Social networking site use is continuing to grow, both for personal and professional purposes. As of April 2011, the breakdown is as follows: 92 percent use on Facebook, 18 percent use on LinkedIn and 13 percent use on Twitter (source: B2B Social Media Guide, hat tip to Arik Hanson for using the stat in this post).
Regardless of the number of statistics and case studies that surface proving that the use of social media has exploded in recent years, top executives continue giving push back to employees who want to test the social media waters. From my experience working with companies from various industries, there are two main reasons why executives aren’t thrilled about employees and the company using social media: (1) They don’t understand the business value and think social media does nothing but produce unproductive employees and (2) they’re scared of the vulnerability and transparency that comes along with giving up total control.
The Identity social media team recently finished reading Open Leadership by Charlene Li, and I strongly recommend it as an eye-opener for executives who dismiss social media as an important component of business growth. As directly stated on the front cover, Open Leadership is a guide to how social technology can transform the way executives lead.
It took up until about the 40th page before I could really get in to the book, but once I got past Part I, the book was full of great information related to embracing an open leadership style…and how that will benefit a business, its employees and its current/future customers.
To give you an idea of what you can expect from Open Leadership, here are 10 great nuggets of wisdom:
Measuring the benefits of being open
1. Executives inevitably want to know what the ROI will be of using social media. Charlene notes that the emphasis on ROI is like asking what the value of a deeper, closer relationship is. Leadership must closely examine the benefits of openness, but an undue emphasis on hard ROI does no one any good.
2. Some important metrics to consider include:
- The lifetime value of customers and net promoter scores (used to gauge customer satisfcation) – both quantitative.
- Intangible, qualitative results such as relationships created/saved and company/customer insights that are better, deeper and in real time.
Adding structure to support open leadership
3. Executives must determine what they will be open about, what they will not be open about and what they will or will not permit. Open leadership requires creating structure, process and discipline where there is none so employees know what to expect and how to behave in a new open environment (most often this comes in the form of a social media policy).
4. Take the “glass is half full” approach when creating social media guidelines. Rather than outlining everything employees should not do, start with a statement of encouragement and support to show this is a positive change for the company.
Orchestrating an open strategy
5. It’s critical to clearly share the strategic goal of an open strategy and to make sure all stakeholders share in the commitment to that goal. It will be nearly impossible to successfully implement the use of social media without the support of all executives and stakeholders. Good change management involves best practices that require goals to be clearly articulated and concerns addressed in a respectful, constructive manner.
Mind-sets and traits of open leaders
6. From Charlene’s research, there are two mindsets that define and determine how open a leader someone is – his/her view on people (optimistic or pessimistic about people’s intentions) and his/her view of successes (do they come from the person’s efforts as an individual or stem from a team’s efforts). From these mindsets derives four open leadership archetypes. It’s important to identify different leadership styles within the organization and pair up different archetypes when creating an open leadership environment.
Nurturing open leadership
7. Authenticity is an overused buzz word related to social media, but it really boils down to this – You must be real and genuine when using social media for personal or professional purposes. And to be a leader, you must first be a good person with intangibles like integrity, honesty, fairness, respect for people and a sense of humor. Being open doesn’t necessarily mean laying all the cards on the table, rather it’s making information and processes “visible” to your customers and supporters through social technologies.
The failure imperative
8. The human race in general is conditioned to fear failure. Add on a few more pounds of pressure when you’re the leader of a business. A key part of being an open leader is effectively dealing with failure. It’s important to create structure and discipline to give an organization the resilience needed to deal with failure. Four processes and skills to build into an open organization include:
- Conducting post-mortems
- Preparing with worst-case scenarios
- Building in responsiveness
- Preparing yourself for the personal cost of failure
How openness transforms organizations
9. Change is never easy, but Charlene shares several recommendations for how to make the open organization transition as smooth as possible. Identify the core values that will carry you through the transformation. What business values are important to consistently communicate to employees and particularly customers you’ll be communicating with via social media? And be sure to start small to win big. Don’t expect people to embrace change overnight, or to create a passionate online community in a week.
10. Finally, and to go along with number 9, be patient. Open leaders must create an urgent need for this organizational change, but they must also have patience to guide that change through the slow first steps. Once your business has transitioned from closed to open and has become comfortable with using social media, the rewards will far outweigh the risks.
Now, the fun part. We are giving away a copy of Open Leadership to one lucky person. All you have to do is leave a comment stating what open leadership means to you, or why you want to read the book. We’ll randomly choose one winner this Friday, June 24. Sound off!