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

Open Leadership

#Movistar – The Only Boss You Need to Pay Attention To

No Internet ConnectionHere I am, once again, incredibly frustrated and very irritated I got disconnected from the Internet last week Friday, as I blew up my monthly data allowance on my mobile phone for the zillionth time over the course of last few weeks. I got a bit tired of asking friends to use their wifi again and again, so I could continue with my day to day work routines, never mind as well embarrassing myself showing up at a local coffee shop time and time again while the monthly bill keeps getting more and more expensive with all of the additional beverages. Oh well, one more week to go… Indeed, one more week to go before Movistar finally shares some mercy upon myself and decides to treat this customer with some decency by hooking up both my landline and ADSL connection after nearly 2.5 months of much anticipated wait. I just can’t count the days anymore… 

Indeed, I just can’t count the days after having endured such level of sheer incompetence and utterly appalling customer service while earlier on today I had a chance to reflect and muse on a conversation I had with a very good friend of mine, back at the beginning of 2014, as I was just getting started with my new adventure as an independent advisor around Social Business and Digital Transformation where we talked, rather extensively, about what it is like being a freelancer in today’s more complex than ever working environment. 

I trust his judgement quite a bit, since he has been a freelancer himself in the IT industry for over 35 years and still going strong, so when we, finally, had a chance to talk through Skype, I knew it was going to be a rather intense, massively entertaining, hugely enlightening and incredibly helpful learning experience. And, boy, it surely was! We talked about lots of things about what to expect and what not, about what may work and what may not. We talked extensively of what it is like living in this brave new world of uncertainty and make the most out of it, but if there was a single point of discussion I truly cherished (even to today) as one of my key learning highlights from 2014 was the subject of who my new boss would be from there onwards, now I was no longer a salaried employee at a large big corporation. 

We had a good laugh when, as we got started with that conversation, I mentioned to him how in my last project with my former employer at one point I had up to 11 different management lines before I could reach out to the top, that is, the CEO of the company. And of those 11 different bosses I often found myself having to report to several chains of command to keep them in the loop of what I was doing for my day to day work. Never mind how things would have been much much different if they themselves would have been working out loud,  narrating their work (just as I was!), instead of being stuck in their own email Inboxes. Oh well, that’s a story for another blog post coming up on the incredibly inspiring and rather refreshing egalitarian power of social networking tools in helping knowledge workers ignore the hierarchy, flatten the organisation in order to get work done more effectively. 

The thing is this good friend of mine mentioned how, despite the uncertainty that will be now part of my daily life, plenty of things will become a lot simpler in terms of figuring out who my new boss may well be from there onwards. The only one I would need to pay attention to. A surprising and rather refreshing change even, because, in his words, my new boss as a freelancer and independent advisor is no longer my organisation, whatever that may well be, as the traditional hierarchy disappears into thin air since that artificial construct is no longer needed, nor relevant. My new boss is not going to be my fellow peers / colleagues / social networks or what not, not even perhaps the so-called influencers in the market, vendors, analysts, business partners and whatever other groupings, but, eventually, and right to the heart of the matter, my boss would be the one and only to care for and delight to no end: my customer(s).

Wise words, indeed. Who would have thought about that, right? I mean, if you go out there and ask a few people to tell you who their boss is I bet “My customer(s)” is probably going to be the very last answer you are most likely going to hear. And yet it’s the only one that we should be caring about. The only one that matters. The one we all keep coming back to work for every morning doing what we love doing: serving our clients with a delightful experience and, of course, in a timely manner. 

Right at that moment, while we were still conversing and enjoying very much the ongoing dialogue, I realised that sentiment of my customer(s) as my new boss(es) will become my new mantra ever since I went independent and I have never gone back. As a result, and almost after a year going by, I have had the enormous privilege and true honour of having worked with some pretty amazing and rather smart clients who throughout our interactions in 2014 (and beginning of this year already!) have helped me grow not only in a professional level, but also on a personal level. Who knew? 

