The Missing Ingredient in Leaders - Social Skills

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					It 鈥檚 Time to Stop Giving Our Employees and Customers Concussions
  I was flipping through the TV channels this past weekend and I noticed that the most
prevalent programming was sports. What really caught my eye was not just that it was
about sports, but about winning and by how much. One of the key debates was how
football players were going so far in their desire to win that they were 鈥榖 utting
heads 鈥?with their opponents and causing concussions that resulted in serious injury
to the brain. What came across my mind was that in my 30+ years of advising boards,
as well as working with institutional investors and large companies, almost every
discussion ultimately turned to similar conversations about 鈥 榗 rushing the
competition,鈥?鈥榖 eating the opponents 鈥?and 鈥榞 aining,鈥?or 鈥榮 tealing
鈥?market share (e.g. sounds a lot like football to me). Rarely were any of the
discussions about how to maximize the value of the organization by working with
customers and employees as a 鈥榗 ommunity 鈥?or using open communication, real
collaboration and social skills to drive positive sentiment and true organizational
potential. Now I know you are thinking that I have gone soft, or that I don 鈥檛 care
about winning, or even worse, I am biased because I am a member of the social media
industry and believe in the 鈥榮 ocialization 鈥?of business and leadership. None of
these reasons could be further from the truth. Rather, as part of my own self-reflection
on leadership and the skills necessary to succeed today, I have noticed a growing
number of articles and research suggesting that the old ways of thinking and doing
business 鈥?including winning, command and control and beating others 鈥?is
causing great anxiety and distrust among us as citizens, customers, employees and
ml). Luckily, social media, and more importantly the impact it is having on how
individuals are beginning to communicate and interact, is forcing organizations and
their leaders to consider new ways of leading, managing and participating with their
people. Further, leaders are also discovering that they need new skills and
competencies in order to participate in a socially networked world in which everyone
is interacting online. Backing up for a moment, since I co-founded Mzinga, we have
worked with hundreds of organizations helping them understand how social
communications and interactions can create happier and more productive employees,
more satisfied customers and more engaged partners. The good news is that some of
these conversations have resulted in the dramatic realization that a leader 鈥檚 heart
may be in the right place, but not his/her company 鈥檚 people, processes, skills or
technologies. More often than not, I noticed that most leaders were frightened by the
prospect of 鈥榮 ocializing their organization 鈥?and therefore only paid lip service
to the idea of improving their people 鈥檚 morale and experience through open and
transparent communications and collaboration. For that reason, I consider Zappos to
be the poster child for success in our socially connected world, because their core
motto -- 鈥楧 elivering Happiness 鈥?-- is the central value of their leader, Tony
Hsieh. For all these reasons, it is clear to me that it is time for a change. As a result, I
am resolved to push forward with a new leadership model that is based on a
collaborative, experience-driven approach that I call 鈥 榝 ollowship. 鈥? I am
committed to the concept that all future leaders will be great 鈥榝 ollowers 鈥?of
their customers and employees, prospects and alumni because the Followship model,
which is based on compassion and social intelligence, will reduce the number of
customer and employee 鈥 渃 oncussions 鈥 ?that are unnecessarily created by
business leaders today based on existing leadership frameworks. I am; however,
aware that traditional companies and their leaders are going to struggle with obstacles
as they strive to become more socially adept and develop their social and empathetic
skills. A few examples of these obstacles include:
  鈥?Obstacle 1: 鈥淲 e are doing pretty well right now, so why should I change?
鈥?Organizations that experience this obstacle should ask themselves if they could
they benefit by joining the conversations that their community of employees and
customers are already having about their organization. 鈥?Obstacle 2: 鈥淚 don 鈥
檛 believe that being social will produce improved results.鈥?The research is clear;
word of mouth marketing using social media and crowd sourcing for innovation using
social software produces real ROI. In short, engaging people can and does produce
real results for organizations. 鈥?Obstacle 3: 鈥淚 don 鈥檛 know many social
organizations so what are the best practices?鈥?Companies like Nike and Starbucks
are great examples of organizations that are using social media to build friends, fans
and fanatics to test new products and services, as well as to supplement customer
support and improve employee education.
  Almost all organizations wrestle with each of these obstacles in some form or shape,
despite the fact that most leaders know that listening, sharing, and working together
are the foundations for building strong families, friends and communities. However,
until recently, they have not been able to understand how to translate that knowledge
into organizational actions or strategies 鈥?or worse, they are frightened to be 鈥榮
ocial at work 鈥?because that is not their core skill or because they have not been
trained in these new skill sets. To get started, I recommend looking at your company
through the same lens you view your personal life and asking yourself if there is a
difference. Do you value one set of values at home and another at business and, if so,
why? Are you really okay treating people differently 鈥?whether they are customers
and employees or friends and neighbors? Shouldn 鈥檛 the same principles of care be
applied? If that argument doesn 鈥檛 sway you, how about financial rewards?
