I am an MVP (and so can you!)

A little context

Once upon a time (2 months ago) I had decided to stop pursuing the MVP award. There were a few issues in the process and related communication that were bugging me and made the experience more of a chore than a valued credential. So I withdrew my nomination.

After posting that I received a lot of feedback through public and private channels. Many had a similar experience, some were supportive regardless of my choice, and others disconnected/disappeared or outright let me know I was making a mistake and had brought shame upon their ancestors. Here are GIFs illustrating the general feedback (because GIFs are more fun than the reality):

Some were supportive

From Frozen
From Broad City

Others, less so

So to those of you who had my back, thank you. And to those who didn’t, thanks for the true colors demo.

What’s a credential, anyway?

The thing about any credential is you don’t stop being yourself once you obtain it. When you get a promotion, you shouldn’t shun the people “left behind” or change your personality. But some do anyway. To them, it’s all about their journey and checking off boxes. To others, it’s about achieving something challenging and using that experience and newfound platform to help others up the slope.

When you rise in an organization or obtain a new credential it is, rather, a responsibility of yours to help elevate and develop others. This is what separates great leaders from the rest. Your actions, when credentialed, are also more heavily scrutinized. Do you use your credential selfishly (to promote yourself) or to influence change and build the community?

To poor leaders, growth is all about THEIR journey on their way to better things. To effective leaders, growth is about achieving something challenging and then using that experience and newfound platform to help others up the slope. Click To Tweet

So what’s your legacy? Were you a community builder who made the organization better? Or did you just make sure it didn’t collapse and kept it as it was?

Community Builder

Actively works within and outside the community to make it better by pushing for positive change and helping to introduce new members to the community. Possesses a growth mindset.

Community Supporter

Actively works within the community to maintain success by featuring its own members and initiatives and focusing on the member experience. Possesses a maintenance mindset.

Yes, yes, but what can I actually do?

If the MVP award sits on your desk, let it be a daily reminder that there are hundreds who are seeking that same recognition you received. What are you doing to provide opportunities for those others to shine in your arenas?

  • Run a user group? Reach out to a non-MVP and ask if they’d like to speak.
  • Organizing a conference? Include non-MVPs
  • Have a podcast? Interview a non-MVP
  • Are you a speaker? Share your talents with non-MVP organized events and groups
  • Celebrate the contributions of and interact with non-MVPs on social media

Your promotional materials that say “90% of our speakers are MVPs!” certainly demonstrate how much talent you’re featuring at the event. But those 10% that aren’t MVPs don’t feel included in your marketing plan and, by extension, feel they may have just been filler material.

You can always list “MVP” after the speakers’ names in your listings and let potential registrants do the math themselves. I’d be more inclined to attend a conference where I knew I’d be engaging with speakers who:

  • Started their own company
  • Wrote a book
  • Participates in diversity initiatives
  • Run a podcast I listen to (or might start)
  • Own the blogs or YouTube channels I frequent

Consider celebrating the accomplishments of your entire speaker group, MVPs and non-MVPs alike. If they’re good enough to have at your event then they’re good enough to recognize equally.

“Our speaker lineup includes 10 published authors, 5 CEOs, and 14 active bloggers!” These quantifiable numbers tell a more specific story that others can relate to. Maybe a potential registrant is starting their own blog and would see this as a good opportunity to speak to someone who could help. And the speakers would probably appreciate the additional, specific exposure to their individual accomplishments and contributions.

What I’m saying (as I’m sure you’ve guessed) is that you can be President but that doesn’t necessarily make you a good one.

From Miranda

My next objective

All of this to say, I welcome a new challenge and opportunity into my life today:

I was fortunate to have Jon Levesque, Betsy Weber, and Christian Talavera who each acknowledged my post and took time out of their busy agendas to reach out and talk with me. I consider each of them to be exceptional leaders that not only listen to concerns, but really hear them. I felt that they really wanted to make positive change and improve the program.

