E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Employee Engagement

My New Cheese – Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM’s w3 and www Connections

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the WinterThis is it! The moment of truth! The wait is over. The long hiatus of silence is now a thing of the past. The soul-searching period is finished and dealt with. It is, at long last, official and I am now ready to announce it to the world! As you may remember from a previous blog post, I mentioned how late last year someone decided to move my cheese and how that turned around into becoming a very good opportunity for me to make the move into the next big thing. It’s been a rather interesting and exhilarating experience how an extreme negative of a 20 minute long conversation can be turned around into an extreme positive with another 20 minute long one. Both of those having taken place within a couple of weeks in between. Both extremes are always disruptive enough to make you question your entire career and what you would want to do with your work / personal life next. Yes, I know you all know what I mean… that kind of change. The truly mind-blowing one. The one that, once you strike it, you know there is no turning point. No way back at all anymore. It’s just there to stay and become part of you and you become part of it. For better or for worse.

Well, I have just gone through one of those. I know that some of you folks may be wondering about what happened back in January about who moved my cheese and why was I so relatively quiet on social networks for a good few weeks, right? There was a reason for it, after all. A reason for which I am still trying to come to terms with and that I will be blogging about in its due time, whenever I feel I am ready to share it across. In short, it’s the one that provoked the extended period of silence on the Social Web and which concluded with me deciding to *not* stand till, do nothing and wait for the pay-check at the end of the month and succumb to everything that I have never believed in, in the first place.

I am not that kind of person. Don’t think I ever will be. So sorry if you thought I was, but I am afraid I am not. I eventually decided to find my new cheese in an attempt to move further on in my professional career. Yes, I know what you are thinking, there is a whole lot more than I could probably talk about around what eventually happened, but I am starting to think that it’s probably no longer even worth it. In fact, it may have happened because of a good reason: my time was well overdue and it was just the perfect chance for me to move on. And serendipity, as you all know, works in various mysterious and magic ways, so after having looked both inside and outside of the firewall, I am now pleased to announce I have got a new job.

Indeed, still at IBM (My current employer for the last 16 years… and counting…), and already fully immersed in it for the last couple of weeks, which is also why it’s taking me a bit of time to blog about it, as I first needed to adjust the massive learning curve, but still doing what I love doing: keep challenging the status quo of how certain things work in the business world in an effort to become much more open, transparent and sustainable. Indeed, an openly Socially Integrated Enterprise.

That is right, like I said above, a couple of weeks ago, my new reporting manager, Barb Mathers (IBM Director of Workplace and Collaboration Solutions), announced, of course, in no other way than through our internal social networking platform, IBM Connections, the following exciting piece of news:

“BIG NEWS! I am thrilled to announce that Luis Suarez is joining my team as Lead Social Business Enabler for w3 and www Connections. Luis will be driving the successful adoption of Connections across IBM, in support of our Workplace of the Future goals of transforming the way employees work in a globally integrated enterprise. Luis will be an excellent champion for the CIO office as he helps to communicate our direction of becoming a truly social business and what it takes to get there. Welcome aboard, Luis!!!” [Emphasis mine}

A dream job, without any doubt!, another one, that just came true. I could probably say that back in the day, when I was first getting involved with social networking tools, back in 2001, I knew, deep inside, that, at some point in time, I would be ending up doing this kind of job. And 12 years later that dream came true. Yes, I know, probably a bit too long, perhaps, right? Well, I guess that’s what patience, resilience and perseverance can do for you (Along with having plenty of good fun along the way doing a bunch of other interesting projects and initiatives as well and working with an amazing group of talented and rather smart fellow colleagues, too!). They keep saying that those who are patient enough to wait for it will eventually end up achieving it and I guess that is what just happened two weeks ago! Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the Winter

I am incredibly excited and truly honoured to be filling in this new position. Thrilled that I will have an opportunity to continue doing what I love doing, i.e. exploring that whole brave new world of Open Business in the context of helping my employer become a Socially Integrated Enterprise. I realise that, for most people out there, it would probably mean the very same thing I have been doing all along in the last 6 years, but there are a few differences…

As a starting point, I will no longer be working within the IBM Software Group as a Social Business Evangelist for fellow senior technical leaders and subject matter experts, which is the work I have been doing now for a bit over a year. Instead, I will be joining the Global IBM CIO Organisation as Lead Social Business Enabler for w3 and www Connections, our Enterprise Social Software platform (Internal and external), with the main goal, vision and mission of continuing to help facilitate the adoption / adaption of IBM and fellow colleagues in our journey to become a successful social / open business. Yes, indeed, I will be doing lots and lots more work on enablement, adoption, education, facilitation, adaptation, consultancy, and so forth around accelerating our very own social / open business transformation.