Who knew that bosses / managers could have that effect on you? Who knew that perhaps in the traditional big corporate world we may have had the wrong end of the stick all along? I mean, how many of you folks out there would consider your immediate boss today your customer and not the individual you are directly, or indirectly, reporting to? I am certain not many. The thing is that you may be thinking that since you don’t have an external job to focus on, specially if you are not in sales or marketing, you really don’t have any customers to worry about, as you may be working in internal projects. But how about if we got it all wrong right from the beginning? You see? We are all providing a service, whether internal and / or external, and as service providers everyone that we are serving then becomes our customer and therefore our new boss. Imagine if we could all get to ignore everything else and just focus on the customer as your new manager. 

Well, here I am thinking what that may have been like over the course of the last 2.5 months when I first requested a service from Movistar where I wanted to transfer my already existing landline and ADSL I got contracted with them and move it to my new home place, 10 minutes away from the old one. As a service provider you would expect they would go the extra mile for their new boss to provide him with a delightful experience, don’t you think? Yet, apparently, they have been looking elsewhere, inwards, stuck in their paperwork, without resources, providing everything but a delightful client experience. More of a nightmare, if I may add. And perhaps that’s been part my fault as well for not stressing out deep enough the impact I have been suffering from their disservice, as I have no longer been able to carry on with my day to day knowledge Web work activities, losing several opportunities already of incoming revenue in the last two months and still counting…

Last week Friday I cancelled one of the many services I had contracted with Movistar for a good few years. Perhaps that’s how I should have made myself heard right from the start vs. patiently awaiting for them to look outside vs. inwards. It won’t be the last one. Currently, I am compiling the various different services I have got contracted with them and over the course of the next few days / weeks / months I will be terminating each and every one of them. I guess I will be firing them all away! I have been saying for a good while now how employee disengagement is a rather serious business problem to tackle in today’s corporate world. Mostly induced by disengaged managers, if you look deep enough into it beyond the initial marketing hype currently going on. 

So when your loyal customer, i.e. your new boss, actively disengages away from you by cancelling service after service, due to your rather poor and devastating skills about proper customer service, I guess it’s time now for you to figure out what’s happening, look around, go outside, engage in a meaningful conversation where you can work harder to solve their business problem(s) and see how you may be able, perhaps, to re-engage them back. If ever. If you still care, that is. 

The clock is ticking… It has been already for a good few weeks and this customer, yours truly, is just about to have enough of being your boss really, my dear Movistar. Thus, what do you think? Time for us to depart ways and move on? Well, it’s up to you… Like I said, the clock is ticking and I just might be waiting for your response to re-engage me back. You know what needs to be done and, this time around, in case you may not have noticed it, there is a deadline.

Friday, January 16th, 2015. 

 

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.

1 vote
Read More »

#Movistar – The Cost of Lying to Your Customers

No Internet ConnectionToday is, officially, my first day at work for 2015 after the Christmas holidays. I am writing officially on purpose, because after 61 days I am still waiting for Movistar (That Queen Between that always wants to get paid, but fails to deliver on customer service big time!) to come by my new place and install both the landline and the ADSL connection, so I can resume my knowledge Web work I have been forced to put into a halt for over 2 months now. Latest news I have from the fire extinguishing community management team at Movister_es on Twitter is that they will finally make an appearance (or so I am hoping!) on January 16th. Yet no-one from the technical team has contacted me to confirm that appointment. Instead, they seem to have mastered the skill of lying to this customer left and right throughout all of that time to the point where, at long last, it will have a price to pay: my loyalty.

Or, perhaps, even worse, my trust. After all, how can I ever possibly trust my local telco / ISP again for helping me carry on with my job as an independent freelancer (autónomo, in Spain), working remotely from his home office, when they have locked me down for all of this time without a single apology or concern about the huge impact they have incurred upon this family where I am the solely source of income at the moment. And, instead, they take the route of lying day in day out as it is their business as usual modus operandi. It’s always been.

