I am on this kick right now of educating leaders and managers about how social can amplify their leadership ability using social tools. I feel like I have written about this before, if not I am sure I wrote myself a note to write that. Recently McKinsey Quarterly came out with a study about the Six Social-media Skills every leader needs (Deiser, Newton). As I was reading this article, and I was highlighting it, scribbling all over it (I know I still print articles that I was to dissect later).
The article speaks about leaders on a personal level to be authentic and to navigate in their own comfort and the information overload. And at the organizational level to think through how to be a role model and stay ahead of the shifts. “Leaders need to excel at co-creation and collaboration – the currencies of the social media world.” Charlene Li in her book Open Leadership, she talks about how leaders are expected to be Open, Social and Transparent – which is probably how they got to where they are today. I see this every day. And mostly I see fear in executives eyes of “What if I say the wrong thing?” Or “What if I spell something wrong” to them I say, it shows that you are human too. And people want to see that. And more importantly, what if you DON’T say anything. I think that’s worse.
So I’d like to dig into these 6 skills and show a bit of tactical and give the nuts and bolts advice for leaders who are using enterprise social tools, like Yammer.
1. The Leader as a producer: Creating Compelling Content
– Its all about short stories. Its about what you are learning from your customer visits. Its about recognition. Video is pretty hot right now and easy to and upload to Yammer for people to watch, like and comment. Its like you are welcoming your teams to come and have a cup of coffee with you as you tell them about your day. Your day, which may seem hectic, and unimportant to the minions below you, they actually do want to hear what you have to say, in a non-scripted way. Video not your thing? No worries, create a Yammer Group – like the CEO Corner or The Leaders Lounge – where you can share detailed updates about what you are learning on the road when you visited your customer. Share what you can. Even the unimportant details are giving the rest of the organization a glimpse of what’s important to you helping them focus on whats important to the business as a whole. Finally within social tools like Yammer its easy to recognize someone for a job well done. And its pretty much free. See this blog post about social recognition (but secret tip — millennials would much rather have a shout out from their leader in a public setting versus some corporate branded Tchotchke.
2. The leader as a distributer: Leveraging dissemination dynamics.
Disrabution competence – the ability to influence the way message move through the organizations – becomes as important as the ability to create compelling content.” So if you, as a leader find a nugget worth gold on your Yammer network, share it with other leaders. This will allow you to start to figure out the different ways the informations literally flies through your organization. I was speaking with a customer, and she mentioned that at a Gartner conference she attended and her big light bulb moment was when she figure out that “the speed at which information and knowledge transfers happen within their organization will be their competitive advantage for the future.” So the speed at which things are shared and transferred can become your biggest threat or opportunity depending on the systems you have in place. It also becomes apparent very quickly who are the infleuncers within your organization. These are the movers and shakers – they might not have the fancy titles that call them influencers – but these are the people who pick where to go for lunch and everyone follows. More importantly these are the people that will start to tip the needle in getting the content pushed to through the right channels – social tools or not.
3. The leader as recipient: managing communication overflow.
This is a huge skill. Something that I think everyone, not just leaders struggle with. What I tell them is give it up – you aren’t going to read every message or every post. And nor should you. Most people can barely keep up with the amount of email they receive not counting the tweets and yams that could cross their computers. What I coach leaders is to focus on the groups that directly impact their jobs and leave the rest. They learn how to tap eachother on the shoulder to bring people and other leaders in when necessary, and to understand how to divde the network so that if there is a message or conversation that their team should see or be a part of the leadership team will be notified. Its also about figuring out what Yammer “feed” setting works for you. One lady I was working with had it set to ALL conversations – no wonder she couldn’t keep up with the messages in her network, she felt overwhelmed but its also because she was seeing non relevant conversations and felt the need to read every single post. Helping decipher these feeds and conversations is similar in real life, I am not sure why people think social should be any different. As a leader, you aren’t involved in every meeting or every conversation or every email sent (thank gosh or you might never get anything done!). Same thing goes for social.
4. The Leader as adviser and orchestrator: Driving strategic social-media utilization.
Its one thing for a leader to start to figure out “social” its another to back up the other social efforts that are going on within your organization to get the rest of your team members up to snuff. Its about figuring how to tap into people who “get it” and help them help others to have that aha moment. Working closely with a customer now who is focusing on reverse mentoring. I have seen it done and talked about in variety of forms but what it comes down to is regardless of age, rank or stature people are helping people up their “social literacy” and building their networks on and offline. So ask someone to help you if you don’t know or offer your help to someone. My guess is that they would gladly take some advice, plus I am sure you have a lot to share as well.
5. The leader as architect: Creating a enabling organizational infrastructure.
This is the age old org chart. Instead of going up the chains of command, which is still needed in some cases, you need to find the person with the right answer fastest, regardless of title or where they sit in the organization or sit physically. By posting and finding experts and answering questions on your Yammer network, this starts to happen without much effort. And leaders should celebrate when something is found, saved or discovered outside of traditional chain of command through tools like Yammer. The report mentions “The leaders tasks is to marry vertical accountability with networked horizontal collaboration in a way that is not mutually destructive”. Helping involve middle management is key at this stage.
6. Leader as analyst: Staying ahead of the curve
I feel like this is a great one for leaders and so hard to do with all of their other priorties. I recently had a C-level complete one of our Yammer Certification programs. She mentioned that she never would have had the chance to learn everything she did in that short time about Yammer and now she can speak more intelligently and work on getting her peers up to speed as well. Its highly unlikely that you , as execs have time for an all day classroom or training sessions, but I do encourage you to get educated and not just believe in the vision, but to roll up your sleeves and get to figuring out how YOU as a leader could be active on social tools. Normally my teams spends about 60-90 minutes with executives from all sorts of organizations. Sometimes we focus big picture and other times we make sure that they have Yammer on their phones and tablets. Sometimes we dig into the wins they are already seeing and other times we go over how to “tap” each other and search for what you are looking for. I think you need a bit of both context in order to help make some of this “social” stuff start to stick in your workflow as a leader.
The report concludes that “It takes guts to innovate radically” and I would add it takes courage a few people to be a bit brave to start to try something new. Regardless if its social or not. But right now, its not a fad. Its not going away. And if I were you – I would figure out where it fits in my toolbox of leadership skills and how to amplify my self as a good leader using the social technologies that we have at our fingertips.
So what about you? Do these skills resonate with the leaders you are or the leaders you have in your organization? Where is the biggest opportunity for growth?