As most of you know already, IBM is one of the many Enterprise Social Software vendors out there, perhaps one of the most competitive ones, too (I will leave that to you to decide…), but, at the same time, long time ago, we decided that, instead of blocking the use of these social technologies, and in order to help improve the way we collaborate and share our knowledge, both inside and outside of the firewall, we were going to, instead, drink our own champagne and become a showcase of that social business transformation a good number of other firms have embarked on already over the course of the last few years.

And that is the journey that we started back in 2001 and that since 2005 it’s gone through a good number of tipping points, some of which I have already blogged about in the past. Well, I guess this will be the next one, at least, for yours truly, because that announcement that Barb mentioned above already is the most popular microblog post shared internally already from the very beginning, which has me even more excited and incredibly humbled, because, in a way, it’s confirming it was the right move when I started conversations about it a couple of months back. And even more so from the perspective that my new management line knew that, when they were hiring me, they weren’t just hiring Luis Suarez (That weird, strange guy who lives in Gran Canaria, and who doesn’t use corporate email to do his work any longer, that social business evangelist who works leading by example on what social / open is all about) but my entire global network, both internal and external! That’s how this new hyperconnected, networked business world works nowadays …

But what I do feel really excited about is that my new management line also walks the talk, they do lead by example in this brave new social / open business world. They do live one of my favourite mantras as of late, that is, “Doing is believing!“, so when I was first offered the job I just didn’t have to think much to accept it, right on the spot, on February 12th, in New York City, at a Starbucks coffee shop, near the IBM building in 590 Madison. [Yes, I don’t know why, but NYC does manage to have a special place in my heart over the course of the years. It already did back in 2008 when I first announced there publicly to the world I was starting the movement of Thinking Outside the Inbox. And it still has it 5 years later when I landed in this dream job!] I am sure over the course of time I will be introducing you to them all, my management line, that is, so that you all get to start knowing who I will be working with. It’s going to be quite good fun, I can guarantee you that!

I know that at this point in time you may be wondering about what my job role and responsibilities would be like and everything, right? Not to worry, I will be sharing all those in an upcoming blog post, but perhaps for one I will detail the main task / activity I will be working on from here onwards: Help facilicate and accelerate the adoption / adaptation of Social Business at IBM (Both internally and externally) through our strategic enterprise social software solution, IBM Connections.

Gran Canaria - Roque BentaygaLike I said, more to come in an upcoming blog post, but that’s it for now! That is the reason why I have been relatively quiet in the last couple of months while I was adjusting to this brave new adventure I have been so much looking forward to. Yes, your suspicions were absolutely right, too! There is a whole lot more than I could tell and share over here and that’s my intention as well over the course of the next few months when I will be blogging about the very same themes I have been blogging all along over the course of the last 8 years around Social / Open Business, Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing, Online Communities and Learning, but at the same time I also feel this blog will turn itself into an open and transparent window as to what it is like being in the role that I am, narrating my work, working out loud, by sharing how that fascinating journey moves along, i.e. the challenges, the opportunities, the really cool things, the not so cool ones, what I learn along the way and whatever else that comes up in my mind… I guess this blog will turn itself into what the original concept of blogging was all about: a (my) personal Social Web journal…

For now, time for me to move on and delighted to come back again, in full force, to the Social Web and really looking forward to keep up with the conversations and additional dialogue around Social / Open Business with all of you folks now that I am back in business with just one final token of sincere appreciation and gratitude for sticking around this long and for your patience and genuine interest (Yes, you all know who you are!) and for making it possible for me to bring into reality my next dream job: keep leading the Open Business (r)Evolution.

Thanks ever so much and let’s do it!

Let the good fun continue!

Bring it on!