From 5 to 20 days to get it all sorted out, initially, to another 5 to 20 days to finally get it done and dealt with, to December 29th, to now January 16th (Perhaps?), all along I have been told they would make it all happen relatively fast. Yet, 61 days later I am still waiting… But that’s not the worst bit of it all, because earlier by mid-November last year I got a phone call (One of the many pointless interactions I have had so far!) from a rather helpful and supportive lady telling me they have acknowledged the request to transfer the phone / ADSL line and that it will be taking place by mid-January.

Yes, MID-JANUARY 2015!! So why bother with all the lying to this loyal, faithful 11 year long customer over the course of weeks through regular Twitter Mentions & DMs, phone calls, SMS messages and what not if right along from the start *you* knew exactly when it will all be addressed and fixed and since it was going to take over 2.5 months of rage, angst, impatience and unsettling unhappiness all around for yours truly I guess it was better to lie to this customer in order to tame the frustration. Bollocks! 

Let me tell you something, my dear Movistar, if you keep claiming you happen to be a people to people business, i.e. a successful Social Business, one who cares about their clients and their needs, about your own employees and their well being, one who aims at changing the landscape of B2C (if there ever was such a thing like that!), one who simply cares, there is one little thing you may want to add to your vocabulary from now onwards: never lie to your customers. Be willing to engage in a two-way, meaningful, open, transparent conversation where you are willing to acknowledge the shortcomings of your already appalling customer service, so that you might be able to spark that sentiment of empathy you now have long lost from yours truly, because you just weren’t ready to face the reality: you are everything BUT a social business. Sad state of things, really, if you can’t handle the simple fundamentals of what it is like being an Open Business through openness, trust and authenticity.

Yes, it’s going to take me about 2.5 months to get back on track and be connected to the Internet, once again, thanks to you, Movistar. In the mean time, I can tell you I have gone through some rather interesting and colourful times that will make me remember you not very fondly for a long while, but, right now, there is just something out there for you to worry about quite a bit more: my trust in you and your services, because if you cared about your customers and keep aiming at building one’s trust in you, I can now confirm you have totally lost mine and it will take you a substantial amount of time AND effort to repair it.

I know for sure though you won’t even think a single time in investing your always lacking resources. Why should you, right? After all, who am I? I am just A customer. One of the many millions you keep saying you are serving to the point of delight, but fail quite remarkably at it time and time again by ignoring their own needs and wants, just because you feel we should be obliged to you for offering the service of being connected to the Internet. According to you, it should be our privilege to be your customer, like we owe it to you, but, alas, you know what?, at this point in time, that trust and loyalty from yours truly you have accumulated over the course of over a decade is now lost and long gone forever to the point where you will now become a primer example of what a so-called social business should not be doing at all. You are the perfect case of the anti-social business mindset. Your weakness? Not the lack of resources, nor the lack of customer service skills and know-how while trying to fix your customers’ problems, but something much more fundamental and key to every single Open Business: never *ever* lie to your customers

You know, they will eventually find out. I just did. 

 

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.

1 vote
Read More »

#Movistar Killed the Web Star

No Internet ConnectionImagine if all of a sudden you decide to embark on an experiment where you try to figure out what it would be like to live without access to the Internet over a certain period of time not only for your day to day work, but also for your personal life. Complete switch-off from everything online. Would you be able to do it? And, if so, for how long? Imagine if that experiment then turns out to be, eventually, the worst of nightmares as it becomes your new reality and for much longer than you anticipated and your work that depends on it (as a knowledge (Web) worker) goes into an unpleasant halt you just can’t get out of any time soon. Would you be able to hold it for any much longer? Well, don’t imagine, that’s the story I’ve been going through myself in the last few weeks as I got to experience, first hand, and in full force, how Movistar killed the Web Star.

