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

Open Leadership

#LeadWithRespect Meme: a Challenge for 21st Century Management

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

What is it to lead with respect?

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

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

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

What does it mean to show respect to employees?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Challenges of Social Business in the Workplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Working Out Loud with Google Plus – Part Deux

One of the themes around both Social and Open Business I have grown rather fond of over the course of the last 2 to 3 years is that one of Working Out Loud (Other related topics would be as well narrating your work or observable work, a.k.a. #owork). From the moment that fellow Change Agent Bryce Williams coined the term, nearly 4 years ago, to today, a lot has happened, but, surprisingly enough, the interest around this very same subject continues to raise the stakes that perhaps the realisation of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise is no longer just around how social you may well be, whether internal or external, with your peers, your customers, business partners or, even, your competitors, but maybe about how comfortable you may well feel when showing your work, out in the open, in a rather transparent manner, for others (even total strangers) to benefit from. What do you think? Are you ready to start working out loud as well? 

I can imagine how throwing yourself out there into the unknown, hoping for the best, may well be a bit of a challenge in itself. I mean, if you look into it, within the corporate world, all along, we have always defaulted to work in private, close silos with team colleagues whom we knew rather well, or even just our very own selves, as we have kept protecting and hoarding our own knowledge thinking that would make us all become indispensable to the business. Remember the good old mantra of “Knowledge is power”? Well, it may well have its days numbered… 

I know plenty of you folks out there would tell me that knowledge is power is still very much alive and kicking and, in fact, it pretty much rules everywhere, even in our social, digital activities, specially, when we just keep talking, referencing and sharing other people’s content and work items vs. our very own. Mainly, because we just don’t feel comfortable and open enough to think AND act different; to shift and change our very own behaviours and mindset; to show how vulnerable and limited we all are, after all, as we move on and transition into “Knowledge SHARED is power”. Yet, let me tell you, based on first hand experience, there is a lot to gain. And we are no longer alone. Not anymore. By far. Yes! It’s time to open up!

Like I said, over the course of the last couple of years plenty of people have been thinking and talking openly about the whole concept behind Working Out Loud. It’s become a mantra as well, for a long while now, for my fellow peers and myself at Change Agents Worldwide with folks like John Stepper, Susan ScrupskiJonathan Anthony, Jane McConnell, Catherine Shinners, Simon Terry, Dennis Pearce, Christoph Schmaltz, Patti AnklamHarold Jarche, Jon Husband, Eric Ziegler or Ian Thorpe talking about it extensively and, much more importantly, walking the talk in showcasing how it could work not just for organisations but for knowledge (Web) workers, in general, even when doing client work.

Oh, yes! We are not alone in this. Far from it. Plenty of other folks (to name a few), like Matthew Partovi, Dion HinchcliffeRogier Noort, John WengerMarshall Kirkpatrick, John HagelEuan SempleStowe Boyd, Stephen Danelutti, Greg Lloyd, Sacha Chua, David Burkus, Maria Popova (Reflecting on Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work), Hugh MacLeodJanet Choi, Sunder Ramachandran, Jessica Grose, Moyra Mackie, Louise McGregor, Laurie Webster, Rick Ladd, John Buonora, Jane Bozarth, Michael Sampson, CV Harquail, Inge Ignatia de Waard, Lloyd Davis, Bernie Mitchell, Nick Milton, Sarah Lay, Ewen Le Borgne, Mike Taylor, Russell Pearson, have been talking and writing about Working Out Loud for some time now, demonstrating how it’s not as scary as it may look like. Quite the opposite. They have been sharing plenty of first hand experiences and insights on what it’s meant for them all along and, if anything, it’s been pretty inspiring overall seeing how this topic is picking up more and more steam by the minute by everyone else.

Even organisations are jumping into it. Examples like Grundfos (Read as well Thomas Asger Hansen’s take on it), Deutsche Bank, National Fluid Power Association, Lowe’s, etc. etc. have been embracing this mantra as well of #workingoutloud (#WOL). Even some vendors like Salesforce, IBM or Podio have been advocating for it, too! You would probably say that, at this point in time, it’s an unstoppable movement towards opening up organisations, business processes and technology while inspiring, throughout the knowledge workforce, new, innovative ways of thinking different while doing business.