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The Sharing Experiment and The Kid Inside You

PragueIf you would remember, a few months back, I put together this blog post on “Why Do I Share My Knowledge?“, where I reflected on the main reasons as to why I’m so keen myself on sharing my knowledge across out there openly and in a more or less transparent manner. I guess that’s what Open Business is all about. Whether for Learning, Helping Others, or Leaving a Legacy Behind. The interesting thing though is that perhaps the main reason why I have been sharing more of my knowledge over the course of the years, is because, deep inside, I am still a child. We all are, after all. It’s just that for a good number of decades we may have neglected our childish nature of sharing for the sake of sharing. And that’s perhaps what has gotten us into trouble in the first place. Again, when was the last time that you behave like a kid when shared something?

I know it may all sound a bit too cryptic and eclectic when talking about those references around childhood, but I just couldn’t help thinking about dropping by over here today to share what’s perhaps one of the most inspiring video clips you will be watching this year and I would strongly encourage everyone to go out there and spend nearly two minutes to go through it to see what I mean.

As you may recall I’m currently on the road, in Prague, to be more precise, on the last leg of this business trip, having a wonderful time visiting the city and doing plenty of good work around Social / Open Business and “A World Without eMail“. Yet, in between here and there I am still having a bit of time to catch up with what’s happening in my various different social networks, and then serendipity does its magic, once again, and hits me badly! In a wonderful way…

Lately, my good friend Chris Brogan, has been doing some phenomenal sharing of great, relevant and insightful content over at Google Plus on how these digital tools are helping transform not only our businesses, but also our personal lives. One of those posts though is special, actually, rather special. It contains a link to that short YouTube video clip that I mentioned above and that I’m sure it’s going to give you shivers through your spine as you get to watch it. Why? Well, essentially, because it will remind you of what we were like when we were kids… And why a good number of us are still kids today. Instead of me telling you what I mean with all of that, I am going to stop here for a minute and encourage you all to watch the video and judge for yourselves…

Whoah! There you have it! Right there! What do you say to that? I bet very few comments can be added other than acknowledging that perhaps we have gone all the way wrong in our perceptions and expectations around the whole concept of Sharing. That Sharing Experiment is a whole proof we can do better at the workplace when sharing our knowledge across. And I know what you may be thinking … Those kids are already a bit too old and they probably have been taught, and educated, by their parents what sharing is all about without asking anything in return. And probably you are right!

But then again, where does that live us, adult knowledge workers, in terms, specially, of how we collaborate and share our knowledge in the workplace? Where did we go wrong with our childhood education and learning, or even our very own human nature as kids, where we seemed to have acquired the right skills yet, when entering the corporate world, we looked like we have left that behind and instead keep protecting and hoarding our knowledge, fighting with one another, still strongly believing that “Knowledge is power“.

Really? Well, I hope not! Look at what this bunch of kids are showing us above, on the video clip. Essentially, that human beings are social animals who share unconditionally with fellow humans what we know, what we treasure, what we are truly passionate about, what we care for, i.e. the well being of fellow humans, without asking for anything in return…

Thus as I keep reflecting on everything that I have learned on this long business trip, attending and presenting at multiple conference events, talking and interacting with customers, and learning from other thought leaders, and that I will be blogging about it shortly as well, I know, for sure, that for me to succeed in the large corporate environment there is a single thing that I would need to keep getting very good at, and which it looks a lot easier than what most people may well think about: Let the child inside me come out and show the way on what sharing is all about… 

I am hoping that you would do the very same thing. After all, there is nothing to lose, but a lot to win altogether, don’t you think?

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IBM’s Client Experience Jam Is Now History

La Palma - Roque Los Muchachos in the WinterYou may have noticed how over the course of the last few days, things have been a bit too quiet over here in this blog and for a good reason. Last week, IBM hosted the Client Experience Jam from March 12th to March 15th, to commemorate not only the 10th year anniversary of the first IBM Vales Jam, but also to help redefine those very same values that were established back then in 2003. It’s really unimaginable that 10 years ago the company that has always been flagged as archaic, hierarchical, over-structured, rather rigid and strict, complex, obsolete, and what not, a dinosaur, basically, gave such a unique opportunity to all of its employees to air our their voices on establishing the core values that would dictate how the company would operate in the 21st century. Well, 10 years later, it did it again, but this time around not only as an opportunity to redefine those very same values, but going even deeper with something so fundamental and so much en-vogue nowadays as the client experience.

