E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

Employee Engagement

Enterprise 2.0, Where Art Thou?

Gran Canaria - Risco Blanco in the Winter

While I was putting together yesterday’s blog post I kept thinking about something that’s been on my mind for a while and which I think is also going to help redefine, or reassure, depends on how you look into it, the next stage of my blogging mojo over here. Essentially, what will I continue to blog about? Over the course of the years, if you have been a long time reader, you may remember how there were a number of themes I kept coming back to from Knowledge Management, to Collaboration, (Social) Learning, Online Communities and, specially, Social / Open Business. Somehow I don’t think any of those would go away any time soon, but thinking it may well be as well a good time to up the game and introduce other topics like Org. Design, Change Management, Social Network Analysis, Wirearchy, and, specially, Employee Engagement, which I realise won’t be a new subject per se, since I have blogged about it for a good while already, but I still feel there is a lot more to share across and talk about. Pretty much like for Enterprise 2.0, since I still feel we are only now just getting started with it and its role in transforming organisations from the inside out. 

Almost 10 years ago, Andy McAfee coined the term Enterprise 2.0, as most of you folks out there would probably still remember. However, nearly 10 years later, no-one, or hardly anyone, seems to be talking, writing, tweeting, blogging, etc. anymore about that topic, as if it was left behind and gone with the wind. Remember Web 2.0 as well? 

Well, not exactly, perhaps. Let’s have a look into Andy’s original definition for Enterprise 2.0 to see what I mean: 

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.

A key word, to me, from that short, but rather thoughtful definition is no other than within. You would probably agree with me that there are tons of articles, publications, video clips and what not, about the so-called Enterprise 2.0 between companies and their partners or customers. Social Business has been in full swing for a good while as well and while the former focuses pretty much on a new kind of digital, more collaborative and social tools that have been made available for a good while (as far back as 1994, for example, for the first instances of either blogs or wikis), the latter probably just focuses on the overall transformation of how businesses operate as a whole. Pretty much like the so-called notion of Digital Transformation. But what keeps bugging me is how, despite the abundance of content around the external impact of both Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business, never mind Digital Transformation, there is very very little information available about what’s happening on the inside. Of organisations, that is.

If you notice, even when you get to attend conference events around these topics, we always pretty much bump into the very same case studies from companies, vendors and so forth that we keep talking about over and over again for a good few years. Yet, there is hardly any information about newcomers, about their own internal digital transformation through a combination of both Enterprise 2.0 (Tools) and Social Business (Processes AND People). There aren’t just enough new examples of digital transformation journeys, from the inside, available out there. And, I must confess, that nearly 10 years later, it bugs me. And big time. 

My good friend Euan Semple quoted, at one point, and I’m paraphrasing, I am sure, something along these lines: 

“You just can’t be 2.0 on the outside, if you are still operating 1.0 on the inside”

Well, I would probably even go one step further and add that in most cases most businesses out there are still, pretty much, operating as 0.5 organisations, yet, while pretending to be 2.0 on the outside when interacting with their customers and business partners, or even their competitors. I am really sorry, but it just doesn’t work like that. There needs to be first an internal (r)evolution before you can even start thinking about what’s going to happen on the outside. And for multiple reasons that I’m hoping to unpack over the course of time in this renewed vow to resume my blogging mojo.

Almost a year ago Andy himself was also questioning (Over at ‘Enterprise 2.0, Finally?’) whether we were starting to see glimpses of that so-called digital (r)evolution through Enterprise 2.0 and while there are tons of signs out there that confirm we have gotten started with that journey I sense we are not even there just yet. Just few glimpses. In fact, we are, only now, just getting things started, more than anything else because almost every single 2.0 practitioner out there who keeps advocating for Social Business and Digital Transformation (yes, there is a new buzzword in town and it’s been there for a good while now!) is realising that the magic needs to happen internally first, before you may venture out there on the open Social Web. Yet, there isn’t enough information, nor content, nor idea exchange, about those internal experiences. 

I think I know why that’s happening, and it would probably be a topic for another blog post coming up soon, although my good friend, Thomas van der Wal had a go at it, a while ago, and he pretty much nailed it with this absolutely stunning article titled ‘Getting Good Case Studies in Today’s Competitive World’.

