Shannon Emery manages both the external customer-facing and internal employee communities at Higher Logic. With so many tasks to manage and two distinct communities to nurture, how is a community professional to focus?
Patrick and Shannon’s conversation is about just that –– the strategies and resources that she relies on to stay focused and successfully manage both communities. These strategies include:
- Leaning on dotted-line team members for support and subject-matter expertise (4:19)
- Adapting the principles of agile product management to her workflow (20:13)
- Asking about the bigger picture before accepting new tasks or projects (20:29)
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On transparency in workplace communities (10:30): “If an employee asks a particularly difficult question [in the internal community], let’s talk about it. Let’s be transparent. Otherwise, why do we have a community? … Just because somebody questions something doesn’t mean [that] it’s negative [or] something that we [can’t] address for everybody. … I always say that if one person has posted it, there are a bunch of people who have the same question, so let’s make sure we’re being responsive.” –@llamasayswhat
The benefits of applying agile methodologies to your workflow (30:30): “[The agile process has helped me] when an executive comes by and [asks for] something. I can say, ‘I really appreciate that, but let me see how it fits in this week’s workload.’ That way, I can actually get it done, and I’m not trying to struggle to put something together real quick just because somebody asked for it. It’s more of, ‘Let’s take the appropriate amount of time and do this the right way.’ Because as the company scales, as the customer base grows, you have to be able to scale these initiatives. Sometimes people get really excited about something small [but they haven’t thought about how to scale it to the community].” –@llamasayswhat
About Shannon Emery
Shannon Emery is a community manager for Higher Logic, a provider of customer and member cloud-based engagement platforms. She’s responsible for their internal staff and external client communities. Prior to that, she was senior community manager for Blackbaud.
- Sponsor: Discourse, civilized discussion for teams, customers, fans, and communities
- Shannon Emery on Twitter
- Higher Logic
- HUG, the Higher Logic User Group
- Lindsay Starke on Community Signal
- Howard Rheingold on Community Signal
- Super Forum, Higher Logic’s annual conference
- Tweet from Anna Rose Iovine, encouraging you to document your 2020 accomplishments
[0:00] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, a podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Discourse, civilized discussion for teams, customers, fans, and communities. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[0:24] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and thank you for listening to Community Signal. Our guest is Shannon Emery, community manager at Higher Logic. We’ll discuss when you were called on to manage both the customer and internal staff communities at your company and applying the agile model to community work.
Thank you to all of our Patreon supporters, including Serena Snoad, Rachel Medanic, and Jules Standen for their consistent support. If you find value in our program, please visit communitysignal.com/innercircle for more info.
Shannon Emery is a community manager for Higher Logic, a provider of customer and member cloud-based engagement platforms. She’s responsible for their internal staff and external client communities. Prior to that, she was senior community manager for Blackbaud. Shannon, welcome to the show.
[00:01:04] Shannon Emery: Thank you, Patrick. I appreciate it.
[00:01:06] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s good to have you on. At Higher Logic, you run two communities. You run HUG, the Higher Logic User Group, which is for the company’s customers, and an internal community for employees that functions as an intranet more or less. For a company that is Higher Logic’s size, that seems like it’d be at least two people.
[00:01:24] Shannon Emery: Right? You would think so. As I came on board, it was actually an interesting opportunity to work with a different set of audience. I started working in a typical community at Blackbaud with the customer-facing community, so I had that pretty much down. Higher Logic User Group or the HUG community is where I actually feel most comfortable. Actually, turning intranet into a community for employees to actually engage was an interesting challenge that was provided through the actual job opportunity, so I wanted to give it a whirl.
What’s interesting is that primarily because it is a community vendor platform, they actually use the platform in similar ways that their customers use. So they’re very association driven. Primarily, that’s our primary market and so you get that connection, the feelings of members connecting together. It’s been interesting to navigate the waters of different stakeholders, as I like to call them. Human resources is my main stakeholder for HL staff as we’ve lovingly dubbed it, it’s about to get a new name, and also work with different internal stakeholders as well to make sure that our employees are engaging.
We split my time 50:50 and then I use agile product management and project management concepts to keep moving forward on both. But it’s actually been really cool and it stretched me in different ways. I can’t be too mad at it though. [chuckles] Hopefully, with the idea of having a team one day.