That is why over the course of last week you haven’t seen much of me out there on the Social Web and on this blog. My self-inflicted Twitter and Google Plus silence was supposed to end up last week as well, but didn’t. Right from the very beginning of the online event, I decided to focus all of my energy and free time in engaging in as many conversations as I could possibly do not only to share my own past experiences while doing client work in the hopes of adding further up into the conversations, but mostly because of the huge learning opportunity IBM Jams always give all of us in sharing experiences and plenty of know-how with fellow peers. Yes, I know, this time around, and contrary to other Jams in the past, IBM conducted this one for IBM employees only. And it was a massive success!

It’s probably a bit too early to share some additional insights in terms of Jam statistics and metrics, but I can tell you that they have been stunning and rather mind-boggling. However, and as usual when talking about metrics, the important bit is not really so much the focus on the social analytics, but more in the quality of the conversations and most of them have been outstanding. One of them, in particular, started off by a fellow IBMer from IBM Taiwan has generated such amount of traffic, interactions, ratings and conversations that it was a little bit of a mini-jam on its own! Main subject covered? Something as exciting, as complex and as tough as changing our core values that have been guiding IBM over the course of the last few decades. Talking about bold moves, about a meaningful impact, about an open dialogue with a purpose to make a difference! Absolutely brilliant! Something that, still today, a few days after it finished, gives me chills and makes me proud of working for the company I have been working for over the last 16 years.

No, don’t worry, this is not going to be one of those cheesy kool-aid blog posts where I praise the good things about what my company does for a living. Those of you who know me too well know that’s never being my kind of thing and I won’t start it now. We also have got things that don’t work. Everyone does. That’s what makes coming to work exciting and energising every day, that we are presented with an opportunity to change those and keep improving experiences over the course of time. What I wanted to talk about today on this blog post though is about something that goes very much along those lines. It’s about the open dialogue.

If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would know how at the beginning of the year I put together a blog post where I was talking about something that, three months later, I am now even more convinced than what I was back then to carry on with it. Regardless. And that is that shift away from Social Business into Open Business. Plenty of people would venture to confirm that my employer, IBM, is a successfully Socially Integrated Enterprise, and they might be right. I think we still have got plenty of room for improvement and a fascinating journey to complete, but we are getting there. But at the same time, and this is what really excites me, IBM is also making the move, a huge one, by the way!, into becoming an Open Business. How? Well, with small steps, but building further along from there. Slow, steady, but with a firm attitude that there is no way back, and that’s what excites me big time. Why? More than anything else because of things like the Client Experience Jam we just experienced in the last few days.

Yes, I know some of you are going to say how open can a large firm be, when one of the most massive online events ever held by the company has only been available for internal employees and not for everyone else (customers, business partners, analysts, competitors and other industry thought leaders). Well, becoming more open needs to start somewhere and when you are not too comfortable, just like when Social Business first came about, it’s better start where you feel you could make up for a big impact: start by opening up internal conversations, get people comfortable interacting with one another, without not necessarily knowing each other, so that they get the gist of it, before they can move on. And then when things will be all right, that’s when you would already venture into the rest of the world. And that’s just what we have been experiencing with that Client Experience Jam. That is, opening up from the inside out one step at a time! No need to rush. We are here for the long run. Always have been, even with Social Business.

It’s been quite an exhilarating and exciting experience. The Jam, that is. One that I am hoping to be able to talk about over the course of time, once we start seeing some of the various different insights and outcomes that came out of the event itself. The biggest challenge starts now though, that is, gathering all of that data, analyse it, make some sense out of it, come up with some pretty defining initiatives and continue helping the firm evolve accordingly based on that employee open feedback and direct dialogue.

Yes, indeed, that is the most exciting phase of the Jam, more than anything else because there is nothing more important and critical towards employee engagement that once you collect, out there in the open, plenty of input from your knowledge workforce on what works AND what doesn’t work, the least you can do as a business is come back with ideas and initiatives you plan to put together as a result of the online event to address plenty of the issues at play. Now, that is employee engagement, when you not only embark on a massive online exercise of active learning, but at the same time of active doing. On the Jam itself, in one of those moments of inspiration that you know come up every now and then I quoted that transformation as “Doing Is Believing!” and I am now more convinced than ever that is all what it is all about: not only learn by doing, but do what you believe in, i.e. in those ideas you keep throwing out there on the table for others to make them better, to work with you, to collaborative, to eventually co-create something better, something that would have such a significant impact that will change the industry for good!

