The Magic of That First Client Engagement

Gran Canaria - El Monje (The Monk)A little while ago I mentioned over here how I would be starting to work out loud more often, through making extensive use of Google Plus, to share additional thoughts and insights on what it is like being an independent trusted advisor on Social Business & Digital Transformation, specially, with the induced massive learning curve, now that the so-called transition period was almost over and I was about to get down to business, i.e. doing client work. Well, I guess G+ is not going to be the only place where I will be working out loud, since I know I will be using this blog as well to pause and reflect on what is going on, and although the frequency may well be rather different, I am excited about the opportunity to perhaps share lengthier reflections on what I learn along the way. Like, for instance, a couple of months ago, when I (re-)discovered the thrill of that first client engagement.

Yes, that is right, if you, too, are an independent freelancer, I am sure you know very well what I am referring to. When 6 months ago I decided to go solo, after having worked at IBM for 17 years, one couldn’t help wonder about what would be happening next. Both the uncertainty and the excitement have been present all along trying to figure out whether the world would have a space out there for someone called Luis Suarez (Remember, the one who doesn’t bite!) vs. that other Luis Suarez who happened to work for IBM as a Social Computing Evangelist and then Lead Social Business Enabler for a good while (Remember, still, that one who doesn’t bite either!). An opportunity to validate not only what you know, but also who you are, and perhaps a confirmation of whether the decision made was a good one. Or not.

Earlier on during the late spring, while I embarked on a short business trip to Madrid, I had the opportunity to meet up, face to face, with my first client for the first time. And what a thrilling experience it was. I am not going to deny I was a bit apprehensive at best at the beginning, since I didn’t know whether I’d be able to sustain a 2 hour meeting with them (as planned and scheduled) to kick things off around their own Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys. 4.5 hours later I came out of the meeting excited and validated. Magic had just started to happen.

You know that moment when you engage in a conversation face to face with your first client and you are nervous, almost on the edge, because you really want things to work out just right and get on with the flow and all of a sudden there is that instant connection where you get carried away with thought after thought in a very passionate exchange, conversation after conversation, one step at a time, on the huge potential of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise and things just click? Yes, I know! Well, I had one of those moments back then! :)

And it felt great and for a good number of reasons. Perhaps the main one being the realisation of what role I may well be playing out there as an independent freelancer: helping enable other people to become better and more effective at what they already do by making the most of their own social business journey(s). Then it hit me why, right from the beginning, I decided to have that so-called title of a People Enabler. Right in front of me I was witnessing, first hand, what I wanted to do from there onwards: helping other fellow practitioners out there become more comfortable, knowledgeable, passionate and overall more interested and engaged in making extensive use of these social technologies to help them get their work done much more effectively and help them re-engage back to the workplace they once built and were very proud of. 

It was magic. Exciting, thrilling and altogether energising. There is probably nothing more comforting than realising you are connecting with your client on a common mission you are both very passionate about and that it is just about to unleash. Right there, all of the remaining fears I may have had with me still just vanished into thin air. You know, after 17 long years working in big corporate world, then deciding to build you own business, is one of those giant leaps you are not really certain about till you bump into experiences like the one I had earlier on in the spring, when I met my first client. You are probably never sure whether your skills, expertise, know-how, etc. could be helpful to others working in another organisation and while I have been working with hundreds of clients over the years, while at IBM, I guess it is a whole lot different when it is just you AND your client in the same room. It surely puts things into perspective… In fact, a really good friend of mine mentioned to me, on a Skype conversation, shortly after I moved on from IBM, how, now that I am an independent freelancer, there is only one boss you would need to attend to and be accountable for: your client(s)! And forget about everything and everyone else. It all just takes a secondary role. Boy, was he right! [Thanks ever so much, David!] 

I never realised I would get this silly just thinking about the excitement of being validated oneself when a client decides to finally work with you on their own Adaptation & Enablement journey around Social Business. But the reality is that I was. I still am! As a first time experience, it’s helped me understand the role of persevering, of resilience, or being patient enough to continue constantly working on the pipeline of potential prospects understanding that magic will eventually happen and that the only thing you would need to worry about is being ready for it. Be there. Be yourself, authentic, honest, trustworthy on what you could deliver and help with and then from there onwards let the client start building their own journey with a final destination that neither them, nor myself, know just yet, but that we both know will be worth while the time, effort and energy well spent on.

Yes, a few weeks have gone by and I am still feeling like a kid at a candy store, specially, after all the joint work we executed on over the course of time not knowing exactly where it would take us all, but understanding it’s a needed step forward in terms of attempting to redefine the workplace of the future for them in this Social Era. It’s kind of an interesting challenge, I suppose, to try to summarise in just a few weeks 15 years of big corporate experience to help a client with their own digital transformation, but that is the main reason why I am certain working out loud is going to become rather helpful, not only to the client, but to myself, in not only understanding where we may be going, but also how as a result of that work together we may be able to help others, who may be on the brink of starting off their own journey(s). 

