While social media continues to transform our society, executives remain unconvinced that it’s relevant to their work. I disagree and here are some concrete reasons why I believe social media is a basic leadership competency. This is a hot topic so if you have additional thoughts please share them.
Manifesting leadership behavior
Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, authors of the Harvard Business Review article “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership,” have researched and found social leadership competencies and behaviors, as noted above and explained more fully in their article. I would contend that there are uses of social communications that help to manifest these behaviors, especially in large, geographically dispersed organizations where leaders can’t have as much face to face time with their people.
Using Twitter or responding to posts on the company Facebook page can also humanize an executive and recognize an individual employees, making them feel more valued.
During an interview today a middle manager told me that one of the best days in her position was when the CEO sent a personal note, congratulating her on turning around what had been one of the most poorly performing units of the organization. “That note made me feel so valued,” she explained of the incident that happened a few years ago. “Today recognizing me on our Facebook page or a Tweet would do the same. Why don’t executives do this more?”
Social media surprise: increase in employee satisfaction
One of the surprises of FedEx’s use of social media for customer service is not that customer sentiment has improved, but that that their employee satisfaction scores have risen. Their front line service reps like their jobs more because they are receiving public recognition on Twitter from those customers that they so diligently help. They feel valued. (Disclaimer: FedEx is one of my clients.)
Note the word “feel.” To lead people, you must make them feel valued And social media provides a way to do this. Mother Teresa once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Do you know how easy it easy to share short kind words via a blog response, “Nice job,” a simple re-tweet (RT) of a colleague’s Tweet, or just clicking “Like” on a Facebook comment. Short and kind goes a long way and it’s easy.
Five practical reasons executives need social media
Put socially intelligent leadership strategy aside. Here are five practical reasons for executives to be using social media.
Support company initiatives: As companies launch Facebook pages for employee engagement or internal communities in lieu of newsletters and Intranets, executives should want to be part of these efforts. If something is important to the company, executives need to show up to make people believe it’s important.
Taking the pulse, being engaged: Similarly, how can you take the pulse of your people and company if you’re not hanging out where they’re talking, which more and more is online? Showing up and posting responses or comments shows that you’re listening and care about people’s ideas. Visible listening on these social channels sends a message that you value what your people. It also show’s leadership is engaged. There are so many programs today aimed at “employee engagement.” What about leadership engagement going the other way to employees and customers?
Appeal to Gen Y talent: If you really want to attract and hold onto valuable GenY talent, using social media sends a signal that you’re progressive and a company with a desirable collaborative culture. It’s not just the PR department Tweeting, there’s a company culture of open collaborating, sharing and recognizing people’s ideas.
Manage the company’s reputation: Being involved in key social channels can help you build reputation equity, show you’re an innovative company with diverse people with diverse ideas, attract talent, and help customers see how passionate and dedicated you are to being the best in the industry. Perceptions today are more influenced by people seeing an ongoing persona of an executive and getting to know who they are as a person from what they share in social media — this social communications sharing is far more influential than any one or two media articles or handful of speeches.
Speeches at conferences: Today at conferences people live Tweet the speakers and refer to them by their Twitter handles. Oops, what if you’re speaking and you have no Twitter handle? It’s not a big deal. But it’s sort of like showing up to speak and forgetting to wear socks.
Changing your behavior to inspire theirs
Today you can be a highly effective leader and have no social communications competence, sort of like in the late 1980s/early 90′s when executives had no email addresses. But if you really want to connect to your customers and people, you need to change to how they work, learn, share, and live. The conservative Mayo Clinic recently said that “the social media revolution is the most far-reaching communications development since Guttenberg’s printing press.”
But it’s more than about communications. This is about leadership, and changing your management behavior to make people feel valued, recognized, and a part of a movement, which is your company’s mission.
“I have learned that people will forget what you have said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”