Other leaders could have shrugged off my comments and left me to my own devices. But that’s what made these three community builders instead of just community supporters. After talking with them, I learned that some positive change has occurred since I withdrew my nomination and shared my post.

  • The application has some new questions that make it more personal and goal-oriented as much as accomplishment focused
  • Timelines have shifted so that there’s more accountability to those responsible for voting and firmer deadlines to make sure a backlog doesn’t happen
  • Notifications and follow-up will be more standardized with applicants, making sure those anxiously awaiting any news are aware of their current status and know who to contact with questions

My objective is to practice what I’ve preached here. I intend to:

  • Use the credential as a reminder to lift up others so that they too may experience the joy of recognition for their efforts
  • Do what I can to make the program better and improve the nominee experience
  • Continue blogging and speaking to share freely what I’ve learned along the way
  • Continue organizing LSPUG and SPL Scholarships
  • Continue co-organizing SPSKC with Sharon and Jonathan Weaver
  • Continue popping up at events and user groups to share the SP word

With a little help from my friends

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank a few people who kept me motivated and inspired throughout this three year journey. My heartfelt thanks to:

  • Greg Swart who first showed Mike and I the wonders of SharePoint in practice.
  • Dave Peterson and the organizing committee of SPS Omaha for taking a chance on me a few years ago and giving me my first SPS speaking gig.
  • Mike Broadwell and Mary Roach, my bosses while at KU Libraries, who approved my funding request to speak at some non-library conference in Omaha and then continually supported me as I learned and grew in SharePoint and O365.
  • Sharon and Jonathan Weaver who welcomed me to the organizing committee of SPS KC and who have been great partners and friends in our LSPUG and Kansas City O365 UG adventures.
  • Starla Jones and Michael Williams, my bosses at LMH Health, who support me today by entertaining my wild ideas about modern collaboration and organizational communication and who encourage me to keep learning.
  • Tim Canaday, my systems counterpart of LMH Health, whose seemingly infinite wisdom of all things server and structure (and patience when my ideas come faster than my rationality) inspires me to learn things I hadn’t dreamt of learning before and achieve things together I certainly couldn’t do alone.
  • Mark Rackley and the organizing committee of the North American Collaboration Summit for inviting me to speak at my first national, non-SPS conference. Thanks for believing in my value before I had an MVP credential.
  • All of the SPS organizing committees, professors, and user group owners who have welcomed me to speak at their events and classes. I’ve enjoyed Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City (of course), and Denver and am looking forward to upcoming events wherever they may lead me.
  • All of the many speakers who have volunteered their time to share with LSPUG, a small but might user group in the heart of the country.
  • Jag Kakarlapudi for inviting me to speak on the podcast at Modern Work.
  • My sister and parents who are the best cheerleaders and life coaches I could ask for when I’m down or struggling with anything.
  • My husband, William Ottens, and our exchange student Lucas for putting up with the heightened level of nerd I can sometimes bring into the car or house.
My new profile on the MVP Website

8 Replies to “I am an MVP (and so can you!)”

  1. Very good, all very nice that you hear this, but what happens when in my region there is no possibility to create an event to communicate to all the existence of SharePoint and its improvements, I mention it because some colleagues tell me that SharePoint only It has served as a repository of documents and for me that is frustrating, since I explain to you what are the improvements and benefits that SP has … for that reason I publish my adventures, experiences in my blog but still I am still to be nominated, but I will continue on this path and keep on sharing my experiences with SharePoint, thank you.

  2. Congratulations Nate. You deserve it every bit. Thanks for your valuable contributions to the community. I have learned a lot speaking with you and following you on LinkedIn.

    Thanks for the mention in the post. It means a lot.

    Jag

  3. Wow! Congrats Nate! I’m proud that you achieved this and now that you’re breathing rare air, I hope you’ll come back to Omaha. I’ve been doing this a long time and I don’t know how you young folks get that award! Hopefully you can give me some pointers the next time we see each other.

    1. Sounds like it might be time to give it a good, fresh go again. Perhaps some of these changes will fix some of the obstacles you’d run into as well.

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