One of the Top 5 questions people ask me is does it matter if your leaders are sold on social and the answer is YES!
Getting your executives to buy into the concept of a social business in most cases is something that they will either get straight away or not. Those who are switched on to “modern” technology will not need much convincing that implementing social technologies in the workplace will improve communications and enhance productivity. Those who don’t see the need for it, of course, require a little more persuasion.
However you arrive at their participation, they will most likely be nervous about stepping into a less controlled environment. It’s a bit like them going to the local swimming pool where all the employees swim. There’s no hiding!
How do you approach executives who are not Social?!
My advice to getting them into the water is to let them observe for a while. Get your enthusiastic evangelists publishing and propose that your leader checks in on these things. With their permission ask a public question. By that we mean something they will be happy to answer in public. Encourage your other trusted evangelists to do likewise. Use the fact that you have a team of enthusiastic users to vary the method of interaction. Ask in a forum post for a suggestion, ask in a micro-blogging entry something else.
Make it easy for your leader to get into the water by making it easy for them to answer. A couple of short sentences for the first few answers to things is all that’s needed.
Once you have the leader taking part, albeit on a light basis, we need to convince the leadership team that they too should look at taking part. That team will only see value in doing this if they see the chief doing it.
The leadership team will likely be nervous about what their own areas of the organization are putting into the social system – they will be concerned that their dirty laundry might be getting washed in public. Try to quash this concern. Remember that a social business is one which is engaged and transparent (and nimble).
Show your leaders that by participating in the system and answering cross-departmental or cross-organizational issues their area of the business shows its value. Remember – your value is in what your share – not what you know in a social business.
Altimeter’s report shows that only about 1/2 of executives are engaged. How do you get that commitment in your organization?
Having a strong commitment among the leaders in the organization sets the tone, volume and enthusiasm for the use of the system. Remember that in any organization the leadership team are essentially “celebrities” and when they post information or participate in the system the staff become engaged. As an analogy to this, while many people consider the old-fashioned two-page memo from the chief executive setting out policy and priorities to be deadly boring, everyone reads it. Everyone engages. So to get the engagement, to cross the social chasm, you need your leaders to start becoming more transparent.
You can facilitate this slowly by driving engagement from your core Social Business team from below. Encouraging the execs to take a more active role in forum discussions, making the technology available to them on their chosen mobile device and empowering the gatekeepers to your execs – the secretaries – are all good ways of driving top-down participation which in turn drives bottom-up engagement.
Reverse mentoring as a technique for helping with engagement. You should, however, consider preparing the ground by producing some executive training materials. An executive handbook – amounting to a maximum of 5 pages of tips and tricks, some one-to-one time, and perhaps a presentation provided to them on paper or some other medium to help them get into the concept are all good approaches. Above all show them that these are “special” materials – these are designed only for them. They are intelligent people and like to be treated that way. Give them the facts in tweet-size points.
Ask if you can check in on them from time to time. If you get their approval then MAKE SURE YOU DO IT REGULARLY. But not too regularly to avoid getting on their nerves!