Either way, I suspect that resuming my blogging mojo will give me an excellent opportunity to talk plenty more about that internal transformation that I have been working on with several of my clients after I went independent, now almost two years ago, as I have been accumulating tops of additional insights, experiences, know-how, methodologies, and what not, not only from when I used to work at IBM, but also as a freelance adviser. Both diversity and variety of clients over time have given me, probably, a unique opportunity in terms of what’s happening with multiple industries in their so-called digital transformation journeys. It’s now a good time to start sharing them across, don’t you think?  It’s now a good time as well to reconcile Enterprise 2.0 not just with the extenuating external focus we seem to have been enjoying last few years, but perhaps also focus on the inside, which, to me, is where the real magic happens as we get a wonderful opportunity to transform the business world as we know it right from inside the core: the employee experience. Because, you know, after all, ‘happy employees produce happy customers’.

Always, no exceptions.

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The Call to Adventure – On Doing What You Love

Gran Canaria - Playa Las Canteras in the Summer at SunsetOver the course of the last six months it’s been quite an interesting experience, to say the least, being asked, on a rather frequent basis, why did I leave big corporate life at IBM, specially, with the last round of dream jobs, to instead build my own business into the unknown with that inherent flair of uncertainty, specially, given the current times we are living in, and still have no regrets about moving on into that next adventure, whatever that may well be like. Well, after all of that time I guess I am now ready and have a proper answer that I can go by with and that pretty much describes the main reason(s) why I decided, after 17 years, it was time to move on: doing what you love.

Well, those words are not really my own, but from the one and only Jim Carrey, when earlier on in the year had the wonderful opportunity, for all of us to witness thanks to the wonders of the Social Web, to deliver the commencement address at Maharishi University of Management’s class of 2014 doing quite a phenomenal piece of work in terms of describing what life should be all about. At least, what he himself makes out of it. I tell you, you got to love commencement addresses. They can well be quite an inspiring and motivational round of resources to remind you why we are all here in the first place in terms of finding our very own purposes and meaning on what we do. Jim’s is right up there in terms of how it can elevate your spirit(s) to think different AND act different by reminding each and everyone of us as to why we make certain decisions the way we do and describe pretty much how vast majority of that decision making process is, actually, driven either by love or fear. Here is a snippet of what I mean and that pretty much describes that whole process in the words of Jim’s own father, which are, if anything, nothing short of pure brilliance. If not, judge for yourselves: 

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love

Whoah!! Can it get better and more profound than that?!?! Oh, yes, it surely can! Take a look into this link that contains the full commencement address (A bit over 26 minutes), and which will be totally worth while watching in its entirety. And if you would want to, you can also take a look into the Transcript of Full Commencement Address where you will be able to read through his entire speech. Absolutely stunning! 

I’m not going to tease you much longer nor to spoil it for you by sharing plenty of the golden gems he shared across that 26 minute long speech, but while watching it through I just couldn’t help remembering a very recent blog post that my very good friend, Rob Paterson, put together under the rather thought provoking title “The Call to Adventure – Is This You Too?” and which pretty much describes that inner urge from each and everyone of us of “becoming the change”. At the heart of the matter though is for us all to figure out if our decision making process strikes either for love or fear, for that matter, and how we learn to live with that decision, regardless of the outcome.

I guess 3 years after I wrote Welcome to the Social Enterprise Awakening I am only now starting to comprehend the reach and full potential of the disruption of all of these emerging technologies and social networks not only in a business environment, but also in our society as a whole. I can probably say that it took me 14 years to perhaps realise about it, but then again, I suppose that, subconsciously, back then when I wrote that piece, I was already telling myself something that stroke my brain really hard as well when a couple of months back Seth Godin wrote: “It’s probably easier and certainly more direct to talk to yourself about loving what you do.

And forget about everything else, because, regardless of what people may well tell you, it’s no longer worth your time, effort and energy to pursue those endeavours you may well not be truly passionate about. Yes, indeed, it’s all about the passion, after all, about figuring out what kind of passion you have, its real true meaning, along with purpose, how eventually you get to find it, and how you, at long last, put it into action

I guess that’s essentially what my “in transition” period has been like, since I went independent, if I were to describe it in just a few words, but perhaps much more interesting and intriguing is the overall journey itself, that call to adventure that Rob referred to in the above shared link, of doing what I love doing, even though I’m only now just getting started with it. You see? One of the things I have learned over the course of the years and perhaps I am now fully embracing in its whole measure is how “Life Is Too Short For You To Get Good At What You Don’t Want To Be Doing”.