[00:02:49] Patrick O’Keefe: Got you, because it seems like I’m vaguely familiar with a HUG some of its public at least the summary page. It seems like it could get to a point where one or the other becomes more popular and it’s like, okay, Shannon can’t do this by herself because it’s actually big enough to justify. Higher Logic has a lot because a lot of customers, if enough of them participate, the community obviously is going to go to a certain size also has enough employees and if enough of them get involved, so if you’re successful too much on either side, you’re going to need someone.
[00:03:14] Shannon Emery: Yes, so we learned that. I learned that with my previous company, actually. We were very lucky to have five full-time community managers on the customer-facing community, but that one was probably triple size of HUG so you had several different product lines and things like that. There has always been people over HUG. There are people like some of my favorite people at Higher Logic who are known in the community space. Lindsay Starke that I’ve worked with for a year now and might have fan girled over her before that. She helped keep HUG running and stuff like that.
The concept is, if you make a platform, you should use it internally too. But what I like to do is I like to set up my teams for success so that way, when we come up with a concept, you have different people who are responsible for things on both sides of either community. That way, it’s not taking all of my time to do one tactic. I actually have teams or people who are going to say I’m going to do this, I can help them keep accountable and keep moving. Yes, so essentially, the idea is to have a team or at least one person on each side to be able to focus a little bit more on what’s needed for the business as well as to keep our employees engaged.
But I always have worked with what I call dotted line teams. That means like I said, I pull in different people, I lovingly call them stakeholders. I call them the HUG team and the HL staff too at work. We get together and we solve problems or we come up with new things to try out. It’s actually been really cool. It is hectic but as a community manager, I’ve learned that my personality likes to keep busy constantly. If I don’t, I get a little bored. [laughs] But eventually, end-goal one day is to have a team I hope if my boss is listening.
[00:04:50] Patrick O’Keefe: Awesome. I like Lindsay a lot too. Lindsay was on the show previously and we’ll link to that in the show notes. One thing about Lindsay that I appreciate is that she has an appreciation for community history.
[00:05:02] Shannon Emery: She does.
[00:05:02] Patrick O’Keefe: When I had Howard Rheingold on the show, for example, she was excited about that and knew who that was, and was like, “That’s really good.” So I appreciate and try to cultivate that sense of historical appreciation of the people who came before you and she has that, which I think is really great.
When you serve those two communities, to me, it’s like two separate parts of the business. If I was looking at it externally, I see HUG as sort of more client services, customer success, that side of the table, the intranet being more HR, people, right?
[00:05:31] Shannon Emery: Yes.
[00:05:32] Patrick O’Keefe: You just mentioned your bosses and I go like, are you accountable to two heads under those areas or how does your responsibility line go?
[00:05:41] Shannon Emery: I actually report up to Heather McNair who’s the chief community officer at Higher Logic. I report directly to her and like I said, then I report and work with like the head people on each community. I work with our head of HR. That’s the main team because it is still a typical intranet where you have to serve up things like HR benefits and information and stuff like that. Then, I’ve worked heavily with them, but then if there are other teams who want to come in and do something cool like I have our customer experience team, I’m observing them because they are experts themselves, come in and do that as well.
I do report up to Heather and we create goals. We have a little bit more autonomy and say these are goals for the year. Then, I’m about to present some of our goals for HL staff or the intranet community too and as well to make sure we’re on the same page. What we do there is customer-facing for HUG, absolutely, with some very high-end business goals of renewals, and retention. On the intranet side, its communications, professional development, ensuring things are getting to our employees when they need them by using our own platform.
There’s actually two different business cases. When you look at it, it actually forces me to think differently because, by nature, I am more HUG-oriented in my head; oh, renewals and retention, whereas HL staff has actually pushed me to think even more member-centric. What would I need as an employee because I’m actually serving community managers on HUG, like myself, and I’m also serving my fellow employees on HL staff. So it’s become quite meta at times of like, but that’s what I would want. I’m like, “Well, wait, is that what everybody wants or how do we do those kinds of like things back and forth?”