Now, will my company be capable of doing that? Well, we will have to wait and see. Like I said, Phase II of the event just launched and over the course of the next few weeks I will be sharing some additional insights over how far have we moved further on with plenty of the ideas that flourished during the course of the event. For now I guess you may be wondering what were some of the various different ideas that I put together around that Client Experience Jam event that took place last week, right? Well, in an exercise of openness and transparency from my side, I thought perhaps about putting the titles of those ideas over here with a brief note of what was discussed from the thousands of interactions I got throughout the whole event. Yes, thousands!, so it’s going to be a bit challenging, but I can give it a try. So here we go:

  • Exceeding Client’s Expectation by Going the Extra Mile (23 Ratings – 28 Replies) Talking about going the extra mile to delight clients, to ensure everyone understands there is a shift towards becoming more customer centric than vendor centric.
  • Investing Your Time in Business Schools (32 Ratings – 66 Replies) Reflecting on one of my favourite activities that I get to carry out, which is essentially be immersed into the trends of thought of the next generation of the workplace: the younger ones.
  • Leaving a Legacy Behind … PhD Students (60 Ratings – 56 Replies) A bit of a follow-up from the one above, but this one with a direct impact on helping college students work through their PhD thesis understanding there is always a “Yes!” for an answer, because, you never know, they may as well become your manager tomorrow!
  • Work Smarter, Not Necessarily Harder (53 Ratings – 48 Replies) Where we explored how social networking tools and having the right IT infrastructure can surely have a huge impact in terms of adoption, enablement, collaboration and knowledge sharing. 
  • Great Managers Lead, They Don’t Manage (502 Ratings – 1075 Replies) Tremendously powerful conversation on redefining Management and Leadership for the 21st century, and along the lines of Servant Leadership, that I talked about not long ago on this other blog post.
  • Is IBM Ready to Become an Open Business? (42 Ratings – 125 Replies) Yes, see? I told you! The intent is there. The small steps have already been taken on moving further along into Openness and Transparency. I am hoping to develop further along on this one as we move forward in time, but judging from the interactions I had in this thread alone, yes, openness will become more the rule, than an exception. It may take time, but it will eventually get there!
  • Believing in Your Ideas: Life Without eMail (863 Ratings – 867 Replies) And, finally, of course, I just couldn’t help thinking about bringing up the one idea that has changed my life for the last 5 years (Yes!! 5 years! We just crossed the 5th anniversary and very soon I will be sharing a much long overdue blog entry on the topic with some surprises coming along! Stay tuned!). Of course “A World Without eMail” did have a rather significant impact, which at some point it brought a good big smile into my face when I realise that, finally, 5 years later, the world, my world, is at long last, catching up! As an example, the deck I put together some time last year on this topic, and which I am hoping to share it out there, outside of the firewall, pretty soon, once I go through a final update and a bit of sanitation, has been downloaded over 3,000 times! Just internally. Double yay, I know! 

Like I said, those were my own ideas that I submitted into the event. Remember, it was an internal, IBM employees only, event, so those links would work for those fellow IBMers who would still want to go through the conversations, since the Jam is now open again in read only mode, but there have been thousands and thousands of other ideas submitted by fellow IBM colleagues. This is just a glimpse of what actually happened. A couple of other words to describe it? Massive and overwhelming, and equally exciting!

At this point in time, I just wanted to reflect on the fact that those companies that may not be that open to listening to their employees sharing rather candid, honest and authentic feedback, even behind the company’s firewall, don’t know what they are missing in venturing to transform their own organisation and make it a better place. I have got no doubts whatsoever that the Client Experience Jam IBM hosted last week will have such kind of impact. Even more, I would venture to state that those who actively participated in the event would no longer be the same. I know I won’t. For once, I am incredibly excited to be given a huge unique opportunity to not only have a voice, an opinion, a perspective, but to do it in a venue where open, honest, transparent and direct dialogue has been not only encouraged but very much practiced throughout the whole of last week!

Now, when was the last time your company opened up to such brutal method of living an Open Business?