And whenever that happens, it’s time to move on and become the change, because, eventually, it’s not the final destination what really matters, but the actual journey. That is, that awakening phase we all get to define for ourselves. And, remember, we are not alone. We have never been alone, since our networks are just within reach of a post, a phone call, or a simple face to face conversation. In short, it’s our collective choice of whether to go for rather a conservative decision or a bold move and from there onwards make the most out of it.

Hopefully, the latter. Yes, that’s what I am currently working on… And you?


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. 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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Pardon the Interruption … From Adaptation into Engagement by Luis Suarez #soccnx

Prague in the SpringA couple of months back you would remember how I put together a blog post over here on an upcoming business trip I was about to embark on heading to Prague, by mid-June, to speak a couple of times at the Social Connections VI event (#soccnx). A few of you have asked me over the course of time whether there were some recordings made available of the different presentations and all along I mentioned that they would become accessible online, eventually, since they were all recorded live, while we were there. It was just a matter of time, and a bunch of hard work to make it happen. And lo and behold, here we have got them, finally, available at the Social Connections Vimeo site and they are looking very good, indeed! So, I guess, it’s now a good time to make your favourite picks and start diving into some really good content!

That’s right, depending on what your various interest areas may well be like, you would have a chance to go into the Agenda of the event, as a good refresher, even in case you may not have made it face to face, and pick the topics, breakout sessions or keynote presentations you would be most interested in and start hitting the Play button to enjoy some of the really great quality content that was shared across over the course of a couple of days.

What a privilege we all had! Prague, on the brink of summer, stunning location, amazing networking events throughout the entire conference, plenty of very knowledgeable, brilliant and amazing folks talking about some of the topics they are truly passionate about and an amazing team putting it all together to make us all feel just at home. Stunning! 

I had the true honour of speaking at the event a couple of times and I enjoyed both of them tremendously! To me, it was a little bit like a homecoming of sorts, after nearly 5 months since I went independent and left IBM to start my own new adventure(s), because I had the wonderfully unique opportunity of catching up with former colleagues and good friends, business partners and lots of amazing customers I had worked with over the course of the years (even while at IBM).

That’s what User Groups events have got. That special flair of an incredibly strong sense of community that goes beyond the borders of vendor(s), customers (and their firewalls) and business partners. It’s like one massive online social network coming together face to face to talk, converse AND learn about what they are truly passionate about, i.e. becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise with no attachments in between, like marketing and vendor speak, practitioners with their own agendas and what not. Purely an intense two day long learning experience of passionate knowledge (Web) workers wanting to make the world, their world, a better place by sharing, collaborating and innovating out in the open. 

So when the smart folks organising the overall event asked me whether I would like to be the closing keynote speaker for Day Two, I just couldn’t say “No!”, could I? Of course, I accepted such generous offer and the wonderful opportunity of picking up a topic that is dear to my heart, even though I may start sounding like a broken record, and cover it during the course of nearly one hour: Employee Engagement.

And the end-result of that presentation can now be watched through online as the recording of the keynote has just been made available a couple of weeks back under the title “From Adaptation to Engagement, Luis Suarez”. A copy of the slides can be found as well over at Haiku Deck, in case folks may well be interested… Here’s the embedded code of the recording as well, so you can watch it at your own pace. Hope you folks enjoy it just as much as I did delivering it: 

From Adaptation to Engagement, Luis Suarez from Social Connections on Vimeo.


Oh, and if you care to watch another recording of a fun session we did as well while at the event, you may want to take a look into Pardon the Interruption (Fast-paced Social Business Panel Discussion). In case you may not know about the innovative format from this panel session, it’s one that’s been championed by my good friend, and fellow IBMer, Louis Richardson, who introduced it at IBM’s Lotusphere event a couple of years ago and that, basically, puts on the stage a moderator and 3 other panelists who get to answer a good number of questions (Usually from the audience) around Social Business in under a minute. Fast paced, straight to the point, and lots of knowledge sharing in a single round of Q&A. 