There are times where one’s patience starts to run out. You know, you try really hard to be patient, you always aim for doing your very best at it, but you still run out of it nevertheless no matter what. Well, mine just did. And it is not pretty. Reality kicks in. After 52 days (Yes! 52 days exactly today!) of waiting for my local telco / ISP provider, Movistar (Telefónica), to, finally, get their act together and transfer the old existing landline and ADSL connection to my new home place in another town I can now confirm how Movistar itself treats over 10 years of customer loyalty: really sorry, but it looks like you are pretty much screwed and we just can’t care less for you nor your working needs. Tough luck. 

See? That’s what Queen Betweens do. Or, basically, what single monopolies tend to do over the course of time: squeeze their customers to no end charging them through the roof for their own profit for services you can’t use fully by constantly ignoring your needs while providing you with everything but a delightful experience. More of a horrifying experience, if I may add. Why? Because they can. Because they can’t care less about who you are, what you do, what your needs and wants may well be or what the potential consequences of their exponential incompetence at failing to provide what they themselves call “good” customer service may well be. They don’t. They can’t. They won’t. Ever. 52 days and counting…

This is the story of a 10 year long loyal customer of a local, nationwide, telco provider who has had just about enough of being treated like utter crap, mostly because, you know, I am just A customer. Like any other customer. So who cares, right? I am just incredibly easy to ignore and delight accordingly, apparently. Remember those good old times from over the course of last 2 to 3 years when plenty of businesses have been pouring down our throats their lovely marketing messages about how we are living in a hyper connected, always-on, digital mobile world where businesses can now provide individualised and incredibly customised excelling experiences to clients based on their needs and wants? Well, let me tell you something: what a bunch of bollocks! At least, for Movistar, as it’s taken them over 50 days (and still counting!) to accommodate the needs of one of their many customers. And the answer I keep getting back is that the issues will be sorted out really soon. 52 days later, *nothing* has happened other than being charged over 250€ for a set of services I just don’t have. Not even a single “We’re sorry for the inconvenience” coming through!

The thing is that I am not A customer. I mean, if I were a client who may not have had an urging need to use the Web and the telephone as his primary means of income and revenue, I would probably be ok without the phone nor the Internet for nearly 2 months. The thing though is that I *am* a knowledge Web worker and, as such, I pretty much *live* on the Web. I do have a constant need to be hyper connected, always online, so I can carry out work with clients, wherever and whenever they may well be, while collaborating and sharing our knowledge together over the (Social) Web. Yet, I can’t, because Movistar, apparently, after 10 years of being loyal to them, still doesn’t know me, nor my needs or requirements to conduct knowledge Web work. Yes, apparently, 10 years aren’t enough to get to know who your customers really are. Troubling, really. And frustrating to no end!

The end result? Me losing customers (and revenue!!) every single day gone by so far! With the move to the new home, and as some kind of cruel punishment by Movistar inflicted upon myself for wanting to start a new life (You can probably sense now how frustrating things can get when you are excited about moving to a new home, but yet you can’t work at it as I’ve done over the last 12 years as a remote worker!), I have lost the opportunity to constantly keep working on the pipeline for 2015 for new work, which was the original plan for this month, December, for yours truly. I have also lost the opportunity to continue working with current clients because we just can’t hold up any kind of knowledge work like collaborating remotely through digital tools, video conferencing, conference calls, etc. etc. Everything is on a stand still, except for paying bills, of course. Even those to Movistar itself for a service they keep failing to provide across for nearly two months now. 