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The Arbejdsglaede of Employee Engagement

Gran Canaria - ArtenaraIf you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would probably remember how concepts like Employee Engagement make me cringe a little bit. Specially, when it’s abused left and right by HR departments and corporations alike, in general, as that magic bullet that will help address and fix the number #1 business problem of today’s corporate world: employee disengagement. Or put together in simpler terms: people no longer owning or caring for their work. Don’t take me wrong, I do believe rather strongly in Employee Engagement. Seriously. I do. What I don’t believe much in is the current form of how businesses are thinking about engaging employees implying that they know better than them, that they can just throw it out there, put together some social technologies around it all and people would come and be re-engaged at work. Well, no, sorry. It doesn’t work that way. Employee engagement is a two-way street and unless both employees and employers are not willing to walk through both we won’t have it. Well, hello and welcome to the wonderful world of Arbejdsglaede!

The first time that I ever heard about Arbejdsglaede was at the rather wonderful and delightful Meaning Conference in Brighton that took place late last year and which, the conference itself, still keeps bringing up lots of very fond memories, every time that I think about how much I learned during the couple of days I stayed there and also how much I savoured the wonderful conversations I had throughout the whole time. But, like I was saying, I learned about Arbejdsglaede from Alex Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer (Yes, I know, gotta love job titles like that one! I do!!), while he delivered perhaps one of the most inspiring presentations I had the privilege of attending live during the course of 2012 (And perhaps in a long while, too!). 

Arbejdsglaede basically means a feeling of happiness you get at work, which, as he clearly indicates, is not the same as job satisfaction. It’s way deeper than that. It’s all about reflecting on what makes you happy at work, and, apparently, it’s just too basic things: 

  1. Results
  2. Relationships

And bang! That’s when it really hit me. That’s when I realised that true employee engagement is all about that! Focusing and repurposing your efforts as a (knowledge) worker towards striking new meaning in providing exceedingly good and top performing results, while building meaningful, empathic and caring personal business relationships. Talking about striking for that rather strong sense of ownership and co-responsibility, of belonging, really. That’s what, to me, employee engagement is all about. It’s about finding that happiness at work that clearly gives you that little bit of extra energy to get up every day and look forward to a new exciting day where you are going to, hopefully, learn, collaborate, share openly more of your knowledge (Without asking for much in return) by interacting with your (social) network(s) understanding that “happy people do better work”: “more productive, creative, helpful, better at service, focused on quality, better team-players, more open, more flexible, showing more empathy, selling more, more optimistic, motivated, engaged, energetic, with an ability to learn faster and eventually become better leaders“. 

Whoaaahhh! See what I meant with employee engagement? Now, imagine this, how many businesses out there have got those kinds of aspirations for their own employees by engaging them from the very beginning to help drive a new purpose, a new meaning for what they do at work? Something tells me that perhaps not too many. Or, at least, not enough! Why? Well, because we still have got that huge, problematic issue of 70% of our employee workforce being totally disengaged. Simple. I know, it even hurts deeply. Sad. Rather sad, really. 

Back in 2007, Alex put together a rather interesting and very much thought provoking blog post that I saw re-surfacing through my networks a few days back and that triggered me to eventually put together this blog entry. In Top 10 Signs You’re Unhappy at Work he listed what, back then, appeared to be some of the most profound signs as to why employees are not happy at work. Fast forward to 2013 and it looks like we are still seeing pretty much of the same… Allow me please to quote and list those 10 signs, while I would encourage you all to go and read the entire article. It’s just brilliant as well in how it entices you to do a little bit of a mental exercise and a test to question for yourself how happy you are at work after all… So, to quote them: 

  1. You procrastinate
  2. You spend Sunday night worrying about Monday morning
  3. You’re really competitive about salary and titles
  4. You don’t feel like helping co-workers
  5. Work days feel looooong
  6. You have no friends at work 
  7. You don’t care. About anything
  8. Small things bug you
  9. You’re suspicious of other people’s motives
  10. Physical symptoms

Fascinating read that blog post, don’t you think? I bet that vast majority of us have experienced any of those signs at some point in our so-called careers, perhaps some of us are even suffering from any, or several of those, right now, in 2013, at the time where plenty of people keep claiming that in the Social Era employee engagement through social networking tools is going to rule the world and is going to help reenergise employees again. Well, not really. It won’t. It won’t until we get our mojo back and start embracing that culture of Arbejdsglaede. Because that’s what it is all about. It’s that two-way street I talked about earlier on and that I feel is going to be incredibly important over the course of time, if not already. 

