Month: December 2008

why social media is hard for government and corporate america

Since the dawn of commerce and government we’ve been programmed to believe that enterprises are not human – they are better: polished, powerful and perfect. They have a presence (rather than a personality) that does not include human characteristics, like warmth, vulnerability, hobbies or ears. The job of the people in the enterprise has always been to perpetuate and perfect this presence.

Now employees and leadership both are confused by their centuries old mandate not to act human, and their new one to do just that. They see the risks – revealing too much, legal liabilities, competitive advantages, and all – and are unsure of the rewards.

but they’ve heard about viral and loyalty and word of mouth, and customer-evangelists. they’ve seen obama be cool and successful.

and they’d like to too. but to do this they need to take a big risk. they need to be human – vulnerable, imperfect, and all that. The people in the enterprise need to be free to (and encouraged to) come out from behind the curtain, and to know what that means.

1. Most enterprises don’t share enough with their employees for the employees to feel confident as spokespeople.
– beyond the mission statement, the leadership needs to tell people what the priorities and values of the company are. not just in an annual meeting, but constantly. it needs to be true and real – not white washed. if you can’t convey your mission, aspirations and values to your employees, they can’t internalize them and convey them outward as people. Solution? Internal dialog. perhaps internal social media. NOT the pr folks working phrases. You. The CEO. The VP of whatever.

Here’s a simple example of corporate leadership being human in an inspirational way:

That’s not too hard. A nice step. A nice example. You could do that. You could go a step further and add an email address. You could go a step further, and do it a couple layers deeper in the organization.

2. Government and Commercial enterprises fear the loss of the power of the curtain.

It takes a tremendous amount of confidence to be human. It means that you are confident that on the whole, the value your organization brings to its customers is very high, and that you are operating with integrity. That you are generally proud of what goes on inside.

This is a kind of confidence that companies have not had to develop or test. But the people and organizations that we respect most are the ones with these qualities. Its the difference between Hillary and Obama, in many ways.

3. Unclear on the upside.
Well, here it is. Corporate credibility is on the decline – not because corporations are, but because people have now had enough experience to know that the facade is just that. Who believes advertising? Who trusts the literature? But they’ll trust a person – one they know, for a recommendation, or one they don’t, who gets to know them by listening, showing an interest, speaking clearly and honestly, sdoing what they say they’ll do – someone who builds a relationship with them.

If you want credibility now, you need to be communicating as an organization of people, not a corporate entity.

I’d like to collect some more examples of corporate and governmental humanity – if you have links to small examples of this, please share.

Thanks for reading and have a very happy new year.

Real Teamwork and collaboration

Another unedited 5 minute blog post before I need to wake the kids:

Real teamwork and collaboration is aided and assisted by tools: wikis, basecamp, etc.
But those of you who’ve been on a few different teams will recognize that a team must have the following to be effective:

1. A shared sense of purpose – goals, people. Some people have a hard time figuring out which goals to set, but this is key here. If you don’t know how to set goals, learn. Get your team to help.
2. A mutual sense of trust and respect – without these real discussion, learning and problem solving are just too hard. When you respect and trust one another, disagreement is constructive debate, not politics. Its the ideas, not the people that are the focus. This is the key to the team being more than the sum of its parts.
3. The desire to virtuously pursue problems, and make them into opportunities, not crises.

In other words the organization must be dedicated to results, not fear. Management by fear is the dominant paradigm. It goes something like this. Everyone has their work to do. A mistake is trouble. Nobody wants to report that something was harder than they expected, that something was wrong, that the survey says they hate it, that there’s a big fat piece missing. So they fail – but it takes a LONG time to make that clear. And they fear.

Some signs that you’re on a “fearsome” team. Information hording. Bullies – people you never dare to contradict, question or admit that you don’t know something. Deadlines. Lots of busy tasks that don’t clearly add up to a whole. Nobody’s smiling. You fear the status update, or worse the status updates are something like ” i got these 3 things done” without any talk of goals.

The new Enterprise can’t afford such long learning cycles.
Next – the harder problem. How to convert a fear-based team to a truly collaborative team.