Over the course of the last few years, there have been a good number of occasions where, when working with fellow colleagues, customers or business partners, plenty of knowledge workers kept asking me what would be the best way for them to get started with their own adoption efforts of social software, both inside and outside of the firewall, so that it wouldn’t be too painful, but at the same time they wouldn’t lag behind too much in the attempt. They just wanted to have a jumpstart, but they didn’t know where to begin. Sounds familiar, even today, doesn’t it?
You could probably sense that fear, or a strong sense of fearing being rejected, is lingering around in the air, but it isn’t really and we probably shouldn’t think about it in those terms anymore. It is mostly about how to get started without looking too silly, or how to get started without making a fool of yourself in front of others. Or perhaps how to get things going without ridiculing yourself, or your well established reputation on whatever the subject matter. Like I said, I don’t think it’s down to fear, but more towards that reluctance of wanting to dive in thinking that you may be doing something wrong according to what someone may have established in the past, like best practices for social media. Not really!
We need to move on. We really need to. We have got lots of hard work ahead of us still. No matter what people out there may be telling you time and time again, there are *no* best practices for knowledge work, specially, for social networking tools and how you interact and make the most out of them to build powerful, caring networks around you who can go the extra mile for you, just like you could do for them. Time and time again then I have been suggesting, instead, a good number of different options and adoption techniques, or strategies, on what I have experienced myself first hand over the course of the last 11 years or so, but, lately, I seem to have concentrated most of that advice and efforts on a couple of, what I feel, are rather simple, yet critical, aptitudes to embrace for those knowledge workers wanting to shine at being practitioners 2.0 with their own networks: Active Listening and Helping others become more awesome.
That’s probably the main reason why I really enjoyed Craig Chappelow‘s recent article at Fast Company under the rather inspiring title: “A Resolution You Won’t Fail At: Helping Someone Else Achieve Their Goals” about one of those totally unexpected New Year resolutions that could surely have a rather significant impact, yet without being too demanding upon yourself: that is, help those around you, i.e. your networks, become better at what they already do.
Who would have thought about that, right? I mean, who would have thought that you could be a power house in active social networking, both walking the talk and learning by doing, by just doing something so relatively easy as Active Listening of what’s happening around you, specially, as more and more knowledge workers keep embracing that mantra of Working Out Loud or Narrating Their Work. In short, Observable Work (a.k.a. #owork). Or by just doing something so uncomplicated, but yet so incredibly rewarding as helping others excel at what they are already good at! See? This doesn’t require much hard work like putting together an influx of blog posts, or scheduling dozens of tweets per day, or looking after LinkedIn groups, or Facebook Pages or even several Google Plus Communities. This is more down to earth. This is all about embracing something that we may have struggled with for far too long, but that yet, when done correctly, could be the next huge thing in the corporate world: become more open.
Indeed, as we progress further raising the stakes of the so-called Social Business field and embrace more of that Open Business movement, it’s that openness and transparency, not just to listen actively out there, but to open up your day to day workflow, so that you would allow other folks to dive in and help you accordingly, if you may need their help, that’s going to accelerate the adoption rate without looking too foolish in the attempt, even if we struggle along the way. Time and time again I keep telling people that if they would want me to help them out, I would be more than happy to do so, and I will probably go the extra mile, too!, if they are part of my social network(s), but there is something very important out there that I would be asking them out. More of a reflection than a question, actually, but here it is: How can I help you achieve your goals if I don’t know what you are doing, or working on?
For us, your network(s), to be able to help out, we first need to know a bit about you, about what you are good at, what drives your passion, what it is that you are incredibly knowledgeable about and what you may be struggling with. Only then would we be capable of helping out address those potential issues you may be going through to fix them and help you advance forward. Just like what we would do ourselves with you. Yes, I can imagine some of you folks may be thinking it’s rather tough to open up just like that, to others, specially, if they are your work colleagues, because you don’t want to show them you are weak, vulnerable, even a bit stupid, because you keep asking the same silly questions.
Not really. Someone once told me, a few years back!, that there isn’t a single one stupid question out there. The only stupid questions are those that don’t get asked, because they never get an answer and therefore make you become stuck without moving forward. Now, that is silly. That you are showing your vulnerability? So what? Who cares? Actually, making yourself vulnerable is the best thing that can happen to enter the world of true leadership, because that’s when people around you, specially, those who care, would become more empathic, caring and resolved to help you out. And that’s probably why we are not so good with social networking out there today: we are not showing enough how vulnerable we all are after all. And perhaps we should.
Craig’s article actually covers this really well, although he doesn’t mention it by name specifically, but he suggests 4 things that you could implement rather easily in order to help others achieve their goals while you dive into the world of social networking tools to evoke that open and transparent, collaborative environment. To quote: Call B.S, Shove, Use Tough Love, and More Love, with perhaps this particular quote being one of my favourites from the entire article:
“But what if your responsibilities include helping other people reach their goals? Is there something you can do to get them through January and–gasp–beyond? Whether you are a manager, parent, or friend, research on goal-setting shows there is plenty you can do to help someone out“
So there you have it. Next time you question yourself how you could dive into the social networking world of Open Business, or next time that someone asks you how to get the most out of Living Open there is a great chance that you, too, could suggest on doing plenty of active listening and above all helping those folks around you, your social network(s), become better at what they are already good at: doing their job(s)!
You will then be well on your way to become part of that exclusive club from the bottom right corner from this cartoon Tom Fishburne shared a little while ago and which, I agree with him 100%, is far too rare to see, even nowadays:
We need to change that. Today. Not tomorrow, please, but … today.