Dear CEO: This Enterprise Social Network Doesn’t Work For You

Dear CEO

Re: This Enterprise Social Network Doesn’t Work For You

The purpose of this note is to clarify our most recent discussion in the executive leadership team about our enterprise social network. Thanks to your help we have now clarified that the enterprise social network is the last thing we need.

However our discussion on executive engagement in the network was again challenging. Initially there was a great deal of division in the executive leadership team as to how executives should use the network and their willingness to be involved. We did not get to explore your perspective on the role of executives in using our network when you left the room for another commitment declaring ‘this enterprise social network thing doesn’t work for me’.

We must admit we were initially disappointed by the comment. However, the remaining members of the executive team spent some time considering your insightful remark. We set out below the outcomes of that discussion:

Employee Engagement will deliver our Strategy

We realised that employee engagement, leveraging new ways of working in every role and discretionary effort to achieve our strategy is what will deliver better results. We believe that building a community in our enterprise social network will be another way for our employees to connect, to share, to solve problems and to innovate. The critical question we should consider is ‘Does this new approach to work deliver value for employees?’. The views of executives are less important than the value created for this community of value creators. All the evidence to date is that the network does work for our employees. Employees are more engaged and working more effectively.

This helped us understand that this enterprise social network doesn’t work for you but it works for our employees.

Leadership Helps Create Employee Engagement

We realised that employees need help to make sense of how to use the network, need help to solve problems and make change occur. That means employees need the support of leadership in networks. Importantly, that leadership does not have to come from the most senior executives. Leadership is a role not a job. We had hoped our most senior executives would play that role to ensure that the activity in the network aligned to strategy and best realised the potential of our people. However, we are already seeing new leaders rise up to fill the gap. The senior leaders who are involved can do more to foster this.

This enterprise social network doesn’t work for you. A strong community works for leaders who will help it achieve its potential and the community will surface new leaders to help shape and foster engagement.

Attitude & Capability are a Question of Leadership

We realised that much of the discussion in the room about lack of time, doubts about effectiveness of managing in networks or lack of skill were problems of attitude or of capability. These issues can be solved because they are the kind of challenges our executive leaders solve every day in other domains when required. People learn new skills, they work in new ways to fulfil the strategy and we ask people to be more efficient and better prioritise their time to do what matters. We ask exactly the same from our employees when we want them to achieve more. We don’t accept their refusal to change.

Towards the end of that discussion an interesting question was asked ‘If engaging in the community that creates value in our organisation doesn’t work for you, why are you a leader here?’. We wanted to share this question with you. 

Conclusion: Our Enterprise Social Network Doesn’t Work For You

We didn’t see at first. We now have come to agree with you that this enterprise social network won’t work for you. 

As a result, we have started a thread in the network asking our employees to contribute to the choice of who should takeover as CEO. That conversation is currently favouring the CMO. The community value her authenticity, respect her authority and trust her leadership. We aren’t surprised that the board seems to agree. Sorry leadership of this organisation’s community did not work out for you. We wish you the best in your future endeavours. You may find some useful suggestions as to what to you can do next in the thread that has started with advice on that topic.

Thanks for contributing so much to our efforts to engage the community, realise our strategy and improve performance.

Engage an executive in your enterprise social network. A great chance for executives to get involved is International Working Out Loud Week from 17-24 November 2014. Help an executive to see the leadership potential of working out loud. Find out more at

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