And how do we get to Arbejdsglaede, you may be wondering, right?, as the golden panacea of Employee Engagement? I have got my very own ideas on the topic, but, instead, I am going to leave it down to the master on the topic. Here’s the blog post that Alex put together where he talked a little bit about his keynote session. Then here is the link where you can download his presentation materials and, finally, here’s the link where you can spend 30 minutes (well worth it, by the way!!) watching the recording of the session where he gets to talk about some pretty compelling conclusions that I thought I would quote over here as well to see them in the wider context of re-engaging back the workforce: 

  1. Make arbejdsglaede your #1 career goal
  2. Be happy at work – not just satisfied
  3. Do something about it!

And, finally, my favourite quote on what that two-way street concept for Employee Engagement would be all about not only in the Social Era, but also on the Open Business Era: Do or do not. There is no try!

Who would have thought that Arbejdsglaede would be such a beautiful word and such a magical concept after all, in terms of re-engaging knowledge workers, doing things just right through social technologies, around openness, transparency, meritocracy, caring, empathy, trust and, above all, purpose and meaning.

Well, try now to pronounce it and be ready to chuckle! 😀

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Johny and The Simple Truth of Service

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's Surroundings (El Monje)A few months back I put together a blog post over here where I highlighted the fact that Great Products Don’t Need Customer Service by pointing out one of my favourite experiences I went through when I went back, where I grew up, for the summer holidays, and enjoyed some of the most amazing morcilla. And for several days! Well, today I thought I would go ahead and venture to state that excelling customer experiences don’t need much of customer service either. And perhaps not much of Social for that matter! When was the last time that you had a customer experience where you felt touched, emotional, engaged, perhaps even loved?

While you keep thinking about that one, I can tell you that I had to go way way back in time to remember my last one of those superiour customer experiences. However, there is hope out there, specially, when you bump into a rather short video clip that a fellow IBM colleague, Fran O’Sullivan, shared internally, in our social networking platform, and which has been making the rounds quite a bit, although externally it looks like it has faded away a little bit. Unfortunately. 

In The Simple Truth of Service Barbara Glanz shares along one of the most inspiring, touching, mind-blowing stories you are probably going to hear, read or see this year. No doubt. It’s about a story where “you put your personal signature on the job“. About how you, the seller employee, needs to think about “something you can do for your customer to make them feel special“, building up on a memory, or series of memories, that will make them come back to you for more. 

And there it begins the wonderfully touching story from Johnny the bagger. No, not to worry, I am not going to spoil it for you folks. It’s a delightful 3 minute long video that I would ask you to stop anything you may be doing, including reading this blog post, and watch it through in its entirety and then come back: 

Truly amazing and rather incredible story, don’t you think? I am not sure about you, but I guess, after watching it, excelling customer experiences have taken a new meaning for me. Hope for you, too! One where “everyone is having a lot of fun creating memories“. One where the focus shifts away and turns into “our customers are talking to us … they are coming back, they are bringing their friends” [Emphasis mine], more than anything else, because for the first time in a long long while employees choose “to make a difference”. 

Barbara herself highlighted it very recently what it is all about: “Great service comes from the heart!“, but in the exceptional case of Johnny it lies even deeper than that, as it is brilliantly quoted on the video clip itself: 

“Johnny’s idea wasn’t nearly as innovative as it was loving. It came from his heart — it was real”. That’s what touched customers, his peers… and those who read this story” [Emphasis mine]

They say that Social / Open Business is all about inviting customers to participate and share in open, direct, transparent conversations with the ultimate goal to delight them. In short, it’s all about engagement. But I guess we should never underestimate the power of stories either, stories that go rather deep, that touch our hearts in places we never thought even existed. In stories that truly bring up what an exceptional customer experience is all about: everything, but technology. It’s all about emotion and essentially how much of that emotion, passion, loving AND caring you put into it all. And for the vast majority of cases you may not even need to use technology for that. Just your human nature. That special one we all have hidden somewhere deep inside ourselves and that I sense needs to start coming out more and more often as we transition into that fascinating world of Open Business. 

“When the heart is in the right place, 
The ego gets out of the way.
That’s when great service
comes shining through”

Wise words, indeed. So next time that someone asks you to define what a truly engaging and delightful customer experience should be like, we probably don’t have to look any further up than Johnny the bagger.

The simple truth of service.

