Who’s the Boss, Anyway?
Can a workforce be innovative if the environment does not encourage new perspectives, opposing points of view or radically different approaches to status quo? Do employees thrive in a workplace that doesn’t empower them to participate?
Can the work environment actually push leaders with dreams of enabling social prosperity, into managers and executives who lead by enforcing a climate of compliance (typically yielding high turnover and limited loyalty)? Do quarterly reports, earning expectations, and other short-term measures distract us from our vision?
I grapple with these questions thinking of the future companies that are going to be created here at Seeqnce, as the team strives to accelerate innovation. Right now, we are going over more than 250 applicants for the 2012 Seeqnce Accelerator Program, and in a couple of months, we will have 8 resident startups.
Who defines the culture of an organization? Is it the leadership of an organization… or is it the employees? As we look at today’s more agile and innovative organizations, we find traditional roles of leaders and employees are becoming less distinct.
Perhaps these blurred hierarchies are a reflection of today’s marketplace, where customers co-produce the goods they consume. Buyers and sellers are interchangeable on marketplace platforms like eBay and Amazon; readers are becoming writers on news sites and the blogosphere; moviegoers are creating their own films and asking to post them on Cinemoz. Today’s economy calls for co-creation of value.
In the context of a global professional services organization such as Seeqnce, which I’ve seen emphasizes relationships in the creation of value, what kind of shift is desirable between employees and their seniors? How can people work together to co-create value for the organization, the clients, and each other?
I have found certain guiding principles to be essential in creating a successful work environment, where our people and our leaders not only co-exist and collaborate, but co-create value in new ways:
I think startups will benefit from this the most.
1. Share the vision
Leaders and founders must articulate their vision and agenda — uniting the whole organization in pursuit of it. To determine your alignment with the values of your organization ask yourself, what really matters to me? What do I stand for? Do my work activities represent my values to my family and friends? Both founders and employees need to be inspired and motivated by this shared vision.
2 . Accept that you don’t have all the answers
To do the right thing, you don’t have to be right. A true leader knows he or she doesn’t have all the answers, and seeks and considers other points of view. In highly competitive work environments, where employees are rewarded for having the “right” answers, we need to step out of our comfort zones to offer our own thinking and be open to all viewpoints — ultimately discovering the best possible solution.
3. Give feedback. Up, down and sideways
If you cultivate an innovative mindset or culture, you are continually trying new approaches… and learning as you go. It is particularly important in organizations where creativity and innovative thinking are encouraged, to provide continual feedback, up to your boss, down to your staff, and sideways to your peers. Annual feedback cycles are compliance exercises and not optimized for accelerated innovation. Monthly goal setting and self-assessment may be a more effective solution.
4 . Get fricking real!
Be true to yourself and your colleagues. Don’t forget luck, timing, and the support of a great team may have contributed to your individual success. Be humble, be genuine, and be grounded. Avoid arrogance. I think success is having the peace of mind that you’ve done the best you can, and you’ve kicked butt doing it.
5. Commit to your values
The rubber meets the road where you commit to a shared vision for your organization and the values that support it. I read an article once that asked “Are you prepared to fire your highest revenue generating employee or your highest ranking executive if they don’t live the values you’ve articulated and shared?” I tried putting myself in that position in my head, thinking it would be a difficult decision… and in the end, it wasn’t all that difficult. What are your non-negotiables? Can you truly commit to the vision and not waver?
Although the action plan seems simple, the challenge is consistency on an individual level, and broad-based adoption organizationally. How do we sustain momentum? We don’t wait for change to happen. We make it happen — together. We are the change agents and the sooner we recognize the duality of our roles as leaders and team players, the sooner we will co-create an innovative place to work for everyone in the organization.
That’s all the ranting I have for today.
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Should you let Conversations in Social Media Direct your Business?
Here’s a question for you: Should you let conversations in social media direct your business?
If you’ve worked in the social media field, that seems like a pretty straightforward “yes”, right?
I mean, we’re always talking about how listening and responding is critical. Because we maintain that interaction and engagement is key!
What if we ask the question a couple of other ways:
Should you always let conversations in social media direct your business?
Should you let individual conversations in social media direct your business?
The answer isn’t quite as simple now, is it? All of a sudden, we’re facing potential (hypothetical) situations where, every time someone doesn’t like something, you change things around to make them happy, or where a single outspoken voice gets priority over a potential majority who could want something else.
All of this goes to say that while listening is central to social business, you need to frame the decisions you make based on that listening appropriately.
Let’s take two examples:
I’m of the general mindset that you should try to help every customer who needs support (you don’t tell your call centre not to answer calls from certain customers, do you?). But what about when a customer asks for something that, if applied to everyone who asked, just wouldn’t be feasible? Do you change your company’s approach based on one person’s request?
If you’re a B2B company with only a few major customers, then perhaps you do.
If you’re a B2C company with hundreds, thousands or millions of customers, though, then probably not – you’d end up bankrupting your company.
Product and Service Insights
Let’s say you’ve got your listening program set up. Do you listen to each individual opinion that is out there on the web?
Of course not. You’d end up constantly in reactive mode, responding to customer “insights” with no overarching strategy and no ability to plan for the future.
Approach Insights Strategically (Strategically!!)
I think the time where large companies will begin to take a more strategic approach to leveraging social media for insights is fast approaching.
Note: I’m not talking about losing the human touch when it comes to interacting with people, and I’m not talking about removing flexibility from front-line social media staff, but more in how companies approach distilling social media conversations into useable takeaways.
Take Insights in Aggregate
When my team tells me that “there’s a lot of conversation online” about topic X, my first response nowadays is “how much”? If the answer is just a few mentions, then my response is to keep monitoring, see if things escalate and begin to prepare in case they do. If the answer is “hundreds” or “thousands” of conversations, then we know we need to react immediately.
The same applies to mining for insights. Taking individual pieces of feedback can be useful for illustrative purposes, but unless you’re just looking for ideas to inspire (or to pass the hours and hours of free time you clearly have), you need to step up a level and identify the key trends.
Social media are themselves a biased source of data, so to be sure of your insights, you need to test them outside social media.
What does this mean? It means that you need to move from shift from reacting to customer feedback to testing to ensure that the reaction to those reactions would benefit your business. Of course, once you implement changes subsequently, you should be monitoring for the reaction to those changes, developing more insights, testing… and so on.
That’s all I have to say for today.
Oh, and on a side note, I FINALLY changed my title at Ideaz Factory to “Social & Digital Media Strategist”