Reputation and Reward #WorkingOutLoud

Day four of writing this week, and it’s been by far the most productive day: i have the structure far more sorted, so was able to settle in to fill some gaps. I’ve written too much (around five thousand words today) but it’s a starting point to edit down from. Mainly i’m focussed on the section on ’16 Amplifiers of Change’, and am sharing here two of those: ‘Reputation’ and ‘Reward’. As i’ve said earlier this week, i’m #WorkingOutLoud and sharing this unedited, lightly proofed, and just as part of an ongoing thought process, so take it warts and all.

Amplifiers of Change


The reputation that we build acts as the foundation for Social Authority, the authority given to us by the community, rather than bestowed on us by the organisation.

In the Social Age, this reputation is ever more important, giving us greater connection and a louder voice within our community, helping us be successful in our current role, through the co-creation of new meaning and solutions, and doubtless helping us to find our next role.

For that reason, Socially Dynamic organisation will understand the importance of ‘reputation’, both formal reputation and social reputation, and will use it to reinforce the coherence and value of communities within the organisation, and to recognise and reward individuals who are making a real difference, whatever their formal, hierarchical status.

The Socially Dynamic Organisation

The more transparent the ability to build reputation through engagement, the clearer it is how this works, the fairness of the organisation in response to this engagement, the more people are likely to engage.

From an individual perspective, reputation is built through a consistency of engagement over time, not single events, but by engaging to support others with humility and kindness, helping others to succeed without any expectation of reciprocity. For the organisation seeking to amplify change, which will only be achieved through co-creation and the engagement of communities, you can see why it’s important to understand and maximise the ability of individuals to build their personal reputation as part of the change process.

Within the formal aspects of change, those which sit under the control of the organisation, such as the establishment of project offices, reporting frameworks, and creation of change related hierarchical roles, it’s easy to see the formal reward: status, a seat at the table, permanence. But alongside this are the social aspects of change, those which are held within the community, and it is in these spaces that we can seek to provide opportunities to build reputation, and to learn the best ways of rewarding relevant and useful activity.

But what does ‘reputation’ look like? How do we provide opportunities to build it?

These opportunities may be a product of the culture that we create: for example do people say thank you? Does the organisation say thank you? And how does it say thank you?

When you ask people what reward they value most highly, it is often not money, but rather respect, or a recognition from the community itself, or even the opportunity to help others to succeed. If we are trying to create the Socially Dynamic organisation, and amplify change, it may be as simple as modelling the behaviours that we seek: about demonstrating the ways that the organisation will recognise and reward engagement. By doing so, we may make clear to everyone how it is possible to build reputation.

But we could also be more explicit than this: we can write people letters of recommendation, post on their LinkedIn wall, or recognise them through formal internal channels, social leaders, change leaders, people who we value and respect.

Reputation is complex: partly it can be awarded by the formal organisation, but largely is generated by the community itself.

What we need to do:

1. Understand mechanisms through which reputation is earned, and ensure these are clear.

2. Learn the types of rewards that are valued by our community, and be authentic to those

3. Be consistent and fair in how we recognise and reward individuals to build reputation

Visible REWARD

One mechanism for amplifying change is to reward those people most heavily engaged. This may sound obvious, but is easily missed, or the wrong reward is easily applied. Earlier we talked about reputation, giving people the opportunity to earn reputation, which is in itself some form of reward, but let’s consider more explicitly how people may be rewarded.

The reward may take the form of opportunity: those people who engage most heavily perhaps gain access to opportunity not available to others. For example those people who engage in nascent change communities, to help us co-create and share effective change stories, could be given access to a storytelling course, to learn how to become better storytellers.

And those people who have a particular expertise, for example in technology, could be invited to help host a conference on their subject, or get access to external conferences, to represent your organisation in that space, thus building public profile, gaining experience, and building their personal network.

The rewards for amplifying change should be unusual and valuable, a $20 iTunes voucher is not going to cut the mustard: it’s too transactional and puts a value on engagement that is far too low.

It’s also worth considering the location of the reward: speaking with the voice of the formal organisation, we can only give formal rewards, but the community itself can give socially moderated reward. So we can create spaces for the community to do this.

For example, we can create Change Leader awards, where individuals are nominated by the community, and winners are voted for by the community, providing both social recognition and reward. Indeed we may even devolve the budget and authority to run this to the community.

This is entirely in line with the approach of the Socially Dynamic organisation which constantly seeks to relinquish its own control over the structures and mechanisms of performance, instead entrusting these things into the care of the high functioning and coherent communities which it nurtures and creates.

Whenever we are dealing with reward, we must remember not simply to reward those people who say the things we want to hear: part of what we must do is reward people who tell the subversive and challenging stories, providing those stories are at least shared freely. We can learn from challenge and disruption as much as, or possibly more than, we can learn from those people who simply reinforce and amplify our existing views around existing stories.

What we need to do:

1. Provide rewards to emergent change leaders, awards that are relevant and authentic

2. Devolve control of these rewards into the community itself

3. Equally reward people who challenge, as long as it’s constructive

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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9 Responses to Reputation and Reward #WorkingOutLoud

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