But what is Working Out Loud exactly, you may be wondering, right? Well, instead of me detailing a short explanation of what it would be like I thought I would point you to a short video clip of about 3 minutes, put together by my colleagues at Change Agents Worldwide, for Salesforce’s Chatter, that pretty much explains what it is and how you, too, could embark on it without too much effort or disruption from your already existing day to day work routines. Have a look and see what you think: 

 

So, after watching that short video clip you now may be wondering why am I putting together this blog entry in the first place, right? Well, after having embraced Working Out Loud for a good number of years while I was at IBM, as both a Social Business Evangelist and Lead Social Business Enabler, more than anything else as an opportunity to show and demonstrate how it would work through pure hands-on, walking the talk, and leading by example, I thought it’s now a good time for me to pick it up again, even as an independent trusted advisor, and show what it would look like out there in the Social Web.

The interesting thing is that this is not the first time that I do it. I have done it in the past through Twitter multiple times, and even through Google Plus itself as well, as I have blogged about it a couple of years ago over here. That’s essentially how #elsuasworkbook was born in the first place and while I am just about to get things started with client work around Social Business and Digital Transformation and things are beginning to settle down a bit with my new life of being an independent I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show everyone in my networks (and anyone else who may be interested for that matter) about what it is like Working Out Loud for yours truly. 

It’s bound to be an interesting experiment, since I know I will be trying hard to be as open and transparent as I possibly can, through my Google Plus profile, to describe the kind of work that I am currently involved with at the moment. Oh, don’t worry, radical transparency is a bit too far away for me at the moment, specially, while I am trying to taste the waters of a new working life, but over time, as I, too, myself get comfortable with the uncertain, the level of transparency will keep increasing more and more by the day. 

After all, if you would remember, transparency is one of the 10 Principles of Open Business and, to me, one of the key mantras I decided to adapt to over the course of time in my transition journey away from Social Business into Open Business. From not only talking about social, but also doing / living social AND Open.

Thus, if you would want to find out some more how things will work out for me from here onwards, check out my Google Plus Profile or just keep an eye on #elsuasworkbook every now and then to get a glimpse of what’s happening. Oh, and if you decide to jump in as well, let the world know (me, included, please!) about how and where we can find you, working out loud. For now, I will leave you all with a couple of rather inspiring quotes on the topic, as well as the prospect of enjoying the lovely weekend ahead of us. Mine is just about to get started now! 

Have a good one everyone!

 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business – Finally, A New KPI in the Making

If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would notice how there is a certain topic that keeps coming back time and time again, as one of my main key focus areas I have always felt would help advance our overall efforts of pushing the boundaries of our various different social business transformation journeys: the overall client experience. And I am not talking about the traditional concept behind a customer. To me, everyone is a client in some form or shape: your very own colleagues, your managers, your executives, etc. are also even your clients. You keep serving them for whatever purpose through your specific cooperation and collaboration efforts. They are also the very same ones that keep you employed for many years to come, just like any other customer would do. Are you paying attention to them as well just as much?

While I was at IBM, working during those 17 years in multiple internal projects within 6 different business units, one comes to realise that even though you are working on the blue dollars (vs. the green dollars), there is always something you can do to focus on that client experience: delighting your clients. That is, help them achieve their goals and objectives, address and fix their potential business problems, and eventually help enable them to excel at what they are already rather good at. It’s an interesting, and a rather fascinating experience altogether, because, amongst several other things, it always manages to keep you sharp, in your toes, about the client value you can provide, even to your peers. To the point where, to me, it became my new KPI over the course of time in terms of how I would value and measure the success of my own work across organisation(s).

