As a leader you are used to making tough decisions based on hard facts and good research. But for a couple of years now, people like me have been telling you that social is the new way to make decisions and that conventional wisdom is less relevant. Maybe it’s time to shed some light on what really happens today and why social business is indeed the ultimate way to run a company. Better yet, let me explain why you have been doing this all along.
Every good leader is starting with the facts. You take your spreadsheet and ask your leadership team about those numbers. Why are sales down, why are expenses up, why does it take so much time to launch the new product? That dialogue and personal interaction, that is social! Unfortunately the larger an organization, the further leaders gain distance to their people. Don’t believe me? Just re-read that last “memo” you sent to “all” and imagine you’re talking to your kids instead of “the employees”. C’mon, be human again! Follow your heart!
Be available: No matter how high in the hierarchy you are, talk to your people, every day. And since you can’t be everywhere, use modern technology for the dialogue. Post a picture and a comment, like “Hey Denver team, I am in town this week. Anything I should know?” and you’ll be amazed how much you learn from them. I know you have “meetings”. But who in that boardroom is going to tell you that the new model you’re about to launch sucks? The dealer and the sales rep will!
Be open: One of the most common questions I get is: What if people leave bad comments? So? Do you really believe people hiding their opinion about you and your decisions is leading to better results? Don’t just have an “open door” policy, live it! Face the people that should be closest to you, the people that get the job done for you every day at the counters, the assembly lines, the development pit or on the road closing deals. You give big keynotes? Why don’t you spend an hour after the “all hands meeting” and chat with employees in the stream!
Be personal: In the old days, the leader walked through the factory and had a quick chat with everyone. Today’s social technology allows you to do the same through digital means. There is always somebody working on a big deal, handling a customer escalation or celebrating a breakthrough in a project. Being available as a leader might be that final kick that makes your colleagues go the extra mile. A social intranet is not much different than a walk through the factory.
Be direct: Are you scripting a speech to your kids? Why do you do it when talking to your employees? The beauty of social technologies is that you don’t have to worry about formality. If you pick the wrong tone, just add a comment and explain what you meant. Over time your team will get used to your (digital) style and, just as they handle your temper before you’ve had your second cup of coffee, they will learn to read between the lines of your posts. Just share a little everyday and you’ll see that digital relationships are possible.
Be an example: There is absolutely no alternative to digital social interaction! Globalization will not end, the internet will not shut down and communication will not return to paper letters and meeting rooms. So stop whining about “the good old days” and be an example on how business is done today. Your people look up to you as their leader, but they are also expecting you to lead them through the change. The good thing is, those changes lead to a fundamental, engaging way to work.
Do you see the pattern? It is not about technology, it is about you following your heart and being a human being. Social technologies are allowing you to express this through digital channels. I know you are confused and somewhat insecure with that “new stuff” but don’t be. You’re a leader and it is your ability to cope with change that made you that leader. Embrace it and you’ll experience how rewarding it is to be you again!