I’ve got a lot of different perspectives, always running around my head, but it’s typically though I come to Heather, she reports it back up to her bosses, and we make sure we’re all aligned. It’s been a lot of fun. It has its challenges, though because you have to speak different languages and understand, even human resources has different languages than our finance department or our customer experience team, and how they leverage the platform is also different. It’s a little rambly– [crosstalk]
[00:07:44] Patrick O’Keefe: No, that makes sense. The funny thing to me is I thought about that kind of role because I would say that it is fairly uncommon to the point where I don’t know if I’ve heard of another person doing it but I’m sure they have, where someone is managing both the public-facing and also taking a serious role more than just like, okay, I can get this started for you because it’s my subject matter expertise, I’ve run communities, I’ll get it going for the team, whatever, but actually ownership in 50/50 time split of the employee side and the customer side when it comes to community.
One of the funny things has been that when I think about that is as community professionals, we are very used to dealing with some negativity sometimes from the public side of things, to put it lightly. When you’re dealing with particularly difficult people, the team is a refuge of sorts, your team and your people are refuge, but here you’re managing the team community too. [laughs] Do you ever feel like it’s like coming from both sides? I think it’s just a funny thing to think about.
[00:08:46] Shannon Emery: It’s true, actually, the cool thing about Higher Logic, and I don’t say it to be like, it’s the people themselves that make up both the client base, as well as the employees, is that our employees understand when you are getting a lot of onslaught of negative things. The goal has been to get them to just move for it’s more like the traditional community best practices, answering questions, being responsive to their community managers. I can never say at Higher Logic I’ve had anybody ever be unresponsive to me internally because they know what’s happening.
They know their community manager is out on the front lines as well. I’m not pinging them to be a pain, I’m pinging them because I also am an advocate for their customers. I very much in those times, lean towards the customer side or point of view. That and also because if something does go awry, it affects my day-to-day because I’m also using the platform. I had never done that before, even at Blackbaud, my previous company, I didn’t use the software that our members were using, I was using a different community platform.
When things went down or things happened or there’s some issue or whatnot, it was a little bit harder to get people to respond, but we worked on it. I was there for several years. I think the difference with Higher Logic is that they understand. When I go to them and ask them for something, it’s not just because, “Oh well that’s just on the community,” it’s “Oh, that’s HUG.” We need to go and either address it or respond. So yes, there’s always hiccups and bumps or what needs to come first.
If you’re on the front lines, our product teams, our support teams are handling things, but they always come back and say, “Okay, let’s address what’s going on in HUG.” So it’s actually been eye-opening in that direction as far as they get it.
But sometimes, on the negative side, on the internal stuff, it’s more of explaining in some culture change. Like if an employee asks a particularly difficult question, let’s talk about it. Let’s be transparent, otherwise, why do we have a community? And so I’ve said that a couple of times. So trying to change the idea that just because somebody questions something doesn’t one mean it’s negative or two, it’s not something that we can address for everybody because I always say if that one person has posted it, there are a bunch of people who have the same question, so let’s make sure we’re being responsive.
We’ve seen that change a little bit as well so people are more comfortable posting and asking questions and things like that and, of course, I’m sure the harder conversations happen, as they say offline. [chuckles] You can’t have HR discussions on the community, but those go into the appropriate channels as well. But then again, I have always a people person so it depends on the day but I’m always the advocate for my members. If it’s internal, it’s my fellow employees. If it’s external, it’s our customers, and like I said, the cool part is yes, I use the platform too so I can understand the frustration sometimes a little bit better, which just makes me more empathetic and sometimes makes my eye twitch. [laughs]
I also generally have a very perky outgoing personality or approach to things because we can make a solution to something. Let’s just work together instead of trying to take our frustrations out on anything at that moment. That can be annoying, I’m sure at times but at the same time, it gets stuff done like my persistence, we need to answer this or we need to address this. Then also help training those who weren’t community-oriented at Higher Logic before they came there to learn what all of that means as well.
It’s actually been a lot of fun but there are days, I say it like sunshine and rainbows and puppy dogs all the time. It’s not, [laughs] but most of the time it’s the people who understand and I’m very lucky to work for somebody in my industry who has done this, has been on the front lines as well as I’m surrounded by great talent who are happy to step in or be my sounding board as well.
Like I said, I talk about Lindsay a lot but she’s talked me off a ledge every once in a while. She’s like, “Let me give you the history,” because she’s been with Higher Logic for a little while and that helps as well. I’ve got a couple of those folks there who are like, “Let me tell you why first before I go off and make any assumptions.” So it’s been pretty nice.
