Rebuilding the Organization’s Natural Shoreline

We have been busy building levees in our own organizations. The walls have been getting increasingly higher over the past couple decades. And as each extension to these barriers are added, there appears a ladder or natural disaster (aka communications crisis) to breach the new and shiny fortifications. Just as the U.S. coasts has stripped away the natural shorelines and built levees, our organizations have replaced personal communication with automation and firewalls. The natural resources existing within an organization that are the foundation for human connection are disappearing and being replaced with empty policy and processes. Organizations are constantly looking for another to compare to or blaze the trail for them to follow, rather than learn from the oldest, functioning model, Mother Nature.

Living on the Edge

Be the mangrove tree.

This has become my new mantra. Similar to mangrove trees, community managers come in all shapes and sizes and exist across many organizations as mangroves on continents. Community managers have one foot in the organizations where they are employed and the other foot in the community they serve, just as the roots of a mangrove are found on both land and sea. This resilient tree is the first line of defense for rising tides, the home of many a creature, and source of life for others.

Mangrove trees received attention in the wake of the 2004 tsunami when studies revealed their existence served as natural breakwaters and could mitigate property damage and save lives. Even knowing this, mangrove trees and natural shorelines everywhere are being destroyed for commercial use. Doesn’t this scenario sound familiar? Post PR crisis, the need for listening and increased organization-community relationships are called for and hailed as being the answer to prevent a similar crisis. The need is replaced by top of mind desires and fire drills. Quick fixes are made to resolve long term challenges. The resources of a community team are sacrificed and organizations lose their best connection with the community.


Be the mangrove tree.

verb (used with object) to make suitable to requirements or conditions; adjust or modify fittingly; and verb (used without object) to adjust oneself to different conditions, environment, etc..

Not all community managers are equal. The same can also be said of the mangrove tree. There are 70 species from two dozen families thriving across the globe. And yet all have something in common: the ability to adapt. The mangrove tree has a complex root system as the community manager has workflow. Depending on the environment, the filters differ. As the environment changes, so does the tree and the community manager.

The organization has to adapt to life and not force fit solutions. No person or company can remain the same forever. Adapt to your surroundings and avoid adaptation for the sake of keeping up with the cool and colorful crowd. Be yourself as you go along with the flow of life.


“Plat a few trees, and you usher in an ecosystem. Build nature a house, and she makes it her home.” – Forests of the Tide by Kennedy Warne

One community manager, one evangelist, one mangrove tree at a time, we need to give new life and protection to the organization and communities we serve by nourishing the natural order. As sea levels rise, mangrove trees will be the first to face the tides. Removing that barrier costs money and lives, not just human. Removing community managers or not investing in those resources results in a similar outcome, the loss of jobs, profit and reputation of the organization.

Already removed the trees? Have no fear. We can replant. We can rebuild. We can recommit. There is no lite version of saving Mother Nature, just as there is no such solution for the organization. We can create policy and process inspired by the spirit of nature and rehabilitate the organization’s natural shoreline.

Be the mangrove tree.

Next week, I will be speaking at Blog World Expo NYC, Community track. It is an incredible privilege to be in front of the BWE crowd again and I am even more excited about the topic of conversation I will be having with you, my community. Yes, the topic is playbooks and you may have heard me chat about this before, but I can guarantee you have not seen this presentation before. It is new. Influenced by nature and the Social Contracts, I am rethinking community management as a career and how community exists inside and outside organizations. And I am psyched about where this conversation could lead. Join me?

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