How delighted are your customers with your own work over the course of time is probably as good as it gets, whether internal or external, in terms of proving and demonstrating your value and overall contributions, so when the smart folks at CMSWire invited me to write an article around the whole topic behind “The Search for ROI in Social Business” I just couldn’t help writing about the need, for me (Perhaps for you, too), to create that new KPI that would help me successfully identify whether I am on the right track, or not, in providing value to the customers I interact with, specially, now even more so that I am an independent trusted advisor and have shifted focus from internal into external work. 

That invitation from CMSWire to write that article has also helped me frame something that has been in my mind for a long while, whenever I embark on the conversations of how do you measure the value of your own Social Business initiatives, and whether it’s time to go deeper, moving further beyond the overall low hanging fruit of just measuring the usage of social technologies. To me, we are witnessing the unique opportunity of not only going more in-depth into the overall value proposition of Social Business, but perhaps re-define a new KPI around the client experience which, more and more, gets defined itself by the overall employee experience.

In case folks may have missed that article over at CMSWire, I have now taken the liberty of also reproducing it here below, so you can all have a look and comment on whether there is a need to go deeper and reframe altogether new KPIs to help evaluate more effectively the overall customer value propositions around the Social Business Transformation journey or whether we should just stick around, with the easy part, i.e. with the low hanging fruit. Something tells me we shouldn’t, but I would let you be the judge of that sentiment while going through the article itself… 

How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business

“I remember when things were just getting started with Enterprise 2.0, then Social Business, how we were all trying to prove the business value of social technologies and even our very existence as 2.0 practitioners in the workplace. Do you remember how tough it was to justify yours to senior management? How things have changed since then ….

Fast forward to 2014, and while the conversation around measuring the business value of Social Business persists and is perhaps more relevant, the focus and intent of the questions have shifted. There is no longer a need to justify it, but rather an opportunity to evaluate the maturity of different initiatives as you progress on the Social Business journey. No one can deny the impact of social technologies at the workplace anymore — and that’s a good thing. We have *finally* moved on.

Beware the Low Hanging Fruit

The dialogue has evolved, although we may at times still have the impression we are running a circus, as Carrie Young brilliantly indicated in “Social ROI = Return On Insanity” This happens when we stop thinking outside of the box and the inertia kicks in that’s so pernicious in the business world: only measuring the low hanging fruit.

This is far too easy. Measuring the usage of social technologies at the workplace is far easier than the significant impact on the overall business outcomes. This is where the real challenge currently lies. I have advised clients all along that to measure the business value of your social business initiatives you should aim higher than the low hanging fruit for your critical business KPIs. The ones you have cared about throughout the years, perhaps decades. These provide the opportunity to truly change your business through the digital transformation.

There is also an opportunity to rethink how we approach these KPIs. In the Social Era it remains a challenge to measure emerging 21st century business models with a 20th century mentality. And that is where the circus begins…

There may be a better way. Let’s explore it.

A New KPI

The main business goal of most companies is no longer to just profit per se (although still a major driver), but essentially “to delight their customers,” as Steve Denning would say. Each of us can remember very well when the last time was that we had a delightful experience as a customer, and more importantly, when we didn’t. I bet our first reaction was: “Wow! What a delightful client experience. I wish I could repeat it again!”

And that’s essentially what we want for our customers — to improve their overall client experience. But in order to do that we need to aim at improving the employee experience as well, and that’s when problems arise. Very few people would deny that the client experience is defined by the employee experience. Happy employees = happy customers. It’s good for the business.

Unfortunately, employees are not very happy. Recent reports from Gallup claim that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. Yes, let me pause there — only 13 percent.

That essentially means that your business is being run by only a slightly over 10 percent of your employee workforce. If that’s not a worrying sign, I don’t know what is. How can we possibly define the client experience as delightful if employees aren’t there in the first place? Want to find a new business KPI that matches today’s No. 1 business problem? Look no further: employee engagement (commitment, involvement, compromise — whichever moniker du jour you favour).

I strongly believe (and always have) that Social Business can reignite a disengaged workforce, while also helping reengage vendors and clients. The apathy is permeating beyond your employees to your customers and business partners. We need to do better. We need to do MUCH better.