Do you still remember your first client engagement and how it made you feel? I bet you do. I know for myself it’s going to take me a long while to forget… Remember when I mentioned in previous blog entries how excitement would be trumping uncertainty time and time again? Well, this is just one example of what’s to come and while I have totally embraced the notion of the unknown, as mentioned on yesterday’s blog entry, and adjusted to it accordingly, it’s client work like the one I continue to do nowadays on a daily basis that keeps me going. I guess that was also the whole point behind being a Chief Emergineer in the first place, don’t you think?

Let’s do it! Let’s get down to business then and let the working out loud journey continue!

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

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The Soothing Effect of Blogging

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganIt’s hard to believe, even for myself, how the last time I wrote a blog post over here was a bit over two months ago. However, it doesn’t even feel totally awkward, as it used to be in the past, whenever I embarked on a longish blogging hiatus of sorts. Not even embarrassing anymore. I know, I am still trying to find an answer for that one, too. Go figure. I guess that’s what happens when a frenzy of activities both personal life and work related take over the daily blogging routines to the point they fall off to the bottom of the list of priorities and at some point they drop out altogether. To never come back though? I doubt it. Seriously. My fingers have been itching for a good while wanting to come back to the blog and keep up with the writing in the long form. Somehow it wasn’t the right time for me to come back just yet. But now that things seem to have settled down a bit, here I am, once again, bringing back my blogging mojo to life and this time around I guess it’s for good. Why? Well, for a good number of reasons, as you are about to see shortly, but, mainly, because I have been missing it all along more than I thought I would and it’s time to get busy writing again! There is just too much going on inside my head that wants to come out and I guess it’s now a good time to stop being the bottleneck and share along … 

Where shall I start then? How can I summarise plenty of the things that I have gone through in the last couple of months into a single blog entry without boring you all to death with my chaotic ramblings and still provide some helpful insights of what I have been exposed to so far? It’s going to be a challenge, I know, so I guess I better get down to it and see where it will take me. And what a better way of kicking things off than instead of writing long paragraphs to keep it short with some quick entry points that I can then develop into additional blog posts over the course of time, specially, for those key areas I’d want to develop further thoughts on as we move along.

Think of it as snacking around into my brain for bits and pieces here and there on what I have been going through in the last couple of months, of what’s been in my mind, what I have been learning, and overall how things are moving along for yours truly, as an independent trusted advisor around Social Business and Digital Transformation. So, let’s go ahead and do it! 

  • I can’t believe it’s been 6 months already since I left IBM and decided to go independent as a trusted advisor around Social / Open Business & Digital Transformation. And you know what? It is already starting to feel like it’s been ages ago, to the point where I’m beginning to question why didn’t I go independent 10 years ago when I had the first opportunity and, instead, I let it go? 
  • Yes, life as a freelancer on the subject matter(s) you are truly passionate about has just been wonderful all along, even more so when it all turns into paid client work. Clients who are just as passionate, committed and determined as you are, if not even more so!, in inspiring their own digital transformation and you are capable of bringing to life the “job title” you decided to embrace right from the start: Chief Emergineer & People Enabler. 

