April 16, 2010
Open Leadership a Must in the New Open WorldI had the opportunity to read an advanced reading copy of Charlene Li's new book: Open Leadership - How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, which is available to buy online starting May 24, 2010.
I started my career at large agencies working with big brands - Bausch & Lomb, Novell, Hilton, Vodacom and others, so I had to rewind the clock to remember how structured management can be, how long it can take to push decisions through the ladders and layers, and all the considerations you have to take into account if you're publicly traded or are in an industry with sensitive information, i.e., healthcare and insurance.
I have been advising start-ups for years, and many of them are building social media tools. Those who are not, are using them as an integral part of their daily lives, including the CEOs. Not the case with many of the big corporate giants although there are exceptions, and many of them are outlined in the chapters of Charlene's book.
We learn about the four major types of decision-making methods in organizations today: centralized, democratic, consensus and distributed - and which method is useful for various types of corporate culture: what works, what doesn't and why.
Open leadership can most certainly lead to new innovations and like most things in life, learning, developing and growing doesn't happen in a vacuum -- it's a two way street. The core principles of open leadership are a healthy reminder of that.
There's even an open management 'audit' so you can discover how open your leadership style is today. The results pinpoint holes where you might be 'closed' or 'cautious,' and a follow on section provides tips and guidelines on what you can do to become more open, whether it's for yourself or managing a leader above you.
Charlene brings us in and out of the corporate landscape, citing example after example of positive outcomes from using social media, outcomes that improve branding, customer relations, partnerships, and yes, profits.
She points to familiar ones many of us know, like Frank from @ComcastCares, who promptly responded to a negative tweet I posted about Comcast during the Comcast CEO talk at Web 2.0 Summit last fall. And, SolarWinds, a network management software provider who built a 25,000 member user community of network administrators who help each other with their problems. They continuously invest in the health and well-being of their community by listening and actively engaging.
Remember that collaboration platforms provide structure for conversations. Traditional enterprise applications are even becoming more conversational, such as Salesforce.com's Chatter platform, which integrates real-time updates and conversations directly into the interface.
People will increasingly start to have conversations around work processes that already exist. And, the more you can give employees the ability to hear and learn directly from their customers, the more you empower them to use that information to not just do their jobs better, but build loyal relationships and a more powerful brand.
Whether its improving customer support, community management, sales or marketing, in a world that is more transparent than it has ever been in our history, it's critical that we 'humanize' marketing and communications, "replacing the non-descript 'voice' of the company with a personal and meaningful relationship."
As she points out, "with today's empowered customers and employees, organizations need to 'earn' the right to have a conversation, and then, only at the right time. Without a relationship in place, the best marketing campaigns will fall on deaf ears, especially as people struggle to channel the real signal in the cacophony of today's media clutter."
And let's face it, that clutter is only growing and the tools to help us sift through the noise are not effective enough.....yet.
On top of it, measuring the impact and effectiveness of the success of campaigns amidst building those relationships while getting your message out in a noisy landscape is not easy. It takes time - working with start-ups for as long as I have, time is not a luxury many of them have. If they don't get traction within a few months before getting funded, they may be forced to close shop.
I loved the chapter on measuring the benefits of being open. American Express CMO John Hayes is quoted as saying, "we tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot." Hear hear. For example, what is the ROI of a handshake? Hayes says, "while we strive to become more measurable and accountable, there is a limit to what is feasibly (and economically) measurable. Inevitably, we based many of our decisions on just the thinnest sliver of information and evidence, or even more likely, our gut feeling."
We also explore the value of 'inviting customers into a covenant.' She writes, "as uncomfortable as they are, the presence of negative comments can give the conversation a ring of authenticity." With product roll-outs I've done over the years, some early negative feedback has been filtered back into the product roadmap and incorporated. Even when you don't give customers everything they want, as long as you listen, and make them feel 'heard' and that their input matters, you're half way there. You are in fact building a relationship and trust will only grow over time, as long as you continue to listen and engage.
If a brand doesn't have user-generated content about it somewhere on the web, then people aren't learning about it organically.
As customer feedback gets circled into more and more threads, forums, blogs and Twitter conversations, bigger brands are learning that they need to monitor them and respond. While better moderating and workflow tools are becoming available, it's still a cumbersome process, even for smaller companies that opt for freebies such as Twitter clients Hootsuite, Co-Tweet and others.
Chapter after chapter, we hear from leaders who have made social media work for them. The new world is an open, transparent one and it demands that leaders be more open inside and outside their organizations. Blogging, tweeting, sending Facebook and LinkedIn updates and firing off videos and photos from your iPhone in a few quick button clicks are no longer a fad - they have become an integrated part of doing business.
Leaders at all levels, CEO down to manager level, are cited, and the examples are diverse ranging from the U.S. Department of State, Ford, Kodak, United Airlines and Cisco, to Yum!, Best Buy, the State Bank of India and Proctor & Gamble.
There are many lessons to be learned in this free flowing, conversational and insightful book that anyone running an organization should read. Remember that "transparency, authenticity, and the sense that are you being real are the by-products of your decisions to be open" -- on and offline.
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Renee: Thanks so much for the deep and insightful review. Glad that you liked the measurement chapter so much!
Posted by: Charlene Li | Apr 28, 2010 7:37:21 PM
That one and so much more. Once again, you knocked it out of the park! See you in Expo this week no doubt. And good luck on book sales!!
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Apr 29, 2010 1:55:17 AM