It’s a challenge to strike a renewed sense of purpose, meaning and more effective way of getting work done when employees lack a strong sense of belonging, of feeling appreciated, trusted, respected and valued. When you enable your employees to think and act differently through emerging social technologies — giving them autonomy, flexibility, responsibility and, above all, ownership of the work they do — you start to realize you’ve entered a different league when measuring the business value of Social Business.

Measuring the usage of social tools is helpful for clarity and awareness, but don’t stop there. Go deeper. Work with your knowledge workforce to co-create new KPIs based on their employee experiences. Chances are high they know better than you whether they are doing the right job with clients based on their interactions with them — out in the open, working more publicly and transparently, working out loud. Success will be their new reality when they reengage to delight their clients.

Showing the Way to the 21st Century

One of the many worthwhile examples that demonstrates how this can be done is TELUS, a national telecommunications company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner at TELUS, confirmed its employee engagement rates increased from 53 percent to 83 percent and that it correlated this to an improvement in business outcomes — a.k.a. revenue. I know what you’re thinking — wow! From 53 percent to 83 percent through applying and embracing social technologies and a new kind of leadership, Open Leadership.

That’s just one example of many of how we can aim higher to strike a balanced, measurable set of outcomes to prove the ROI of Social Business. We need to stop paying for the circus and get down to action. The *real* action.

So, who wants to jump the shark and move into the 21st century to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise? This is your new ROI: start by improving the client experience through the employee experience.

The rest is just a distraction and one that should be avoided. At all costs.”

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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


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From Adaptation into Engagement by Luis Suarez

Language matters. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself about how important it is to build a narrative you would feel rather comfortable with when interacting with other people, whether your peers, your customers, your business partners, even your competitors. It’s something that has been in my mind over the course of time in terms of how we get work done more effectively through these digital technologies. You see? I cringe a little bit every time that someone mentions the word “drive” (Specially, when you are not in a car!), or “adoption” or the combination of both: driving the adoption (of Social Business). So whenever someone invites me to help inspire a new narrative within their organisation(s), as they embark themselves on the so-called Social Business and Digital Transformation journeys, it’s an opportunity that I just don’t let go that easily. Why? Well, because having a good, representative narrative on what matters to you and your business is no longer down to some fancy words, but more down to actions. Essentially, walking the talk, leading by example.

That’s why when the European Commission invited me last week to go to Brussels, and spend a couple of hours with a representative group of middle managers, to help them understand the role they would need to play, when embracing digital technologies, adjusting accordingly their management and leadership capabilities to the new reality, I just took the opportunity to demonstrate how important having the right narrative would well be for their own efforts to become a Socially Integrated Enterprise. Regardless of the organisation or the management layer.

So, instead of driving the adoption of middle managers from the European Commission, we talked about business purposes and how social technologies could act as a rather valuable and unprecedented enabler towards achieving a certain number of goals. We talked about the need to move away from adoption and into adaptation, understanding that they are the group that, beyond early adapters, everyone else is looking up to when embracing these emerging social tools while at work. 

You see? While most people out there would consider that middle managers are the main hurdle or obstacle towards the successful adaptation of businesses to this new way of hyperconnected, networked, smarter work, through social networks, here I am thinking, instead, they are your best ally beyond the first and second wave of “early adapters”. Most people may not realise about this, but middle managers are the social bridges within organisations. They are well connected to people down the trenches, while, at the same time, they keep close ties with those on the top. They essentially talk to both groups. They understand the needs and wants from both groups. They know, very well, how to get the most out of each of them, and if they have traditionally been perceived as rather static, hierarchical and overall disengaged, is because they have always been perceived as the main problem, when they are eventually the solution.

