Leading through organisation social networks
Charlene Li argues that social networks at work, such as Yammer, Jive and Chatter just aren’t getting the use (and therefore the ROI) predicted by those who spent all the time and money implementing them in the first place.
Perhaps its because a technology tool in itself can’t change behaviour; what’s really needed is the change in attitude and behaviour first, then supported by a suitable piece of technology.
Maybe its because, Li argues, top executives don’t see collaboration and engagement as a good use of their time, so employees quickly learn that they shouldn’t either. Or that they fear that engaging will close the power distance between them and their employees, thereby lessening their ability to command and control.
Li mentions 3 ways for leaders to take the first steps to becoming an engaged leader – a person who is confident extending their leadership through and deeply into digital channels:
- Listen: Ask questions on your platform, related to current burning issues (letting colleagues know that they are being heard is the first crucial step to meaningful collaboration) The key is that you, as a leader, need to be on the other end, eager and open to learn and listen.
- Get closer to your people: At People Insight, we often hear that leaders are aloof or difficult to access. Sharing through social channels will help your people feel you are more accessible, which helps build trust. While it’s true that no one really cares what you had for lunch, they are keenly interested in what you discussed over lunch. Rather than expecting employees to guess what’s important to you, now you can tell them, easily, with stories and pictures on the digital channels they already use.
- Ask the big questions: make it crystal clear that you are serious about using the organization’s enterprise social network for business and ask big questions of your staff. Even more important use the platform for the follow-up discussion, signalling that you are serious about creating a dialogue to make making meaningful decisions in digital channels. By being responsive and closing the loop digitally, you demonstrate that employee participation made a difference.
Collaboration depends on trust, and it’s crucial for leaders to learn how to do this in the digital era. The tools themselves matter less than the ability of leaders to describe the intent and purpose of the tools. Simply putting a technology platform in place won’t suffice—you must think through how the organization will change and how you will lead it into and through that change. Unless you have a magic wand, the fairy tale world of collaboration won’t happen simply because you plug in a technology. But you have something better—a leadership vision, strategic objectives, and the passion to guide your organization through the changes ahead. Rely on these foundational leadership skills and learn to extend them into the digital world. If you can do that, then collaboration will find its place in your organization.
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