This time around the moderator was the always insightful Stu McIntyre, then we had a client (Brian O’Neil), a vendor (Luis Benitez) and an independent advisor (yours truly). And for the rest an exhilarating, good fun, very insightful 40 minutes of experiences, know-how, and lots of knowledge sharing from three different worlds colliding with one another to become one: a Social / Open Business. 

Pardon the Interruption (Fast-paced panel discussion), Stuart McIntyre & Luis Benitez & Brian O’Neill & Luis Suarez from Social Connections on Vimeo.

Needless to say that I am back for plenty more! How come? Well, I had a wonderful time all around (As you will be able to see from both presentations, never mind the massively inspiring networking that always takes place while at such events), as well as very much worth while catching up with good friends, customers and business partners. And, just recently, they have announced Social Connections VII for mid-November this year, and taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, a city I have never been to so far and I think it’ll be a good time to check out more in depth, don’t you think? Will you be joining us as well? Hope you will. It will be good fun seeing you all there! Here’s the link to the Registration page.

Oh, and don’t leave it for tomorrow! Places fill up pretty quickly and before you realise it, BOOM! They are gone! Just like that! 


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. 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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Active Listening – When Shutting Up Matters

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringThere is a lot that the business world can learn from NGOs in general. And vice versa, I am sure. We all know that. But if there is anything that I have learned just recently that certainly has stroked a chord with me in terms of what would be rather critical and paramount for enterprises (whatever the size) to, finally, understand and embrace in equal terms, is to stop being both rather patronising or paternalistic and, instead, just shut up and listen. After all,  “[…] In economic development, if people do not wish to be helped, leave them alone”. Why? Well, it’s all about respect, really. 

Servant Leadership can take you, and will take you!, very far, if done correctly; that is, when it’s done around the passion of local people (i.e. employees, knowledge workers, citizens and what not), who have got a dream to become a better person. That’s why empowerment, as a concept, in the business world, is just such a fully loaded word and so very broken, as my good friend, John Wenger, wrote, not long ago, over at “Why you can’t empower someone”.

What we can do, instead, is go ahead and help people find the knowledge, so that they are capable of pursuing their own goals and outcomes based on their own passion(s). That’s why enablement trumps empowerment time and time again. After all, it’s pretty simple I suppose, if you look into it. You just can’t empower people per se and get away with it, as if nothing happened. Eventually, and perhaps without realising about it too much, that’s when you become rather patronising and paternalistic altogether showcasing you know way better than everyone else, when that may well not be the case, and therefore you think you can still retain that position of power, status, decision making and entitlement, and, therefore, respect, even if you never had it in the first place, because you never show it for others for that matter. See? There is a lot to learn from NGOs. At least, from some of them

What we can do, essentially, is to enable them (knowledge workers) to empower themselves to be the leaders of change they want to become. And become yourself, in the process, a facilitator, understanding that they won’t succeed alone and that they would need to find partners to be able to strike for the magic. And you are their partner.

Apparently, “planning is the kiss of death for entrepreneurship”, so what you would want to do, instead, is perhaps invest in the community aspect of getting work done together, as partnerships driven by openness, transparency, collaboration, knowledge sharing, respect, passion, common purpose, etc. etc. away from the traditional hierarchical silos, where applicable, and start working together towards that notion that work happens around communities and networks versus the traditional top down (now obsolete) hierarchy and that

“The future of every community lies in capturing the passion, energy and imagination of its own people”. 

Again, there is a whole lot the business world (And everyone else, in general, for that matter) can learn from NGOs and earlier on this week I myself had that very same wonderful opportunity while bumping into this particular TEDx Talk by Dr. Ernesto Sirolli (Special thanks to Roxanna Samii for sharing it along!) under a rather evocative and suggestive title (“Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!”), where he comes to present with lots of charisma, humour, wit and plenty of drama, an overall incredibly passionate speech about the advantages of working in small local groups or local communities for maximum impact, through facilitators who help inspire entrepreneurship where it matters, as partnerships with different people who may well have different skills and talents, but with one key aspect in mind: that is, instead of you or me or us doing the talk we just keep quiet, shut up, and listen to those folks who we may need to help, eventually, find the knowledge as well as the resources they need for them to pursue their own passion(s) further along: 


