issue was resolved in a matter of days. The customer later came back and said:

These are the types of results that set you apart from your competitors. Impressive.

These moments are no longer ‘ah-ha’ for our team — connecting with people from across the organization, in various roles and geographies, is our new way of working.

Be Interested, Not Interesting

I heard a great quote the other day from Noah Sparks

…Social is not so much an effort to be “interesting” but to be “interested” — that is when the MAGIC happens.

Ironically, to share in a network, you can think intrinsically. Whatmotivates you? What knowledge do you have? What can you SHARE? Then join related groups and subscribe to interesting people and topics. When you can add value, do so. But remember, it’s not about you…it’s about the solution.

A colleague of mine starts out every week by saying:

“I’d like to lean in for a moment. Is there anything I can do to help you this week?”

Our enterprise social network gives him the ability to lean in to people anywhere in the world and help them be successful.

Pieces of a Puzzle

Think of your work as a puzzle. Chances are you don’t have all the pieces when you start. You are immediately limited by what you know, who you know and where you are.

Everybody seems to have part of the answers that someone else needs

Enterprise social networks allow you to work openly and bring together the knowledge and perspective of others you may not have realized to ask. They empower other people to lean in and share, so you get all the pieces to the answer.

Being Helpful

So, to my colleagues that claim they are not ‘social’, I reply:

Being ‘social’ is about being ‘helpful’. It’s expanding the size of our team to include everyone across the company. It’s about being interested (not interesting), leaning in and sharing your piece to the puzzle.


Special thanks to Steve NguyenUrsula Llabres, and Matt Ontell for proofreading and supplying incredibly valuable feedback to this post.

Microsoft + Yammer: Transforming by Working Social — http://vimeo.com/69582155


~ cross posting with Medium ~

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