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I want to pull out a couple of things you referenced briefly and talk about them in a little more detail. You mentioned the dotted line team. You work with a dotted line team of, and this is your words, “Departmental representatives that makes up the HUG team that are assigned to help with community-driven initiatives. They not only solve business problems but also enhance the customer experience in the community.” You talked about it very briefly and so like just break down that team a little bit on the HUG side, the dotted line team. Where those people sit, what they do as far as HUG is concerned and how everybody works together for the final product.
[00:13:47] Shannon Emery: They are representatives from each department across the business and so that was something I requested from the start because community managers can’t do all of this by themselves. They can’t create content by themselves for three different product lines. They can’t answer all of the questions. They can’t provide all of the thought leadership in the world, even though I like to think I can, on different things. They’re also the folks who understand. I have representatives from our engineering and QA department all the way to frontline support. All depending on what their role is within the organization is what they help me do in HUG.
Engineering might be a little bit more in the background, but when things go awry or they can help me give me insight and something cool that our teams want to do this year is actually provide our customers insight into our processes and stuff like that in a prescriptive way. Then you move through products, product marketing, the marketing team, customer success, support, and we have a large strategic services department as well. They all sit around, we meet, we talk and they understand the health of the community as well as I will sit down with them and we’ll come up with initiatives that we want to kick off.
The best way I’ve learned with these dotted line teams is to actually provide something for them to be successful. So you build trust with each other that will also be guided by the customer experience. Examples, we wanted to show off our support documentation a little bit better. What we had our support team do instead of write a blog about it and publish it, was supply tips and tricks and then link to the support documentation. It wasn’t a huge paragraph or anything, but it also kind of pushed our members to go in there as well.
Another one is working with our marketing team on our huge event that happens every year, which is Super Forum, to leverage the community to be that voice on the Super Forum community as we lead up to the big event. Then it gets bigger and as I’ve built trust and really work these relationships there’s opportunities for lead generation, for customer interviews, for feedback loops, and things that, all depending on what they need, but it does really require having that trust. It’s almost like a community of people doing work for a community, so that way when they come together and sit with me, they know I know what I’m doing from a community perspective.
But goodness knows, I don’t know much about engineering so I need their expertise as well. Solve a problem, bring the value, and then they end up creating a better member experience as well for our customers because I’m all about transparency and honesty where we can as honest as we can be, so they look to me for that guideline. Like, “What do we say here? What do we do here?” And I also help keep them if they say, “Let’s do this initiative.” Then I keep trying to keep them in order so that they could actually finish the initiative and stuff like that. Because it is not part of their outlined job responsibilities, but they know it’s important because of what we do.
Yes, it’s actually a lot of fun. I get to think and wear a lot of different hats, especially internally and I really get to have fun with the internal team who’s doing really cool stuff for their customers.
We did that at Blackbaud, that was the model we used that seems to be successful, especially since you are running seven to eight product communities by yourself. You had to have these teams there to help facilitate all of that. I always like to say, I’m not your product expert so you don’t want me writing product blogs in the community. [laughs] You want your experts actually doing that as well.
[00:17:10] Patrick O’Keefe: Another thing you’ve referenced is kind of being a single community manager and how it was different at your previous job and that’s something you also said before the show. One of the challenges that you named when I asked you about your current kind of things you’re dealing with thinking about is remembering that you’re a team of one coming from a team where you worked with four or five dedicated community managers. Talk about that as a challenge.
[00:17:32] Shannon Emery: As a challenge?
[00:17:35] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes.
[00:17:35] Shannon Emery: I to have my hands in a lot of pots and so over the past year, what happened is I left a mature community and it’s not saying HUG is not a mature community, it is, but we had very prescriptive ways of doing things with Blackbaud that we had developed. We said, “Okay, this works, we’re going to keep doing it.” And then primarily, I forgot that change management is a huge thing, even for yourself. I tried implementing things that Higher Logic maybe was just wasn’t used to just yet and they’re like, “Who’s this? What are you doing here? Why are we doing it this way?”
