What does it take to perform your best?
Professional skills, expert knowledge and perseverance are all important, but at the core, what you need is passion.
Your conviction is what moves you towards your goals. My passion lies in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans topic, or LGBT in short.
I strongly believe in the unique perspective this group can bring to our business and the importance of giving our LGBT employees a voice.
Driven by this passion, I decided to start my own LGBT network about a year and a half ago.
I’m proud to say that today, we have a globally operating fully employee-led LGBT network as well as a Women’s network here at the adidas Group.
There were many lessons I learned along the way. I chose five that I deem important factors for successfully running a grassroots network.
I wanted to share these with you in the hope that you can apply them at work and in your private life:
1. Give your network a purpose
The first thing when starting a network is to identify likeminded people who share your conviction and have a bias for action.
If you are the leader of this network, your role is to give it a purpose – a mission and vision that unites its members and gives them a common goal they can identify with.
To do this, I talked to a few of my colleagues who I knew would be interested in this topic and asked them for their input.
This then gave me a rough idea of what the overlapping ideology for my network could look like.
Together with the network members, I decided that the purpose of the LGBT network should be to raise awareness, serve as an internal resource as well as being the voice towards the external community.
2. Agree on a set of rules
Equally important to identifying a network mission and vision is defining a common set of rules that all members should abide by. In our case, we defined a group charter which outlines the way we wanted to operate. I recommend you document such a framework and have it signed off by HR or Senior Management to ensure the network is legitimately protected in its activities.
3. Get support from experienced people
Once you have conquered the early obstacles of getting a network structured, it helps to learn from other people’s experiences. They can help you identify risks and opportunities that have an impact on your network’s goals. I was fortunate enough to be able to connect with PROUT AT WORK, an association of German companies that have LGBT networks. The founders of the association have helped me a lot and coached me on the most important do’s and don’t´s of young employee networks.
4. Invest in promotion
Being visible to employees is an important requirement to ensuring an influx of new members who can help work on the network’s objectives. Don’t be shy. Go out and spread your message. Promote your group and focus on self-marketing. Visibility can be created via intranet pages as well as internal events. Our LGBT network is present at internal diversity days as well as internal speaker series which allows us to share our messages with interested employees. Another great way of increasing visibility within the company is garnering the support of a network patron. In our case, I approached our CFO Robin Stalker and asked him if he would be willing to act as a patron for our network. Not only does he give legitimacy to our group and its existence, he also endorses our activities and elevates our cause to forums that the network could not access on its own.
5. Have fun
A very important point that’s often overlooked: people should be able to enjoy being part of the network. When your members commit time on top of their working hours this aspect becomes all the more important. A shared purpose or common goal might not be enough for some. Providing a fun and friendly environment raises your chances of new members joining and current members remaining engaged and committed to your cause. On a more general note: I think it always helps to have some fun at work.