Remember, Omniture -- a web analytics company that tracks social interactions? It
sold for $1.8 billion; a very large sum based on the fact that investors valued the
information that Omniture was capturing and analyzing regarding our online actions
and communication ( Confirming the importance of social
interactions and the organizational intelligence that can be gleamed from them,
Kleiner Perkins, a leading venture capitalist, just established a separate $250M fund to
invest in social organizations. Why? Because they believe we are just at the beginning
of the social age and that big profits are yet to be realized. To help you and your
leaders get started building your missing ingredient 鈥?social skills and capabilities-
assess where you and your organization are in your social development by asking the
following questions:
  鈥?Our past 鈥?How do we treat our people from the perspective of our customers,
employees, partners, and investors? 鈥?Our present 鈥?What are we doing today to
鈥榝 ollow 鈥?our customers and employees and join the online conversations that are
happening all around us? 鈥?Our future 鈥?What steps and strategies can we
implement to help our customers, partners, investors and employees achieve their true
potential so we can achieve ours?
  Our Past: Making and Selling Things
  In plotting your future, part of the answer is to look backwards and understand how
all organizations got to where they are today. Most organizations in their rush to make,
market and sell things (cars, boats, trains, software, hardware, even healthcare
delivery), spent the better part of the industrial and information ages perfecting
processes 鈥?manufacturing, sales, marketing and distribution. During that period of
time, organizations mechanized everything in sight, and what was not mechanized,
they dehumanized. One might even argue it was for a good reason - because
customers needed the basics 鈥?including houses, cars, refrigerators, you name it
鈥?and companies needed to perfect the skills to make and deliver them. Many times,
those that did it best in the industrial age, 鈥榖 eat the competition 鈥?as well as hurt
their employees (by firing them) and customers (by delivering subpar solutions) in the
process. But in today 鈥檚 increasingly open and crowd-sourced economy, where
anybody can buy anything from almost anyone, I am sure that 鈥榖 eating 鈥?the
competition into a pulp and driving customers and employees into submission doesn
鈥檛 work any more. So it 鈥檚 time for real change!
  Our Present: Two Parts 鈥?Creating Communities and Helping Others Achieve
  Whether we accept it or not, every leader and organization faces the luxury of
unprecedented choices. Leaders are able to do almost anything and go anywhere in
the world, but this 鈥榝 reedom 鈥?can turn out to be a terrible burden. Psychologists
call             it             the            Paradox            of             Choice
( It 鈥檚
a relevant problem for all leaders and their organizations today 鈥?especially given
that they are trapped between the industrial/information age on one side (and the skills
they developed to win) and the social revolution that is coming fast and furious at
them on the other side which requires different skills. But they have a choice. Leaders
can keep playing the same game of 鈥榤 aking and selling things 鈥?and hope for a
different outcome beyond slow growth and shrinking margins or they can choose to a
new path that includes open innovation and social network development. My
argument is an economic one ( that is based on real
returns for those that invest in building social organizations. In today 鈥檚 highly
connected world, all organizations need to build communities of friends and followers
in order to reduce their marketing costs and increase the number of sales leads, at the
same time embracing crowd-sourcing and open innovation to drive new products and
services. To get there, leaders need to embrace their social self 鈥?the skills and
values they cherish at home 鈥?so that they don 鈥檛 have to carry two sets of
values any longer (work vs. personal).
  Our Future: Compassion and Self-Actualization
  In our rush to overachieve, we are at risk of rushing to the next meeting, jumping on
the next flight, replying to the never-ending emails or texts we receive each day. We
forget to pause, and check in on ourselves as leaders and managers. We forget to
really ask ourselves some critical questions: 鈥?鈥淎 re we really serving each other
in the way we want to be served?鈥? 鈥?鈥淎 re we helping our people achieve their
true potential and through them, our organization 鈥檚 full value?鈥?and 鈥?鈥淚 s
there anything we could do better that creates value at home which we could use at
work?鈥? I believe we all have a deep need for life and all its parts to make sense. We
need to connect the dots of our past to our future and our personal lives to our
business lives. We need a sense of coherence that explains where we are coming from
and how that connects to where we are going. Finally, we need to live a life that
enables us to connect and help each other achieve our true potential 鈥?individually
and collectively. The good news is that the advent of the social web is giving us that
opportunity. If you don 鈥檛 believe me, read the research done by Abraham Maslow
60         years         ago         on         the        levels        of        needs
('s_hierarchy_of_needs). The only thing that
prevents us from achieving our greatness is developing our social skills at work. It 鈥
檚 time to start reshaping yourself, especially if you are a leader, because your
organization will follow your direction. If you embrace your social and empathetic
self     鈥 ?your       people     will     too.   Take     our    social    skills   test
( and see where you and your organization is in its
journey to achieving its full potential. You can 鈥檛 re-live the past, but you can build
a new future. There is no time better than today to start your journey. Barry Libert is
Chairman and CEO of Mzinga 庐, the leading provider of social software, services,
and analytics that improve business performance. He is author of Social Nation: How
to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and
Grow Your Business and has published five books on the value of social and
information networks. He can be reached at provider of social software to improve
business performance

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