Shareholders of many bastions of industrial and commercial stability are waking from their afternoon nap. It was only a short one, after lunch with a glass or two but, as they rub the sleep from their eyes, the world has changed.
Not Armageddon, nor the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, but they can hear the sirens wailing in the distance.
It seems like only yesterday they were watching the big technology firms in turmoil. Firms such as RIM, Nokia and the like, almost wiped out within a year. “Uber? What is uber? Isn’t that German for over, or finished or something like that?”
They could be forgiven for wandering off to a long lunch at the club with a wry smile, and a smug swagger. Complacency is only discovered with hindsight.
Now, the threats are lining up at their own doors. The historic custodians of fortitude, stoically performing year in, year out, are worried. No longer are they indispensable. And the heat is falling on their executives, who are now realising that, to borrow from Marshall Goldsmith, “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.”
They need to change their approach, their thinking, their dominant paradigms, if they are to help their businesses survive, let alone thrive. And perhaps, one of the scariest of the changes that is becoming increasingly clear, is that they need to personally embrace the new social channels that are giving shape to our world.
“These days, it’s a rarity to find someone who’s not on Facebook—unless that someone happens to be a Fortune 500 CEO.” FastCompany.
Here are just three reasons why you may wish to rethink your personal social strategy:
- Last year I was interviewed by Hewlett Packard’s Business Value Exchange about power, and how digital technology is changing the way influence works in organisations. Because influence is now flowing through different (social) channels, unless you have a significant presence in those channels, your influence will decline, even if you are the chief. This means leaders have got to roll up their sleeves and join this rapidly growing source of power.
- It is also becoming clear that the best solutions to most of the business challenges are coming from other industries. Innovative ideas applied to different situations. The best solutions will not be found internally, nor in the business schools. Building a vibrant social network will expose you to diverse ideas, values and mind-sets that you can learn from.
- Transparency and trust are increasingly important in all areas of life, and the bar has been raised by social. Why are the media so interested in the personal lives of politician? Because they want to know the real person, not just the rhetoric. Increasingly, this is applying to leaders in business. Hiding away your personal life, while a basic human right, is going to beg questions in suspicious minds, “What’s she hiding?” People (in the new world) want to see the whole you as they judge your trustworthiness.
It is not sufficient for leaders and executives to get a Facebook account, or start tweeting like crazy. No, what needs to happen is leaders need to get into the new social mind-set if they wish to survive. They need to adjust their attitude, and embrace it as a way of life.
That takes courage, and that means leaving their comfort zone. They need to learn a new language entirely, and that comes hard, especially to successful, powerful people who are not accustomed to looking silly.
Do you have the courage to do this?
It would be easy for me to wax lyrical and cite the evidence emerging from my research, but I know you’re busy. If you have been struck by this topic, and think it is time you did more, here are five suggestions to get you moving in the right direction:
- Integrate your life with values: The divide between work and life is disappearing in the virtual/social world. Trying to keep it separate isn’t going to work. Learning how to share all sides of your life safely is a key skill to acquire. Work to clarify your life values and bring them to the fore in your professional and personal life. Then you can speak openly while minimising the risk of sharing something you later regret.
- Learn from your children: They know the social side of the world today, especially the teenagers and young adults. They don’t yet have the experience to leverage it for commercial gain, but they are learning fast. Progressively, their world is taking over so if you want to stay relevant. Learn from each other. My son introduced me to Reddit. The look on his face when I started trending there within days was priceless!
- Practice offline in relative safety: If you are an expert at keeping your life compartmentalised, start playing with sharing new things in each box. Share a little more of your personal life at work, and your work life at home. Confuse the boundaries a little and see what reactions you get. This is a good way of sharing in a more controlled environment (audience) before you go too far on Facebook and regret it.
- Start slowly: Ration your early steps. You have a lot of learning to do. Small steps, frequently will ensure that you don’t go too far down the wrong road. Share a little, see what happens. Think about what you are doing. Watch others. Don’t judge too soon. Try something new. Remember this is a journey from here to there and the road will be bumpy, and the rewards? Well, that’s up to you to make it happen.
- Have some fun: If you think something is going to be boring, tedious and a waste of time, it will be. If you think something will be an exciting adventure, full of new experiences, delights and thrills, it will be. Social requires an investment of time, courage and tenacity. So, learn to enjoy the journey and I promise, it will turn out well for you.
Okay, now you have a decision to make.
Don’t just leave this here. Regardless of where you are on the socially active scale you can improve. The big question is, what action are you going to take today to take another step forward on embracing the world we live in?
Colin Gautrey is an author, coach, and trainer who specialises in the practical use of power and influence in large organisations. He has 25 years’ experience helping middle/senior professionals to survive, thrive and enjoy their work.
If you are ready to develop your influencing capability, become a member of Breakthrough Influence. If you are serious about becoming highly influential, fast, engage with Colin and he will help you get there in the most effective way possible.
Other articles by Colin:
Becoming Recognised by Powerful People
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The frustration is palpable. One recent example was Alan, a VP in risk management…
Your Public Image Matters, More Than You Think
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So, why should this matter to everyone else, especially those happily ensconced in large organisations?