The thing is that in terms of remote customer support through Twitter, SMS messages, phone calls and what not, the client experience has been incredibly delightful. The fire extinguishing activities keep mounting up by the day and the folks behind @Movistar_es keep doing a good job in taming and containing my patience from turning into rage, although lately, the responses and keeping me up in the loop is starting to fall behind, probably because they are getting just as tired and frustrated as I am right now as we speak for not seeing the issues getting sorted out any time soon. Bless them for the superb piece of work they are doing in camouflaging the utterly crappy service Movistar is providing to this customer at the moment. Bless them for totally understanding my problem, or so they tell me, of not being connected and losing revenue day in day out, and doing their best, which, apparently, hasn’t resulted in much happening anyway, as I am still without a landline nor ADSL, after a few weeks gone by, but I am still paying for that lack of service. Oh, the many joys of the Community Management Team. See why that whole system is broken? Bless them for trying though, they have just been eaten alive by the system along with yours truly. 

It all started on November 7th, 2014, when I requested the transfer of the landline and ADSL to my new home place and I was told the whole process would take between 5 to 20 days. I told myself, perfect timing, as I will be travelling for the remainder of November to 3 different countries to do work for clients, and upon my return it would all be installed and ready for me to carry on with my job. Wishful thinking. On the same week I got back I got a phone call from one of the local technicians telling me that the place where I now live doesn’t have any more free physical telephone line connections, so they would need to put a new box, which may require another 5 to 20 days for it to be processed. Panic mode kicks in as December starts and I can’t do any work any more from my home office.

Yes, I know, I have been stealing the wi-fi at friends’ homes for pretty much any kind of urgent work, but it’s been incredibly embarrassing to admit to them how much money I get to spend for a service I’m not getting while I’m using theirs. Frustrating to no end that here we are, last day of 2014, and we still have got these connectivity issues in a more hyper connected and always-on world that ever. But is it really? Apparently, it isn’t!

Weeks go by and I get another phone call where I am advised that things are going to be a bit tough because to get a new box is going to be challenging as they are no longer investing in copper, by in fibre (which will take still a few more months to come where I currently live, so not a choice), and the whole process of funding, just for that box, would need to kick in. There aren’t any guarantees, I got told and at that point the first glimpses of desperation and rage kick in as I keep telling them they just can’t cut me off the Internet grid, because of a box. What am I supposed to do with my job as a knowledge (Web) worker?!?!?! Please! Can we get a sense of reality kicking in on the kind of impact such decision would be having not only upon myself, but the family I’m trying really hard to sustain without falling apart into pieces?

Apparently, not! A few days more go by and I got another phone call where I’m told they finally got the confirmation the box funding went through, the request was processed and it’s just a matter of a day or two for a local technician to come along, install it all, and we are back in track. No, we aren’t. I was advised that on December 29th, the local technician would be coming along and do the magic. Alas, no magic happened, I am afraid, only a steady increase of being ticked off about what’s happening. I just can’t believe it. I’m still disconnected and not a chance to know when exactly it would all be fixed, specially, during this Festive Season where everything seems to go on a pause till after January 7th. My goodness! Can I wait for another 2 to 3 weeks?!?!?! No, I can’t! I need to start working again and pronto!

But you have got the 3G / 4G on your mobile plan, right? Yes, I do, but that’s not been very helpful, either, as I currently have got a 6GB quota allowance per month that, given the kind of work I do, I pretty much basically burn it all out in about 2 to 3 days and, once again, here  I am, back to stealing friends’ wifi connections at their own homes. The level of embarrassment and apologising keeps increasing by the minute. Desperation increases a notch or two when you realise it may well be about mid-January next year when it all may be fixed, if at all (as I was wrongly? advised on another phone call not long ago, where I thought it would be mid-December… No, mid-January, apparently).

Unreal! You can now see why I have pretty much run out of patience already, right? Well, it gets much worse! Because the mobile telco is the same ISP that’s supposed to fix the issues (i.e. Movistar) and I am only getting charged more and more money by extending the mobile quota of data. But “what about public wi-fi spaces where you live in the south of Gran Canaria that you could use?”, you may be wondering, right? Well, once again, no good news, I am afraid, as Wi-Fi Finder tells me there aren’t any around me within a close distance and I can only go into a hotel to pay for a daily fee speeds that would take me back to the late 90s. Yes, I’ve tried it already and it’s not even a mild option to consider. 