Middle managers are that specific group of practitioners, because, yes, they are also practitioners, just like you and me, that have been caught right in between this digital revolution of social technologies just as disengaged as everyone else. So when looking into a business purpose or problem to tackle with the emergence of Social Business employee disengagement is just as good for them as for everyone else. Remember, currently 87% of today’s knowledge workforce, according to Gallup’s recent research, is disengaged at work. So if you have got a group of 100 middle managers, that means that about 13% of them are the ones executing on the work they have, because they feel motivated enough to make it happen. The rest will just continue to struggle along generating perhaps even more disengagement amongst the rest of the workforce. And that is the main business problem we are currently facing and why we need to keep inspiring a next generation of leaders, not just senior or executive leaders, for that matter, who are willing to change their own narrative and understand that effective leadership in this so-called Social Era is not about empowering people around you, it’s about enabling those around you.

It’s about helping them understand how, as a leader, you will be offering your own help and support to provoke that transformation. How the time for command and control, or micro-managing your employees is a thing of the past. How to become an effective leader you would need to acquire a new set of skills and capabilities that would help you transform yourself from being just another middle manager doing their (disengaged) work into the new kind of Open Leadership that’s very much needed to help re-engage a knowledge workforce that right now is on the brink of collapsing on its own. 

That’s why words no longer mean anything on their own. That’s why actions do mean everything. That’s why leading by example, walking the talk, exhibiting those new leadership capabilities and competencies would help you, as a (middle / senior) leader, understand the new dynamic of what it is like thriving in social networks, being part of the pack, one of the nodes, one that can act as the main catalyst to connect the dots across the organisation understanding that the days for the good old strict and rigid hierarchy are well numbered and how it is time to transition into a hybrid approach of combining both hierarchy and wirearchy to then eventually transition into a wirearchy inspired organisation. 

A lot has been written in the past about the critical role that middle managers play when embarking on the Social Business Transformation journey. However, they also have got business problems of their own that they would need to solve first, as my good friend, and fellow CAWW member, Simon Terry quoted just recently: “Middle managers like to complain about being squeezed by pressures from above and below. Their organisations love to blame them for all the ills in the place”. Perhaps it’s now a good time to understand that we should probably stop blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in an organisation and, instead, help enable them to understand their new critical role in the leadership ladder to become the social bridges to effectively make change happen. 

How? Well, probably by exhibiting, through actions, not words anymore alone, a new kind of leadership capabilities, associated with the whole notion around both Social Business and Open Business under a new, rather specific, framework: Open Leadership. To that extent, a little while ago, I put together a presentation at Haiku Deck where I captured my interpretation of what those new leadership traits would be like putting them in context about the main business purpose behind them when embracing the emergence of social technologies at the workplace: eventually, re-engage the knowledge workforce. Yes, to me, still, and by far, our number one business problem in today’s business world, whatever the industry, whatever the sector, no matter what organisation.

Can you imagine the huge potential of transforming our work environment from having just barely a bit over 10% of the employee population doing all the hard work, where we are just about to enter the stage of mere survival, to eventually have a much much higher level of purposeful participation and overall engagement? I know how plenty of folks have been talking all along about social networking’s capabilities to democratise the workplace. To me, it goes well beyond that. It’s about that unique opportunity to democratise how we work, how we connect, collaborate and share our knowledge more effectively, so that we can get work done without all the unnecessary stress and ill-behaviours we are currently exhibiting that are managing, little by little, to destroy everything that we have been building up over the course of decades, and, to such extent, that’s the main reason why middle managers are the main enablers of that transformation journey. 

 

From Adaptation into Engagement. From being blamed from all sides for everything that goes wrong, to become the catalyst enablers helping transform not only the way we all work, but also, essentially, the corporate cultures we breathe in day in day out. After all, they always had the authority to act. Now they just need to show what Open Leadership truly means in the connected workplace and demonstrate it accordingly, not only by their words alone, but also by their own actions, too! 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Why I Fired Myself from IBM

A couple of days back, my good friend and fellow CAWW, Ayelet Baron put together a rather interesting, inspiring and very thought-provoking article over at The Huffington Post under the suggestive title “Sometimes, You Need to Fire Yourself? Don’t Wait to Be Picked”, where she comes to reflect on, perhaps, one of the main expectations from knowledge workers in today’s workplace: being validated and waiting to be picked up. And from there onwards she goes on to muse about the reality of what next when that doesn’t happen. Interestingly enough it’s a story I can relate to,  specially, since I’m currently in transition myself trying to figure out the what next. Except that this time around I didn’t wait. I decided to shake off those golden handcuffs I put on myself back in the day and break free.

