The best leaders today understand the power of relationships, especially when it comes to business. As a result, most leaders have a strong network of colleagues that, over the years, become friends. These friendships and business partnerships extend online as well. However, many straggling organizations still insist upon blocking traffic to “social sites”. In contrast, the best led companies do not fear social media – they embrace it. The strongest leaders leverage the benefits of social technology while addressing the risks in a manner that empowers their teams but protects the company. Below are 5 reasons great leaders should not fear social media and a balanced reflection on the risks.
1. Best Friends At Work
Who still believes that work is impersonal? When was it necessary to ensure that your business contacts are not also friends? Need we remind some organizations of the Gallup Organization’s findings from their study of high performing organizations:
Gallup… observed that employees who report having a best friend at work were1:
- 43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days.
- 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development
- 35% more likely to report coworker commitment to quality.
- 28% more likely to report that in the last six months, someone at work has talked to them about their progress
- 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important
- 27% more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work.
- 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.
2. Companies Don’t Buy & Sell, People Do
When it comes to major agreements and long term commitments, people do not simply buy something from a company. Instead, they build partnerships and gain understanding from those partners about that company and their products. Then, business partners create mutually beneficial, value generating agreements together. The net result, after years of success on both ends of those deals is a stronger relationship, often extending into friendships. Those friendships can generate trust and efficiency which transcends employers, creates stronger networks and brings value to the next company by which either partner is employed. No longer does a person bring only their experience and skills to a company that hires them, but they bring the skills, experience and trust of their network as well.
3. Who Do You Want in Your Foxhole?
When times get tough, who do you want in your foxhole with you? Someone you only know based on their numbers, contracts, functional requirements and other formalities? Do you really think such an individual will stick their neck out for you or go that extra mile, unless the compensation is there? Or, do you want someone you’ve known well, whose family you know by name and whose favorite charity you supported last year? If nothing else, it helps to know your business partner’s spouse will yell at them if they screw up a deal they committed to you on.
Structured, internal, corporate innovation alone is too constrained for today’s global economy. Innovation does not work well in a vacuum. The more creative outlets and inlets you provide your entire staff, the greater the chance they will discover breakthrough innovations. As your staff listens to their friends complain about how the products your competitors make, fail to meet their needs, they will better understand the implications of your engineering, research & development. The more your teams hear their contacts mention the need for someone to invent a solution to xyz problem, the greater the chance your company will create and solve that new market problem.
5. Mass Dialogue
Never before in history, has the opportunity for mass dialogue existed in such a manner as what social media provides. Print media creates mass, one way communication. Television does the same. Static website are no better. Previous communications technologies equate to shouting at your customers. With social media, feedback mechanisms like rated reviews, number of views and frequency of comments provide a means by which leaders can proactively hear the unified voice that is their consumer mass. This creates, in essence, a platform by which leaders can carry on a mass dialogue, like never before.
Don’t get me wrong, their are risks inherent to social media as well. Yes, your employee could reveal some deep, dark, corporate secret. Or, someone claiming to speak on your organization’s behalf may slip and act unprofessionally in a business forum. There may even be a greater volume of technical risks, such as computer viruses, worms and social engineering in these mediums. However, the solution to these risks are the same they’ve always been: education, training, policy and appropriate network security. The solution is not cutting off your company from opportunities for fear of the unknown.
In the end, as technical leaders in your organization, it is up to you to set the expectations of the company with regard to innovative opportunities. This evolution in communication technology is no different. The next time you debate blocking the latest social media site, consider, instead, joining the site and putting your great staff to task in finding the right way to keep that channel open for the corporation to leverage all benefits, without exposing you to the usual risks.
1. http://gmj.gallup.com/content/511/Item-10-Best-Friend-Work.aspx July 10, 2009.