And so I had to learn a whole different culture and a whole different set of people, all amazing people for the most part, everybody’s been super nice and stuff, I forgot that I needed to focus last year. Like I needed to build better relationships, or build better success cases with those teams to really prove that trust and so they put a lot of stock into me. We did some cool things, don’t get me wrong, but I lost that focus of saying, “Okay, one thing at a time.” So towards the end of the year, I found myself slipping and really upset with myself that like I hadn’t moved the needle as much as I had hoped for them.
So what I did is I sat down, we moved towards an agile model at Higher Logic and I said, I wonder if you could apply that to the community because I’m crazy like that and you actually can because you are developing a product for your end-user and I started to apply that. It actually forced me to be more prescriptive in what I do, as well as be more productive and be able to outline things better, and the challenge is, of course, there’s still only one me so when teams want to do multiple things, I have to clearly explain the time restrictions of understanding, yes, I have this much time this month to dedicate to a project and that’s what I’ve been doing this year.
We’re actually going to kick off a community on HUG of people from the conference that I presented this concept at, they’re going to follow me around for a year, we’re going to keep each other accountable using this technique. It should be a lot of fun, but it has taught me to focus and that’s this year’s word is focus. So I can actually turn out the things that I was used to turning out before but had a team to help me with. But at the same time, I spent a good chunk of last year developing those relationships internally so we can actually do really cool things this year, too and so like I said, it’s just all about that focus.
But it is a challenge. They look to you for guidance, and you’re the only person there but that doesn’t mean I can’t go ask a whole bunch of other people. I do sometimes [laughs] ’cause they’re there. I also tapped into my outside resources, I’ll leave out the names and all of that and I’d say, “What would you do?” and they like help work through that. Because I’m a big fan of always tapping into multiple people for advice and things like that too.
[00:20:13] Patrick O’Keefe: You mentioned a couple of times applying that agile model to your work. Obviously, that’s top of mind for you. Talk about that. Talk about how you’ve adopted that model, what it’s meant in the short time or the period of time where you’ve actively been adopting it and how you’ve made adjustments.
[00:20:29] Shannon Emery: Absolutely. What I did is I started to outline it in probably early summertime because I wanted to present it at our conference and then, of course, the success keys to present back out because probably, I shared a lot of foibles along the way too because I always think conferences should have those lessons learned, not all just the good stuff. What I did is I sat down with both sides of HL staff as well as HUG with my immediate boss and then our HR department head and said, “Okay, we need to be able to prioritize what I’m doing so I can do it effectively and get it done within deadlines and within very strategic ways to do this, because otherwise, we’re not going to get very far.
We outlined my priorities, which is a little bit more project management. What we did is started to move, especially with HUG, into two-weeks sprints. I took the idea from the agile product management side, by saying, “I’m going to do these things in two-week sprints.” Instead of having weekly meetings where you only have four or five days between things, you’re actually outlining what to do in two-week chunks and to say, “Okay, if something comes up in those two weeks, something has to come off of this list, because this is what my time is dedicated to.” Because, of course, you have admin stuff to do, answering questions on HUG, making sure questions are getting answered on HL staff, et cetera. Tours for HL staff or new people. How do you allocate the rest of the time so we could be more strategic?
We prioritize, we created little levels. During those weeks, we would sit down at those meetings instead of saying, “Here’s everything I want you to do.” I said, “Okay, let’s put it on the list. We’re going to prioritize, and this is what I’m going to work for the next two weeks.” Sometimes it works, sometimes it didn’t. It all depended and so I learned a lot along the way. I shared a lot of the lessons learned at our conference. But it turns out a lot of community managers run the same way. We want to make people happy, and we want to do the things that they want done. But how do you do it while still moving forward and showing progress, as well as for your members as well?
I got caught up a lot last year in tactics instead of strategic planning and then aligning tactics to things because I was learning the culture, I was learning the people, I was learning a new platform. So it kind of helped. This year, I said, from the beginning, Heather’s on board, and we’re going to present our plan, our roadmap to our counterparts on the other side, and say, “This is what we’re going to do this year,” and really create a good use case for it. It’s a little mixture of things.
Like I said, I invited people who attended my session to HUG and to a little community area so we could share and people were like, “I just never thought of it that way,” because inherently, community managers always just want to say yes. But how do you say yes and still be successful? Because if you’re doing a bunch of tactical stuff that doesn’t lead to a strategic goal or to a business case, then you’re just doing a lot of stuff. I was like, “Hmm, I got to stop doing a lot of the stuff and more moving towards that end goal.”