  • Back when I was still at IBM I thought I had it just right  in terms of striking that so-called work life integration, only to learn how wrong I was now that I’m fully experiencing what it is like being less busy and hectic, but more effective and creative on what I do, while I get to experience, fully, what it is like living in paradise island.
  • It’s been rather interesting, and somewhat intriguing, to be frank, to finally adjust and embrace the notion that what you thought were going to become work streams and potential revenue opportunities didn’t bring a single euro cent into your bank account after I left IBM. And other activities I thought would never have a chance with me have now become my second, most prolific, revenue stream. Yes, I’m doing a lot less business travelling for public speaking opportunities, I’m doing a lot more business travelling for client meetings to conduct face to face workshops around Adoption & Enablement techniques, regardless of the digital tool(s) in place. 
  • Less business travelling means I’m spending a whole lot more time getting stranded back at home, which is not a bad problem to have per se, contrary to what some people have mentioned when they found out I was moving on and thought I would get bored to death as a result. Not likely.
  • Life works in mysterious ways but always keen to remind you when you are spreading too thin and how it’s time to regroup, refocus on what you really want to do with your work and personal life and stick around with it, getting rid of all of the unnecessary baggage. Yes, family health scares (second one in a year!) will have such an impact that they would manage to make you re-prioritise how you spend your time online engaging with total strangers while you keep neglecting what you have got at home. Always. Never forget that. 
  • Summer months will always be relatively quiet, giving you plenty of offline time to think what you would want to do when people come back to work after the summer break. And, for me, this time around it’s meant coming up with tons of wonderful business travelling opportunities starting off by mid-September and till year end. Eventually, ending up in some kind of European Tour of sorts! Yes, I know, embrace the opportunities themselves, because you never know when they will come up again. Live the moment… 
  • The excitement and flexibility of being an independent advisor still trump the uncertainty of no longer having a fixed monthly pay check. Your brain adjusts, your lifestyle does as well and you manage to learn to live with more intent with less and still have a blast altogether. 
  • Somehow someone decided it was a good idea to pack up all of the different face to face conference events I’m interested in in 2 or 3 months and leave out the rest of the year. So June till mid-July have been somewhat buzzing as will be October – November. Enjoying quite a bit those peaks of activity, because right after I know things will go back to normal, vs. the continuous frenzy from my previous work life. 
  • It took me quite a bit of self-convincing, but after giving it plenty of thought over the course of the last three months, I have finally decided to turn Life Without eMail into another work stream for yours truly. Main reason being? Well, mostly, because after the 6 months that have gone by I can now confirm that even freelancers / independent advisors can, too!, live without email as an effective collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. I will be writing plenty more about this one from now onwards, but, as an example, if last year I was averaging around 35 incoming emails per week (More on that soon!), I’m 6 months into this new life of a freelancer and I’m down to 5.5 emails per week. If you’d remember, the lowest number of incoming email I managed to get while at IBM was in 2011 with 16 emails per week. Yes!!, it’s now time to show the rest of the business world how it works and how everyone can make it happen for themselves. And beyond!
  • It looks like I still have got running through my veins plenty of my teaching, educating, enabling from over the years, as I have been confirming lately with a number of different face to face workshops, so the interest towards Learning in a Connected World is back for yours truly and I suspect it will be back for a good while as I’m getting more and more interested in rather innovative learning approaches like heutagogy. 
  • I still don’t miss Facebook much after having deleted my account over 4 years ago, and specially, given some recent rather disturbing events. And, for that matter, I don’t miss a single bit my LinkedIn account either, that I deleted a couple of months back (as I wrote over in this article). That means, indeed, I am growing thicker, once again, around Twitter, Google Plus, this blog, my Flickr & Instagram IDs (for photoblogging), eventually, abandoning walled gardens to their own fate and trying to enjoy the Open Social Web, while it lasts… If it does … That is why you will see plenty more blogging over here coming along from now onwards, as I have also decided to take an extended break from closed spaces / groups. The legacy from all of them is dead right from the moment you hit the publish / post buttons.
  • There has been a one single event that has reminded me, quite fondly, why I have missed writing on this blog for far too long and that was writing a series of blog posts for a client. That blogging exercise alone reminded me how much I enjoy writing overall and why I’m back for a good while now. I fully understand I am a bit rusty, chaotic and messy at times, like with this blog entry of ramblings…, but, indeed, never underestimate the soothing and enticing power of sharing your ideas out there in the open for others to comment, improve and collaborate around them. It just can’t get better than that. Oh, wait, it certainly can: when the final product is better than the original idea. Collectively. 
  • And talking about writing, there is, finally!, a book in the making by yours truly. Yes, I know, it should have been done a long long time ago, but, hey, it’s never too late if the cause is a good one, right? hehe Stay tuned for more details on it, please. I will be writing about it some more in-depth shortly…
  • Ohhh, one more thing, I am currently toying with the idea of putting together as well an ebook around the Top 101 blog posts that have seen the light over here in this blog over the years around KM, Social / Open Business and Digital Transformation, as it’s approaching its 10th year anniversary in the Internet Blogosphere in memoriam to its predecessor, my corporate Intranet blog, that I got started back in 2003, but that, alas, is now sadly defunct. So long, my dear friend. Thank you for all of the rather good and fond memories from over the years! 

Now, talking about legacy, and an unforgettable footprint left behind, as I am about to wrap up this post for today, I just couldn’t help remembering and celebrating the one from someone who marked my youth (And I am sure that one from hundreds of millions of people out there!), and early years into adulthood, by teaching far too many key learnings and life lessons through the amazingly inspiring power of storytelling than the brilliant, rather witty, humorous, vast majority of times utterly hilarious and comforting Robin Williams. Laughter is a healthy thing. Making people laugh their hearts out is a gift. Quite a special human being, indeed, who always had a kind word for everyone and who knew how to channel through his immense talent to make this world a slightly better place. And now that he is gone, “we just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again”. 

Thank you, O Captain, My Captain!

Get out there and “make your life spectacular!