There is a whole lot more than I could say and write about regarding this absolutely stunning presentation by Ernesto (roughly about 17 minutes long and very much worth while watching altogether!) with lots more to learn and reflect upon, but there is one thing that has stuck with me big time so far and that I am surely going to embark on from here onwards: you know what they say about doing plenty of research beforehand about your potential clients or new prospects, specially, with the emergence of all of these digital tools, so that you are as well prepared as you should, right? Well, to me, while I continue to do that, I am now also scheduling some time off to watch Ernesto’s presentation to remind myself, over and over again, how there is a great chance for me to help those potential customers succeed big time by just shutting up and listening with intent first to what they would want to do, what business problems to address or what new business opportunities to explore, than just myself doing all the talk, thinking that I know better than them.

The big ah-ha moment for me, after watching this talk, is that I don’t. I am just a helper. An enabler. A people enabler. One of the many out there who can, hopefully, help find the knowledge you may need through relevant networks and communities with a specific single mission and common purpose: to help you change your world with not only the knowledge and resources you may have available, but also through the communities and networks we are all part of. 

After all, you are your (social) networks, and the networks are you, so we better start paying more attention to them, keep quiet and listen both actively and carefully. Remember, “Hierarchies are only as smart as the smartest gatekeepers. Networks are smarter than the sum of their nodes”. 


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. 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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#LeadWithRespect Meme: a Challenge for 21st Century Management

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the SpringI can’t remember the last time that I participated on a blog carnival or meme blog series for that matter. I guess it’s been far too long, so when my good friend Cecil Dijoux launched a meme invitation to a group of us around #LeadWithRespect : a Challenge for 21st Century Management, based on a recent blog post he published upon embarking himself on reading the book “Lead With Respect” by Freddy and Michael Ballé (Already got my Kindle copy, by the way, although I haven’t gotten started with it just yet…), I just couldn’t help diving in and see where it would take us all being part of those conversations. After all, what could possibly go even more wrong with Leadership (and Management, in general) as it is today, perhaps one of the most profound, deeply routed and unprecedented management and leadership crisis in our entire recorded human history. I guess the only way is up, right? 

I asked Cecil through Twitter whether we would, eventually, need to read the book before participating on the meme invitation and he confirmed that was not the case. He’s still reading it himself further along, but just wanted to get some dialogue going and seeing the list of invitees I am sensing it could be quite something! A true privilege for yours truly, for certain, to be sharing my two cents when you see such notable and well-respected names such as these folks:


Essentially, the meme invitation is all about providing some specific answers to the various “seminal leadership questions” that the book is trying to answer as well. To name:

“[…] what is it to lead with respect ? What does it mean to show respect to employees ? Are there any related practices that can be applied in different context and yet bringing encouraging results ? Is it necessary for a 21st century leader to respect her employees in order to achieve success ? What are the costs of not respecting employees ? What is the relationship between leading with respect and setting a culture of continuous improvement ?”

So I thought I would get started with the meme by perhaps sharing some quick entry points to each of those questions based on thoughts that have been in my mind for a good while now. I know there will be a lot more to write down and share along on the topic, and I am sure we will all continue to cover this area for a good while with additional blog posts. Both leadership and management are two topics that I have always found really fascinating and which I think are right at the heart of the matter as to why vast majority of today’s knowledge workers are (totally) disengaged at work. You know how it works, if both your managers and leaders are disengaged at work, which they are, and very much so!, so will the employees they manage, even to the point of their own customers. If we are to define the overall client experience around the employee experience we would first need to help identify what the new role of management / leadership should be like, because the current model, and for obvious reasons, cannot be even more broken than what it is at the moment.

By all means, this article does not intend to address nor fix all of the various different problems and business issues with management / leadership overall. This article will just attempt to share some pointers to ideas, thoughts, and experiences that could help re-define that overall role of management and where would it fit in the Social Era of the Connected Company. An Open Business.

What is it to lead with respect?