Also, agile is just fun to say. I’m agile. Also, it means if there is something that comes up in those few weeks that we’re working together, we can reprioritize. I can stay adaptable, agile. Something goes wrong or I need to do a large admin project or something like that, the people I also work with have a clear understanding of what I’m doing. They can report back to their people and so on and so forth.
It’s actually been helpful because at the end of last year, maybe, an HR person came to me and was like, “Here’s what we did in HL Staff.” I was like, “Oh, no. No, no, no, that list is a lot longer.” [laughs] I pulled up my spreadsheet and I gave that person the list. She was like, “This is amazing.” She was like, “This is comprehensive.” Because it’s not her job to track everything that I’m doing, it’s my job. Then I aligned them to what we had wanted to accomplish. It was actually really cool. That was a good end result. I did learn, don’t show them the spreadsheet, just show them the simple version, so that we don’t scare people and stuff like that, because there’s a lot of notes on there.
I always tell them now, I was like, “If you don’t see my spreadsheet open, it’s not getting recorded, and we want to make sure it’s being recorded so I can report back.” It’s actually been fun and it’s also helping me focus. I’m not a type-A personality by any stretch. Being more of a people person, it has helped me focus. Like I said, focus is my big word this year.
[00:24:33] Patrick O’Keefe: I like focus. Focus is something I repeat to myself, just a word I say to myself, sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’ll just stop and I’ll just say, focus.
[00:24:44] Both Speakers: Focus.
[00:24:45] Patrick O’Keefe: Pick one thing.
[00:24:46] Shannon Emery: Pick one thing.
[00:24:48] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, pick one thing. A couple of things that caught my attention in there. I think first just the simple way of thinking about it, which is two week sprints and documentation of the things that you accomplish, which isn’t necessarily the first purpose of it, but is a very nice side effect. It reminds me of a tweet that I saw today that I retweeted, and I actually shared with my team, and also the entire company. @annaroseiovine on Twitter tweeted, “Everyone start your 2020 accomplishment Google doc now. Spearhead something new? Put it in the doc. Someone praises you in Slack? Screenshot that shit and put it in the doc. You will forget all the amazing things you’ve done come 2021 reviews. Make the doc so you remember.” That’s really good.
You mentioned one other thing that I wanted to talk about. The time that we have available to us as community professionals varies widely. There are some people who, if they were in your shoes and the communities were a certain size, they would be up to their ears in as you put it, admin. They’d be up to their ears in maintenance and keeping things running smoothly in dealing with approval queues, in contacting members and helping them turn ideas into conversations, in responding to onboarding emails, in everything that can flow into this role.
Now in your case, you have this opportunity where you have time and you’re working toward progressing these two projects at the same time. How do you account for that admin time? Do you have blocks? Do you have a general understanding that, from this time to this time or this amount of hours every week, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM, whatever it is? Do you have a way of accounting for, “Okay, this is my admin time, everyone knows that I’ve got this stuff to do because the community doesn’t just run on its own. I’ve got to do things.” Then I can free myself up to do other things, but how do you account for that time?
[00:26:28] Shannon Emery: What I did initially during this, this also forced me to understand how much time it was actually taking to get things done. I sat down one week, and I said, “Okay.” Just in a very rough paper, I was like, “Every day, how long is it taking me to do approvals?” Depending on the day. “How long is it taking me to make sure questions get answered?” Because we also put service level agreements on teams. If it’s like a true product management question, they have so much time to answer it. If it’s a support question, that time frame is shorter. I started just following the same thing myself.
I’m like, “Okay, how long does it take me to approve everybody to get into HUG this week?” That’s another 30-minute meeting to tour HL staff for our new employees. It actually gave me a rough idea that I had, let’s say, the mythical 40 hours a week that we all think we only work, and said if it’s really 50-50. I have 20 hours for HUG, I have 20 hours for HL staff. Knowing HL staff is not as admin heavy, I broke that time down. I know it takes about eight-ish hours a week to finish the true admin work on HUG. That’s approval queues, moderation, making sure questions get answered and stuff like that. That freed up about 10 to 12 hours of time to think of strategic business cases and things like that.
