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In the first part of this mini-series, “So, you want your own Empire?” I visited some of the basics that I have concluded from years of organising, and leading, various groups, teams and task groups. That’s an important thing to keep in mind I think, I’m not “blowing smoke” here, I’m drawing on professional and non-professional experience to bring this here and none of it is cast in stone tablets. You can pick up texts on “Group and Team Building” everywhere, not to disparage book learning but don’t you think, in many things, experience, success, and even failures, make better teachers?
Anyway, in this second part I am going to look at the second tier of group building.. mostly the planning and establishing that comes after the heady rush of the brilliant idea.
So, how’d you get on? Got a plan to go with your brilliant idea? Got some friends all hyped up? Got yourself a web-presence for your “Group”, your fledgling empire?
Now, what ya going to do with it?
Let’s assume, for the sake of the exercise, that you and four friends, tried and true, are in on the plan. Good. Let’s say you have set up “shop” and now you’re looking to attract general members to bolster the ranks, to give the “Empire” impetus and to take it from the “special interest” to the “Focus group” stage. Where are you going to look? What’s your hook? What are you going to offer that no one else does?
In a culture, an online community, where pretty much everything has been “done to death” (or so people would have you believe) what can you do to bring people to your magnificent creation?
Consider this, EVERYONE has to, had to, start someplace… hells bells even President #45 started with a couple of bucks and an idea sometime, do you really think that he is a better person than you? Think about it…
The first consideration you need to make is what type of membership are you going to cater for? Is it going to be strictly “Rock collectors”? “Poetry Lovers”? “Sanguinarians”? “Psi-Vamps”? This is going to determine how you manage membership admissions. Are you going to include “supporters of”? Or, are you going to accept anyone whom has a general interest in the subject/s at your “empire”?
It is a vital part of the plan, at this stage, that you have a. a purpose, b. a plan and c. a method. For without these things you are going to end up with a Friday night crowd at a local bar scenario… general mayhem in other words.
PURPOSE: Make it clearly known, amongst your existing members and to prospective members what your purpose is. Don’t beat around the bush, tell them who you are, what you do and why you have this group. This will help in attracting potential members with “like minds” which is how your empire will become stronger. It’s because of the membership that, ultimately, a group will succeed or fail.
PLAN: How are you going to communicate with your members? How are you going to include your members in the aims and goals? Are you just going to issue newsletters created by an “Editorial Staff”? Are you going to create group created documents, books, pamphlets or some such thing? Are you going to hold simple “Topical” discussions? Are you going to have regular membership meetings?
All of these details need to be together, somehow, in an operational plan because the operational plan is how an organisation measures success and gauges what is benefiting the group as opposed to things which the group aren’t really interested in. You absolutely must, at all times, engage the maximum number of your members as possible. In this way you will find your members will be energised and will find the incentive to become truly and actively involved.
In this you will, hopefully, avoid the curse of the “Periodic membership interest poll/ post”, you will avoid having to send out group messages such as, “Hey, only 13 out of 200 members here lately, who doesn’t want to be a member anymore?”
The method for administering the “empire” is a crucial step, and a very necessary tool that must be refined, retuned, coaxed along and reviewed regularly. Not everything you do will work, not everything you propose will be accepted, not everything you wish for will materialise… I still don’t have my $350,000,000 national lottery win in the bank despite all the wishing in the world…!
The “Method” can include such things as, regular staff meetings (chat or meetup) between the admins of the group to discuss how the group is going and/or how it could be improved. It can include putting out regular “newsletters” to the membership about the group and the activities of the group and/or its members – many people undertake benefit work that can inspire others to do similar and in general reflect well on your “empire” – let your general membership know about these things, congratulate your members on their achievements, it will make others want to achieve.
Encourage participation at every turn. Accept each member and acknowledge their strengths and the positives they bring to the group, in this way more members will be encouraged and feel empowered.
Or, just sit on your throne and wait for your members to flock to you and kneel at your feet to worship you… regret to advise but that won’t last too long. If you are going to hold yourself up as some kind of “go to” guy or gal you better get ready for a lot of razzing and a general lack of respect for your over inflated ego. Definitely a trap for young, or old, players.
Members, members, members…. Ahhhh yes, members… the people you are doing all this for, the lifeblood of your, and every other, group but how do you KNOW that the person who wants to join is actually going to be comfortable/productive or beneficial to your group?