To me, it’s all about trust. There is a great chance that if you trust someone you would respect someone. And in order to do that you would need to know them, in order to know them you would need to find out what they know, what they share, who they share it with, how they feel about things, what they are truly passionate about and so forth. Eventually, what drives them and motivates them to come to work every day by essentially offering the opportunity to demonstrate their thought leadership day in day out, which is essentially why they were hired for in the first place.

That’s where management and leadership come in. Lead with respect means that we need to leave behind that paternalistic approach from management of not trusting their employees by default, no matter what, therefore not showing much respect, because they know better than those same knowledge workers. After all, remember, they are making all of the decisions for them. They take all the risks for them all the time as well. They set the overall strategy of how the business will be run, right from the trenches to all the way to the top. For those managers, their competitive advantage has always been “knowledge is power” and why they have managed to cling to it all along with no remedy, because that has always been the status quo of how things operate at work. And you just need to keep quiet. 

But we should not forget they also take their pay, their big fat bonuses, and a certain status and power that, if anything, has got the opposite effect of showing that respect and trustworthy mindset of who you work with. Understanding that if you relinquish all of your knowledge and expertise you are eventually enabling your workforce to excel even more at what they already do a decent job for. But, you see? That’s not going to happen that easily, because that’s just the beginning of the road towards respecting your employee workforce, i.e. to not only help them do their jobs more effectively, and therefore becoming the Chief Obstacle Remover, but also to treat them as what they are: people, human beings, who, after all, are looking to strike both (business) results and (personal business) relationships. That’s the moment when you, as a manager, get to lose control, if you ever had it, because, if anything, control has always been an illusion and will remain so for many decades to come. Time to wake up to reality. 

What does it mean to show respect to employees?

It essentially means that managers and leaders are finally understanding the transformation provoked by these emerging digital tools where we are transitioning from a business world run under the mantra of the scarcity of knowledge stocks into the abundance of knowledge flows (as John Hagel coined back in the day) therefore embracing the motto of “knowledge SHARED is power”, where eventually knowledge workers are now more exposed to timely information, resources AND people to make better decisions without having to go every single time through their management chain in order to do their job. Biggest ah-ha moment about showing that respect to employees is for managers to, at long last, embrace the notion that they are no longer the smartest people in the room. That out there, amongst their own employee workforce, there are bound to be dozens and dozens of really smart, talented, amazing and brilliant people who are doing excellent jobs that they were never credited for.

Once you realise you are no longer the smartest person in the room, you are just on the brink of entering that new model of self-management around social networks that Jon Husband coined back in the day as Wirearchy and that certainly defines the workplace of the future in a direction away from a hierarchical, paternalistic, command and control, micromanaging driven mentality that has caused, if anything, more harm than benefit. Showing respect to employees essentially means you realise you are also one of them. One of the nodes in the network. The challenge then becomes how well connected you may well be in the network based on the trust and respect for others you may have shown over the course of time. The transition is clear. Knowledge and expertise become redundant, if you are no longer connected to the rest of the network. And that’s where respect shines, as you will have to earn the merit from each and everyone of them every single day of every month. Every year. Forever. 

Are there any related practices that can be applied in different context and yet bringing encouraging results?

I am sure there are plenty of them out there. In fact, it’s probably one of the hottest topics at the moment in the field of Management and Leadership in terms of redefining their role in the Knowledge Economy of the 21st century. One of my favourite books on the topic (Although there are certain ideas I still don’t buy just yet) is that one from Frederic Laloux around Reinventing Organisations which is a must-read in terms of helping identify what the future organisation would be like starting off today. 

For a good while though I have been pondering and musing about a particular framework that I think could be applied in different contexts but that would also bring up some excellent and encouraging results in terms of that transformation both leadership and management need to go through. It’s what I call the L.A.F. Framework, which essentially consists of 3 key basic elements that would help management and leadership understand their new role in the Social Era. To name: 

  • Listen: If you would ask me, nowadays we seem to be doing a rather poor job at listening to others, in fact, active listening, or listening with intent, is hard to find at this current time whether in the business world or in our society in general. However, if we would all just shut up and listen plenty more we would all realise how refreshing and liberating hearing other people’s thoughts and opinions could well be in order for us to make better decisions based on the new knowledge we would constantly get exposed to, acquire and put to good use collectively.
  • Act: This is where action comes into place, because after having done a few rounds of active listening, gathering input, networking, sharing and collaborating more effectively with our peers while getting work done, managers would have a great opportunity to show they care for their employees by acting upon the input they are receiving from them as a result of those listening activities. 
  • Feed Back: And, finally, this is where respect will come through and shine further along, because after having done that listening exercise, after having acted upon accordingly addressing those potential business opportunities or challenges, it’s now a good time to feed back to your networks on what you have done with those other previous activities in order to bring forward those encouraging results.

