The New to Social Executive: Actions to Get Ready

As a senior executive starting to use social collaboration there will be a little nervousness when you engage at first, unless you are supremely confident or incredibly extroverted. You need opportunities to practice your new mindsets and learn new skills of social collaboration before you hit the main game. Even if you are confident and extroverted, you may need practice, because you may need to learn to adjust to the expectations of others.

Here are a few actions to help the new-to-social executive to get ready for the art of social collaboration: 

  1. Start by being social: The technology is just a facilitator of conversations. Do you go out of your way to have social conversations in your organisation now? Are you mentoring and helping others across the organisation now? When did you last have a coffee meeting with no agenda? It is no good running chats on twitter or posting think pieces on Linkedin, if you don’t talk to your own employees or customers in the foyer. Start using your new social mindsets and engaging a wider audience in other ways first.
  2. Choose a purpose: When starting out in social collaboration, focus helps build reasons for connection.  Choose the one topic on which you want to start to engage purposefully with others. If you can’t think of anything else, choose one of your corporate strategy, meeting talented people or better understanding customers. Add these topics to your everyday conversations and your team. Refine your purpose as you go. Eventually this purpose will flower into a personal manifesto.
  3. Reflect & Start to share your learnings: New-to-social executives often say “But what do I have to say?”. The things that you share are going to come from the interactions in your day and responses to the activity of others. Reflect on what you experience and read each day. Start to take some notes about what these experiences mean for you and what you learn (Tools like Evernote are handy for this). Those insights are ideas that you can share. Explain to others how these ideas came about. They might seem minor to you but to others without your experience your thought process can be incredibly valuable. Over time this will become a form of Personal Knowledge Management where you constantly refine what you read, capture insights, and also learn how you share your insights with others.
  4. Test the influence of your insights: Most senior executives are used to their teams listening to their words. Social audiences are busy with many competing voices. You may need to test how influential your ideas are before you debut them to a wider and more discerning audience. You may need to adjust your style of communication. Social favours the short, sharp and punchy. Run some tests sharing your thoughts in a variety of different means through email, internal social posts, voluntary talks or blogging internally. Measure the response and seek feedback. Use that feedback to refine your style and your messaging. 
  5. Start Working Out Loud in your Enterprise Social Network:  There is no better place to practice social collaboration than in your organisation’s Enterprise Social Network.  You will be practising in front of an audience that is well aware of your fame, power and influence. They will be forgiving. Use your enterprise social network to start to practice Working Out Loud. Develop new habits that you can carry over to external social media. Make sure you get the network’s mobile applications so that you can easily access, share and respond to others as you go about your busy life. Most important of all, learn the lessen that the value of social collaboration grows with your consistency and your effort.

From that point on there are plenty of experts that tell you how to use Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social tools for business.

Search, experiment and keep the practices that work for you 

This is the second of two short posts on tips for the senior executive looking to move into using social collaboration tools inside and outside the enterprise. This post deals with actions to get you started. The previous post dealt with mindsets.

Enterprise Social fosters Social Enterprise

Two new trends are on the rise in business at the moment and they both use the words social and enterprise. Importantly these trends are often more closely connected than many realise. The trends are:

Enterprise Social Media, the use of social media to foster connection and collaboration inside an organisation; and
Social Enterprises, an organisation which exists to fulfil a social purpose by leveraging the approaches of the business world

Enterprise social media drives a more social outlook in any organisation where the culture will allow it. At the heart of the connection is that these trends force us to reflect on human concerns like purpose, community and our legacy – enterprise social media simply makes us social.

Enterprise Social Media fosters Purpose

Enabling your employees and other partners to connect and share their stories and experiences will quickly surface the themes of your purpose. Discussing and sharing these examples helps build a stronger sense of community in an organisation and deepens engagement. Importantly, the social network will also offer a forum to discuss, clarify and resolve of the conflicts of purpose that organisations face. Purpose is not a statement issued by management. Purpose is an ongoing dialogue with everyone in the organisation and it’s stakeholders.

Enterprise Social Media fosters Openness

Enabling your people to share their passions, interest, experiences and concerns is going to bring the surrounding community into your organisation. People now have a tool to collaborate on community and social issues. This can range from awareness building to forming groups of like minded employees to organising volunteering and activism. The more open your organisation the better it will be at responding to social needs and feedback.

Enterprise Social Media fosters Accountability

A highly engaged community can become a conscience for Purpose. If employees have a concern about delivery to Purpose or the wider social impacts, they have a forum to discuss and seek action. Importantly this is a public and transparent forum where they may have like minded colleagues. These conversations build accountability in managers across the organisation to explain the connection of their decisions to Purpose, to the creation of social value and to broader community impacts

Enterprise Social Media fosters Leadership

Organisations are full of people who have leadership potential but lack the impetus and a first follower. Social media offers a low risk environment for these first time leaders to connect with their personal purposes and to attract followers. It also offers an environment where leadership for the commmunity can be recognized by the community. Building the leadership voice, action & reward for leadership in your organisation will enable social value.

Enterprise Social Media fosters Innovation

Social value can be created in many traditional commercial organisations through adding a little innovation to everyday activities. Enabling your employees to make suggestions and work together to realise these ideas using enterprise social media can accelerate that process by bouncing unconventional ideas off traditional processes. Employee ideas can add social value by suggesting new challenges to tackle, a change in sourcing, to better ways to leverage waste and even debating where an organisation creates value for customers and the broader community.

Purpose+Openness+Accountability+Leadership+Innovation=More Social Enterprise

People crave purpose and to make a meaningful contribution to society. My experience suggests that given the chance people will leverage enterprise social media to seek to create additional social value in and through their colleagues and organisation. These conversations can generate deep pride and engagement.

The main barrier to this effect is a culture unwilling to allow the challenging conversations required. Our work in fostering more social enterprise is to get out of the way of our people, embrace the growing potential for more social value and do what we can to build stronger purpose and social impact.