• Erin Fristoe

Ham Poetry

Keeping communities strong can be a challenge in the best of times, to say nothing of remote environments. Here's a short story about the power of influential community at RII. This post was something that I was going to share last year but scrapped, only to realize that its message is more important now than ever. To me, this captured the power of distributed leadership, including all stakeholders, and empowering individuals.


The Goal

I'll round numbers here to keep things simple: We needed to collect 100 survey responses to gauge employee engagement and satisfaction within the company. Our survey had been open for 3 weeks but we hadn't yet hit the threshold we needed to ensure meaningful representation across RII.

The Challenge

  • A huge deliverable was eating up much of the company’s bandwidth and people were focused on their work

  • People were beginning to scatter for the holidays

  • The survey was anonymous, so we had no way to target only those who had yet to fill it out

The Community-Driven Initiative


Between 9:06 AM and 1:30 PM on a Monday, I posted 21 poetry stanzas in our #general Slack channel. We’ll use the term “poetry” as there isn’t a close second to what the written lines could be called, although I don’t think Shakespeare or Poe would appreciate me calling it poetry. Each stanza was worse than the last (we’ll say that was intentional). The ask was simple: Please take the time to give us feedback (bad and good) and I’ll stop battering you with awful rhymes.


The morning started with scattered quatrains, but as momentum and engagement picked up, so did their cadence. After the first 3 were posted, someone chimed in to encourage people to take the survey and that sentiment got a number of upvotes. That was all the encouragement needed to crank it up.


These lines will get worse

As the day grows long

But this is all I’ve got

My attack is but one prong


A few more quatrains in, the emoji responses became more frequent. I could tell by 11:00 AM that people were now looking forward to the awful poems. At the same time, the survey responses were slowly climbing.

It means so much

That you are demanding my time

I’m so much like Busta

Spitting out sick rhymes


Then it happened…


My ears are bleeding

My eyes they hurt

Please fill out the survey

So we can put these poems to dirt


The members of the community themselves began posting their own poems - haikus, limericks, other things roughly resembling poetry - all in an effort to stop mine. The community members themselves were now begging everyone else to complete the survey. The numbers continued to climb. Memes and gifs were flying around the channel. The numbers kept climbing.


The Result

As I watched the community at work, I kept refreshing the survey dashboard. By 1:30 PM, we had not only met our target number, but we surpassed it.

It’s important to recognize that the influence here was never encouraging insincere responses, just responses in general so we can improve ourselves as a company. The other noteworthy piece is that, while we started out with typical channels of communication/governance disseminating the importance of taking the survey, it wasn’t until the community was actively brought together to influence one another to complete the survey that we hit our goal. Influence was the champion over control. It took the influential community less than 8 hours to accrue what amounts to 20% of the total responses that had been received over 3 weeks.


Think outside of productivity and retention with regard to a strong community. Think about the value a strong community has in terms of execution and power and develop strategies on how to capitalize on that influence to further your business goals.


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