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

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Challenges of Social Business in the Workplace

A couple of weeks ago the smart and talented folks from Bloomfire approached me through Twitter to ask me whether I would be willing to participate on an interview around Social Business and be featured on the series of bloggers and influencers they have got going on for a little while now. Of course, I couldn’t deny it such a generous offer, but even more so when the whole entire conversation and the follow-up interview happened through social tools (Twitter and Google Plus) and not a single email was exchanged throughout the entire process! That’s right! Here is a vendor that truly believes on walking the talk, leading by example, utilising other social networking tools than their own, that may be available out there, just to continue to add value into the overall discussion around open knowledge sharing, collaboration and getting work done more effectively. Who knew, right? Why aren’t more Enterprise 2.0 / Social Business vendors doing the same thing? 

While I let you all ponder around that particular question, I thought I would take a few minutes today to share over here some tidbits of the content of the interview itself we did go through that I think plenty of you folks may find rather interesting and perhaps a bit thought-provoking, too. More than anything else because in one of the questions put together we talked about what are some of the main challenges behind Social Business in the workplace today, June 2014, and somehow the answers that came through were not the usual suspects that you see coming up time and time again. 

So, what were the questions you may be wondering, right? Well, you could find them all at the interview itself under the heading “Meet Luis Suarez”, or check the list below: 

  • Tell me about your career 
  • What are some of your hobbies
  • What do you find interesting about the social space? 
  • Where are some of the challenges you have identified in the social space? 
  • What advice (or insight) can you share about utilising social tools to leverage workplace learning?
  • What are your top 3 favourite blogs to follow?

Yes, I know this may well surprised some of you and bring up a good giggle or two, but I do still read blogs. Daily. At a time where vast majority of the conversations seem to be happening through social networking tools, there I was suggesting what were my top 3 favourite blogs at the moment. Oh, don’t worry, won’t tell you about them over here, you would need to go and read the interview itself to find out. Yes, I know! I am just such a tease, aren’t I? :)

Talking about teasing you all about the content of the interview, I think I’m going to take the liberty now and include one or two of the questions and their answers over here, so you folks can take a look and see what you would expect from it and what we talked about. And since the title of this blog entry is around current challenges of Social Business in the workplace, what a better start than sharing the response to “What are some of the challenges you have identified in the social space?”: 

At one point in time I thought that one of the main challenges was technology itself where in itself it became a barrier of entry, specially, for those people who may have been a bit apprehensive of what it could do for them. But, over time, as you get more and more experienced in the field through lots of hands-on, walking the talk, leading by example, you realise that the main challenge we currently have at this moment is management, specially, senior leadership.

We are constantly witnessing how, time and time again, the traditional top-down hierarchy (and not just within the business world, but in a societal level as well!) feels very much threatened by this new way of interacting and participating called social networks where information is on longer power, and where we are transitioning from knowledge stocks into knowledge flows (cf. John Hagel).

That democratisation of knowledge where knowledge shared is power is becoming increasingly more of a challenge for management and senior leaders, more than anything else because they are finding it a bit of a challenge to transition from that command and control mindset into one of leading the pack through merit, participation and overall knowledge sharing as they are just one more of the nodes of the social networks they are part of already. The challenge for them is to transition from the traditional vision of management into one of leadership. Open Leadership.

From there onwards, and perhaps now thinking in more practical terms of how to get started with it all I also ventured into answering this other one question: “What advice (or insight) can you share about utilising social tools to leverage workplace learning?” as follows: 

To start using them TODAY! Don’t wait to be told it’s ok to make use of them to do your work. Don’t wait for your peers to dive into social networking tools, just because you don’t want to be the first one; or for your direct manager, or middle manager or senior leaders to tell you it’s ok to make use of them. Don’t wait for them. Just dive into social networks and start building your digital footprint, your digital brand helping people get better at what they do by sharing your knowledge out in the open, transparently, and collaborating much more effectively with those who may need of your help, skills and expertise.

Over time, you would start to understand how we are moving, rather fast!, into a world where we constantly have to keep demonstrating our thought leadership, expertise and what we really passionate about, so that it gives us a chance to meet up other people, connect with them, learn with them and eventually rather cooperate or collaborate with them to become better at what we do. So, again, don’t wait, start making use of social tools today, whether it’s a blog or any of the major networking tools out there and jump into the bandwagon. Leave that fear behind, the “what would they say if I start using …”, the “I don’t have time for this”, the “I don’t know what to share or talk about”, the “I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of others, never mind total strangers”, etc. etc. Just pick up that one or two topics that you are really truly passionate about and starting sharing with the world that passion for the next few years to come!

Thus, there you have it. The challenge AND the opportunity while embarking on the so-called Social Business Transformation journey. It’s now down to us all to make a choice and decide where we would want to go and what would we doing to help spark those social interactions. Yes, it’s a choice. And a personal one, for that matter.

So, what’s yours then? Keep hiding away or jump into the bandwagon of the Social Era with both feet?


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

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