For HL staff, it was accounting for the meetings, for the things that I would do with the internal teams, and then saying, “Okay, it’s a little bit less on that side,” because it’s not so admin and we’ve got a lot of cool integrations on that side to say, “Cool, out of the 20 hours this week, I have 15 hours. What do we want to get accomplished?” Then you move into the project template part, “What does it take to actually do all of these things and how long will that actually take me overall?” It was interesting because I bought one to track my time, but that’s what I did. I actually just forced myself to do it, because otherwise, I knew I wasn’t going to know.
I could have went back to Heather and say, “It’s taking me 18 hours to do admin things every week.” I’m pretty sure she would have had a heart attack and then been like, “What’s going on?” Because that is a lot, and then some weeks, it was less, but I know going in that when I do prioritize what needs to be done, especially at the strategic level, this is roughly the time I have. That’s what I did this year. I took a step back, I said, “Okay, we have our admin stuff for HUG. Here’s the teams I want to work with closely internally during January, February, March, and here are the big projects that I’d like to accomplish.”
Like we need to do a data cleanup. That’s further down the line, but at the same time, we are relaunching a new site for something that takes precedence. That way, it keeps me focused, and I can also truly dedicate the time, but also keep the community running, because hey, if it’s not there, I’m not here, so I need to keep that going as well. They’re all tied back to the member experience. I don’t like to do things, especially on the customer-facing side that aren’t truly member-driven or going to benefit them, so sometimes I’ll take a step back.
I told Heather, I was like, “I got my hands on some pots last year that I probably didn’t need to.” Great experience. Great learning, and stuff like that, but they weren’t centered around my two sites. I said, “Oh, wait a minute. Those are great projects, but that’s not my role. That’s someone’s focus.” She’s like, “No, that’s exactly what we need to do.” Because she said, sometimes she found herself doing the same thing. She’s a very honest lady. I love it. She said, “Let’s make sure we’re getting you back to what we need to do.”
Our Australian counterpart, we have an Australian office, his name is Robert Barnes and he runs that office. He’s a country manager over there trying to set up our new office. He has developed what he calls Plan on a Page. He calls them POP Meetings. They’re quarterly things that you do. It’s a very simple way. He outlines that you have a theme, you write down the things that you want to do, what is it aligned to, and how do you get it done. That’s what’s going to keep me focused. We’re calling this quarter, “Back to Basics.” Making sure things all the staff gets answered, as well as identifying those top strategic projects for HUG, and we’re going to do the same thing for HL staff next week. This is what we need to focus on. This is the time allocated, let’s make sure we’re keeping moving forward.
So far, it’s been well-received, like I said, there’s been some lessons learned, especially around how to approach it and stuff. At the same time, it helped me even pause when another executive comes by and wants something, I can say, “I really appreciate that, but let me see how it fits in this week’s workload.” That way, I can actually get it done and I’m not trying to struggle to put something together real quick just because somebody asked for it. It’s more of, let’s take the appropriate amount of time and do this the right way. Because as the company scales, as the customer base grows, you have to be able to scale these initiatives.
Sometimes people get really excited about something small and you’re like, “How do you scale that?” and they don’t know how to answer that. Let’s take a step back. I’ve actually probably shocked a few people by saying that because by nature, I always want to say yes and so I’ve got myself into some tizzies on that one but it’s been good so far Even if they’re a little like, “Oh, my God.” “It’s okay. We’ll get there,” but how do you tie that into something bigger? That’s always my favorite question to ask back,”What’s the end goal?” [laughs]
[00:31:23] Patrick O’Keefe: I think this agile approach to the work is really interesting and useful to people who may be as you say, aren’t type A or who really need help focusing on specific tasks. I really appreciate you sharing it and it’s been great to have you on Shannon, thank you for spending the time with us.
[00:31:40] Shannon Emery: Thank you, Patrick. This was a lot of fun. I really appreciate being here.
[00:31:44] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Shannon Emery, Community Manager at Higher Logic, higherlogic.com. She manages HUG or the Higher Logic User Group which you can find at HUG.higherlogic.com. To see the community Shannon ran previously at Blackbaud, visit community.blackbaud.com.
For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and Carol Benovic-Bradley is our editorial lead. Thanks for listening.
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