“Of course, you know, that happens to you because you live in paradise island and people are on holidays over there!!!”, you may be thinking as well right? Really? Here we are, once again, coming close to 2015 and we still think that way? Let me share with you all the incredibly huge missed opportunity by that same telco / ISP provider AND the various local government organisms AND perhaps also the European Union in their so-called efforts to digitised Europe on what they are missing by not working the magic of free public wifi spaces across the board. Go back 10 to 15 years ago, when you use to go on holidays to sunny paradise islands in the middle of nowhere. How did you get in touch with your family and loved ones back then? A long distance phone call, reverse charge, perhaps? A postcard? Complete silence till you got back?

What do you do nowadays when you go on holidays? How do you keep up with your loved ones and share with them what a wonderful holiday you are having and find out how they are doing as well instead? I bet it’s not a phone call, or a postcard, or just complete silence. I bet it’s all pictures, video clips, snippets you feel inspired to create and then share them across the Web by costing you an arm and a leg in hugely expensive roaming charges or countless hours of hunting down a decent Internet connection somewhere. Over the weekend, as an example, I was eating lunch at a restaurant when a guest, an older lady, asked the owner whether he had free wifi or not and when he said he didn’t she humphed and left the place (lost another customer right there!) reminding me, once again, about the huge opportunity of not thinking that the Web should start to become as pervasive as electricity is nowadays… Even a right!

No, it’s probably better to remain a monopoly by some telco providers as I am currently stuck in this situation. Unless Movistar transfers that phone line I won’t be connected through ADSL / wifi any time soon. I can’t go to any other telco providers as they hold the physical line work themselves. I can’t go to Internet satellite providers as they are even pricier and for rather poor connectivity coming along. I just can’t live on 3G / 4G unless I drastically change my working habits, or perhaps even find another kind of job, which has crossed my mind over the course of last few days as I keep contemplating Plan B & C that I have written about in a former blog post. See? This is how screwed up the whole situation is that I have to contemplate the prospect of changing my entire career and look for other job opportunities where being connected is not very much needed, but just a nice-have thing to have for when you come back home from work. And all of that due to the sheer incompetence of a telco / ISP that just doesn’t care much about the potential impact of their non-service to their customers even though they are paying loads of money for services they are just not using! 

That’s the main reason why I have been offline for vast majority of the time since I shared my previous blog post and while I thought I would be coming back to the social grid shortly, it looks like it’s not going to happen any time soon. Even worse, I don’t think I’d ever get a single response to this blog post, never mind getting the issues sorted out in a timely manner (Remember, 52 days and still counting…). It probably even won’t be noticed, because, you know, after 10 years of being their customer, they just don’t know me much. They don’t seem to have enough data of myself, throughout all of this time, to make an educated decision of fixing the issues as soon as possible, as they have now screwed this customer for good. 

A couple of years ago I blogged on how Social Business is all about People to People Business and, ironically, featuring Movistar themselves as a success story. Oh, my goodness!, how naïve I was back then! I guess I can now withdraw those words from here onwards and confirm, sadly, that Movistar is everything but a people to people business. It’s more of a Queen Between with an urging need to die a slow and painful death pretty soon IF they keep on working this hard to disservice their loyal customers! Yes, I’m an optimist and I know there is hope, but will they, finally, get their act together and help me before I move on? The clock is ticking… Time is the new currency. They have already lost 52 days and counting …  

 


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.


[PS. If you happen to have read this article, currently live in Playa del Inglés, Gran Canaria, and can offer a coworking space with a decent Internet connection where I can start working right away or if you think you can help out with my current connectivity issues, please do get in touch. I would love to talk with you!]

0 votes
Read More »

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.

0 votes
Read More »

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.

0 votes
Read More »

#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.

0 votes
Read More »