The New-to-Social Executive: 5 Mindsets

Your mindset matters to how you are perceived and connect in social media. Whether internal or external to your organisations, the way you think and the way you lead play a critical role in your ability to influence others.  As a senior leader atop the hierarchy, you have power and influence in your organisation (Admittedly that’s rarely quite as much as you would like). When you take your leadership position into the realm of social collaboration whether internal to your organisation or externally, there are a few key shifts in mindset from traditional models of leadership.

Keep these in mind these five key phrases:

  1. Be the real human (& sometimes flawed) you”: Nobody is looking to get to know your communication manager’s idea of you. People don’t need you to be the perfect model executive. You can’t have a conversation with a corporate cardboard facade or get help from a PR bot. This is an opportunity to be more human and to use deeper connection and communication. It will demand that you share more of you. If there is more than one of you, one for work and others, then social collaboration will test your ability to maintain the curtain of separation. Using social media works best when you bring your whole self to the activity. You will learn new ways to demonstrate your strengths and authenticity in the process.
  2. Think networks”: Social media flattens out the playing ground. Your current fame, power and fortune won’t deliver worthwhile connections or influence immediately. In this environment, your voice competes with many others and those that are better connected and more trusted will have greater influence than you regardless of their status. Your voice & authority is much more easily challenged and even mocked. Influence works along networks of trust and connections. Valuable business traction comes from deepening connections to stakeholders and influencers in your own world. Start there and build your influence over time as new connections join in to the valuable interactions that you help create.
  3. ListenEngage others”: Listen first. The network doesn’t need to hear you. Mostly it won’t. The network doesn’t need another opinion; it needs your response to and your engagement in the conversations already going on. If you want to deliver on your strategy, the path is through helping others to better align, understand and deliver that strategy with you. How you engage with others is more important in building influence in your network than who you are or what you have to say.
  4. Be helpful”: Make connections & help others find those who can help them. Set context. Guide others. Enable others. Share stuff to help others solve problems for themselves. Ask great, thoughtful & challenging questions. Work aloud and let others prove their value by helping you. Connect with people to deliver them value. People are looking to learn more and help themselves. As a senior leader you can play a critical role
  5. Experiment, learn & change stuff”: The value of human networking is to learn, connect with others and change things. Embrace difference & the chaos that many opinions and desire for change creates. After a while you will recognise the appeal of ‘being permanently beta’, always evolving to better value as you experiment test and learn. If you want to hear your own views, build your personal brand, increase your control or resist change, don’t start in any form of social collaboration. That attitude doesn’t show much respect for the efforts of the others in the network. 

This is the first 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 mindsets. The next post will deal with how to start engaging.

Working Aloud: Try 3 Tiny Habits

Working aloud requires new habits of work. 3 little habits will help you experiment with techniques and the benefits.

I’ve been reading about BJ Fogg’s tiny habits. In doing so, I realized the tiny habits reflect how I learned to practice new ways of working aloud using enterprise social networking.

How does a busy executive build a habit of working aloud?

Make a decision to build a new habit. Set yourself up with a login and the right apps. Then break your new working aloud habit down into common triggers and simple steps.

I have previously shared that checking in to a social network 3 times a day for 5-15 minutes easily creates the impression of continuous engagement. If there’s always something new from you when people check, then it looks like you are always there.

Here’s some triggers and habits I used to create a new working aloud habit:

Trigger1: First coffee, tea or other beverage
Habit1: Describe Describe one moment in your day ahead. Tell of something you are doing or starting, a visit, conversation or meeting. A post simply stating where you are can work. Everyone has something worth noting.

Trigger2: About to leave for lunch
Habit2: Interact. Like a post or answer a post. Interactions supporting others have great value. Your quick answer can make a difference.

Trigger3: Leaving for the day
Habit3: Recognition Recognise one person or team achievement. Every organisation needs more recognition and there’s something to recognize every day.

That’s it. The community will do the rest. You might not see a response immediately, but if you keep the habits up these posts will draw likes, questions and comments. Then people will ask you questions on other topics which you will answer in Habit2. Over time, people will engage you in the community and its concerns.


Now repeat that process for a few weeks. As a busy executive that may be all the working aloud you will ever do. However, as the habit builds you might find yourself more willing to put time into the community and its rewards. When you are more confident with the habit and relationships in the community, you can swap to new topics and bigger challenges.

Don’t rush. Let the little habits grow from 5-15 minutes 3 times each day. If the benefits aren’t there, stop. However, don’t be surprised if over time the responses change how you work going forward.

Recently I was discussing that the experience of working with the evolution of an enterprise social network. I remarked that it is a little like an iceberg. One idea or use is visible to you and draws you initially. However, as with the seven questions, over time the uses grow and develop as the sense of community builds. Over time we discover more under the water as we develop our conception of what an enterprise social network can be and the role we can play in it.
There is something in common between John Stepper’s great questions and my iceberg metaphor.  There are parallels as shown above between the uses of a social network and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Social networks are about human connections and are sustained by human needs being met. People begin use with one need, often quite simple. The first challenge in building the community is to find a common use for people to work together to solve. Over time people explore more needs across the hierarchy creating new use cases in the community as they do. In this way, it is no surprise there is a parallel to Maslow’s attempt to document a structure of human needs.