This is where the first stage of membership planning comes in, the point where you decided whether you are building your group to be a helpful, supportive and vibrant resource for others or a closed society for you to gather only those who agree with you.
Don’t get me wrong here, either way is fine but you need to have some method of assessing membership applications.
Some organisations have lengthy “packages” where you have to answer a hundred questions about yourself, you have to demonstrate why you think you will be an asset and sign all sorts of “I agree to’s”… kinda like going for a new job.
Other groups employ “Recommendation Process”, that is, you can only get in if an existing member is willing to vouch for you.
Still others have come up with a “Three Step” approach, the three steps being,
Step 1. Firstly have the prospective member answer three simple questions such as why they want to be in the group, what do they hope to gain from the group and, perhaps more importantly, what will they be bringing to the group.
Step 2. Review their timeline if they have Facebook. Unless they have a private timeline you can see what they regularly post about, if it’s all about their myriad illnesses and how hard everything is that might raise a red flag, are they looking for a new audience? If they are obviously young and consistently posting about drugs, gangs, guns and Satan then you probably don’t want them in your group. Are they in 1438 other groups and have 3,290 friends? Then they are probably looking for another “Trophy” to hang on their wall for whatever reason and it is seriously doubtful whether they will be a consistent and beneficial member for you.
Step 3. Talk amongst yourselves. Set up a “Chat” that can be used only for communication about group matters between you and your co-owners/administrators. Compare notes, share your instincts and take a vote on whether you think they would be good for the group.
So, let’s assume you have Purpose, Plan and Method all set and it all looks good on paper – that is after you have applied the K(eep) I(t) S(imple) S(illy) theory. On paper versus in reality… yeahhhhh…sometimes can be a problem, you need to stay flexible and responsive and the more complicated you make something the more time you are going to have to put into it, or the more staff you are going to need to run it… think major manufacturing plant versus ‘Mom-and-Pop’s Deli’.
However, let’s assume your empire has the sound foundations and it’s time to start receiving new members and guests. How do you know if someone is going to fit in with your group? Do you care? Do you think that variety is the spice of life? Do you want a ‘Friday night at the local bar’ scenario?
Most, if not all, the bigger and more successful Houses, Clans, Temples or Organisations have standards that they expect their members to adhere to and this needs to be addressed very early on, how do you want your members to behave? Are you among those whom believe that “Freedom of Speech regardless of consequence” is appropriate? Are you of the school of thought that “Common human decency and polite dignity” is the best way to conduct a group?
If you are of the former belief then, hey, all power…and good luck with that to ya, better get yourself some hard core moderators to keep watch over the crowd… get yourself some “bouncers”.
If you are of the latter school of thought then although you will still need moderators you will be well served by having some sort of pre-vetting method for potential members. I have known of several different methods, worked with a few, and I can’t really say with any assurance that one works better than the other. It all depends on what you feel comfortable with. I have known groups that simply admit members under the banner “Newbie”, “Acolyte”, “Seeker” or whatever other term might be seen as appropriate and then it becomes a probationary period situation where if said member gets three strikes or more in a given time frame – BOOM… bye bye.
I have seen “Membership Applications” ranging between one to twenty pages of statements, questions and affirmations. I have seen groups employ Twin Portals, one is the Main Group, or House and outside of that is another portal where potential full members serve out a specified period of time; a probation, before being accepted as a full member.
Yet others will admit a person then present them with a compendium of the Fifty Rules of House Horrorthon… and tell the newbie that if they break anyone of the rules they will boil in a large vat of communal ridicule before being ejected and having their name slandered all over Facebook.
Establish a common sense method that is to be applied across the board and use it no matter what the circumstances, no matter what. One of the worst errors that any House leadership can do is show favouritism, it alienates other members and then the cracks will start to appear.
So, to review,
State your Purpose
Have a Plan in place
Have an established operational Method
Have a Membership plan and requirements detailed.
These are the next stages that build on the foundations and give you the walls to protect, defend and support. Remember, a well-planned and well executed meal will ALWAYS be better than something thrown together and quickly boiled the crap out of…!!!
Copyright TB & RVL, 2018
NEXT: In Part 3, what sort of “Emperor” is your Empire going to have? Common Sense Leadership.
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