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Leadership Thoughts: Master the Art of Active Listening

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo SurroundingsAnd here we are! Nearly a couple of weeks since I started working again, after an extended holiday break, I’m on the road once more. First business trip of the year, and perhaps one of the most exciting ones that I can think of so far. As usual, it’s the yearly pilgrimage to Orlando, Florida, to attend IBM’s event of events in the space of Social Business and Social Collaboration, formerly known as Lotusphere, now morphed into IBM Connect 2013 (Check out the stunning agenda put together so far!). Yes, of course, I just can’t wait to see everyone in there, fellow IBM colleagues, customers, business partners, industry analysts, and, certainly, good friends whom I haven’t seen in a little while and that I’ll have a chance to meet up again face to face to do a proper catchup. After checking out the live tweet stream coming from #ibmconnect it looks like folks have already gotten things started and somehow I sense that, once again, I will keep struggling with keeping up with this blog, while attending the event, embarking myself on a massive experience of offline social networking. Yes, the best one there is out there still! 

This year though, I am planning on doing something … different. I am going to keep it quiet for a little bit and hide it as a surprise and see whether it would work out all right or not. It’s something different, like I mentioned above. Very different. Something that I haven’t done in the past and that, if it works very well, I may adopt it for future face to face events that I may attend during the course of 2013. It would be interesting to see … Thus stay tuned and see how it would go further along… It will probably kick off on Sunday, while I’m in Orlando already…

Today though, I am in Madrid, where I hosted a couple of face to face workshops on social business enabling fellow colleagues on making the most out of social networking tools, along with a couple of 1:1 coaching sessions on the same topic with some managers and it’s rather interesting to see how there is plenty of eagerness along the way to get involved and fully immersed into the whole realm of social technologies for business, but there are still plenty of questions raised as to how to get started in an effective, efficient and, specially, smarter manner. Well, I keep going back to basics and refer to what I think is the number one activity that not only managers, but also knowledge workers in general, should master before embarking into blasting out messages out there for everyone to digest and be exposed to it. In fact, the first pillar of interactions that I always suggest to get started with begins with something so simple in theory, but yet extremely complicated in practice. Of course, I am talking about Listening, or, better said, Active Listening. 

I have always described being an active participant in social networks as just not necessarily broadcasting or marketing your messages out there without being interested in following up, diving into the conversations or whatever else (Which we know is perhaps happening far too often nowadays, unfortunately). There is a whole lot more than that. In fact, one of the most interesting, engaging and powerful activities, also as a good overall learning strategy, is that one that helps us build the skills and the ability to listen carefully to conversations to then decide whether we would need to dive into them or not and add value into the overall dialogue. Something that doesn’t seem to be happening far too often, unfortunately. Again.

But there is hope out there, because just when you need it the most, there is the wonderfully insightful, as always, Tom Peters coming to the rescue of all of us to stress out, not just to managers and leaders, but for everyone out there wanting to dive into the world of social networks, how important and critical it is to master the art of active listening and break off the old bad habits we have developed over the course of the years. And if he can then pack it up in a superb short video clip of about 3.30 minutes you know you have got to watch it. It’s the least you could do. And listen… Carefully.

As I am wrapping up a pretty intense week at work where there has also been some massive soul-searching for yours truly (Now completed, by the way!), after bumping into that odd diversion of your own attention from what really matters (But more on that one later on …), and, just as we are getting started with the weekend, I thought I would go ahead and leave you with one thought Tom shares across with something that we all perhaps need to make much more frequent use of: Passion.

To quote: 

“(Strategic) Listening is a profession that has to be learned […] Your profession is listening”

Thus as several thousands of us are heading into Orlando, Florida, to attend IBM Connect 2013, I would strongly encourage everyone to practice listening quite a bit, to master the art of active listening, AND learn, before you embark on with your own agenda. There is a great chance you may not have realised about just yet that even your own agenda will start with going back to basics in the world of social: listen with intent, to then decide how you are going to help people become even more awesome!

That’s just as good as it gets… The rest is just irrelevant.

Nice challenge ahead, don’t you think? 🙂

Oh, if you, too, are going to IBM Connect and would want to hook up with yours truly, while in there, to say “Hi” and perhaps catch up on some conversations around Social Business, not to worry, I’ll be there … listening at @elsua with intent to then get together. Don’t be shy! That’s what massive face to face events like this one are all about… People listening, talking … connecting with people. 

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