    This is where the vast majority of management and leadership fail rather drastically today. More than anything else because of that paternalistic sense of not having to report to anyone on what they do, never mind their own employees. After all, who are they, right? Remember, I don’t trust them. I call the shots, I make the decisions, I take the risks. They just execute my orders. Yet, feeding back to them, closing the circle, having a bloody good conversation on what you learn, what you did with it and what the impact may well be, is just probably as good as it gets in terms of leading with respect. Why? Because you are starting to fully understand that notion the L.A.F. framework just makes you an equal to everyone else. You are then part of the trusted network where magic just happens. 

 Is it necessary for a 21st century leader to respect her employees in order to achieve success ? What are the costs of not respecting employees?

I think these two questions are very much related and in a way I have already hinted what my answers would be like for both of them. A leader who doesn’t respect their employees should not, and cannot!, expect to have their employees respect them in any way possible. That may well have been the situation for a good number of decades, but it does no longer work anymore in today’s business environment. If anything, I am more and more convinced by the day that every single organisation should feel privileged to have the honour and great pleasure of employing the amazing talent they have hired in the first place. If you look into it, businesses are just renting out knowledge workers’ free time to do their work, to let their passion and motivation shine through. To delight their customers, so the least they should do is respect them and trust they would do a good job, because I can guarantee you they will. Otherwise they wouldn’t be working with you. 

I have been saying this for a very very long time. If you keep treating your people as sheep, I can vouch they would eventually behave as sheep. Now, when was the last time that a sheep respected or trusted you again? However, if you treat your employees as what you hired them for in the first place, i.e. hard working professionals truly committed and motivated for excelling at a job they are passionate about, I can guarantee you they would behave as such, they would respect you and they would honour the treat of working together with you as equals, as nodes of the same network, doing what they know best: delighting your (AND their!) clients

The reality though is that is not the case, as can be seen from recent research studies, like Gallup’s, around employee engagement, where, currently, around 13% of today’s global employee workforce is engaged at work, while the other 87% isn’t. That, put into plain English, essentially means that today’s business world, and perhaps also our society, is currently being supported by 1/10 of the total employee / citizen population and if that is not a huge, massive, business / societal problem, I don’t what is.

[I know, I know, I am a broken record on this one, and have been for a while and will continue to be for many moons to come!, but, seriously, anyone who still doesn’t see a correlation of today’s totally disengaged employee workforce with the ill-practices from management and leadership should probably have a deeper look into it, before it’s just too late]

What is the relationship between leading with respect and setting a culture of continuous improvement?

Frankly, that’s a very simple one. It always has been. Wirearchy. Again. To quote: 

A dynamic two-way flow of power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology

Or expressed in other words, coined as well by Jon Husband: 

is about the power and effectiveness of people working together through connection and collaboration … taking responsibility individually and collectively rather than relying on traditional hierarchical status

If you ask me, that’s where I see both management and leadership thrive in the 21st century. Not necessarily in the traditional hierarchical, top down, command and control, paternalistic mentality of “I think, you execute, no questions allowed”, but more in the wirearchical model of (social) networks, where merit, recognition, democratic decision making, open knowledge sharing, transparency, collaboration, engagement, honesty, authenticity, autonomy, empathy, trust, respect, caring, responsibility, accountability, purpose and true meaning become the norm, more than an exception, in wanting to make a dent in this universe, beyond just merely getting your work done.

Yes, indeed, you, as the new connected, respected and trusted leader(s). Thriving, as always, through networks. Your networks! 

Forget about everything else. It’s no longer worth the effort, the energy, nor the attention it’s had in the last few decades.

It’s now probably a good time to do something more meaningful and everlasting: humanise work, once and for all. 


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. 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 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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