Most people may not know this, but back in June 2005, while I was still an IBM Netherlands employee, I got laid off and after having received the well-known compensation package I decided that I wasn’t ready, just yet, to leave the company. At the time I felt I had a lot more to offer and work on still. 9 years later, 4 different Lines of Business, and multiple other projects certainly would testify that it wasn’t my time just yet. So was it then my time, beginning of 2014, when I decided to quit IBM and move on? Maybe. I don’t know. Yet.

What I do know though is that it’s a decision that 3 months later, which is starting to look and feel like ages ago, I don’t regret a single bit. It wasn’t an overnight decision either. It’s been in my mind for about 2 years when I first started contemplating the thought of making a move and figure out what I would want to do next with my career. Somehow I felt The Call was near, so I may as well embrace it. As my good mate Rob Paterson wrote not long ago “Now the real adventure of your life begins”. 

You can imagine how shocked and surprised (in equal terms) my boss was when I communicated to him, while I was still enjoying my holidays back in January, that February 3rd would be my last working day at the company after 17 years of work in there. We had to talk, he said. Of course, we do, I responded back. And the week after we got together on the phone for a 2 hour long conversation where we got to spend some time to talk in-depth about the decision. 

This time around I was not going to wait. See? Once you have been exposed to a layoff, even if you manage to escape it, you know that things will never be the same. The whole concept of company / employee loyalty changes and while the motivation and purpose to do a professional job may well be there, very much intact, because, after all, you were hired in the first place as a hard working professional, things are no longer going to be the same. So, while we were talking, he asked me why I made the decision of leaving IBM after everything I have (helped) build over the course of time. He just couldn’t grasp such crazy idea and I understand perfectly why he would think that, specially, in today’s turbulent times. 

Well, as Ayelet mentioned on that article, referenced above, I had to start thinking about firing myself, which is eventually what I did, after two years of waiting for the right moment to do so. I told my manager than I had to be realistic and come to terms with the fact IBM would not allow me to retire after another 25 odd years of work I have got still as my working life. Now, I could have stayed at IBM for another 5 or 10 years. Sure. No problem. But I know that it wouldn’t last forever (till retirement, at least) and, unfortunately, I happen to live in a country where after you reach a certain age, being unemployed and finding a new job takes the whole concept of a chimera into a new level. Thus, eventually, the older you get without a job, the tougher it is to find a new one. 

I am sure that scenario could hold plenty of truth for various other countries, no doubt, but, in my case, I figured that before I would be getting too old, and after 17 years of big, corporate multinational work life, it probably was a good time to make a move, while I am still relatively young. That’s why I quit IBM on my terms and decided to become an independent trusted advisor around one of my all time passions (Social Business and Digital Transformation) and give it a try for 2 or 3 years to see if I could make it work and sustain that financial and emotional independence. 

If that didn’t work out, for whatever the reason, I would still be relatively young 😉 to look up for another career opportunity. Perhaps to even go back to big corporate world, although plenty of people have been advising me that once you become a freelancer and you get to experience freedom, there is no way back. I suppose then that’s why I started working my way towards that system of me and put together multiple plans where I could continue to “dream big and have a purposeful and meaningful life”. Will I succeed? Who knows… What is success anyway? Waiting for another Call

The reality is that while there is plenty of excitement about this new life as an independent freelancer, there is also a bit of uncertainty, about facing the unknown, at a very peculiar time where we may be going through the deepest, most profound financial econoclypse in our recent history. I guess that puts things into perspective as to what lies ahead and that I can summarise in a single sentence: I just don’t know. I’ll take it all as it comes. 

I will make of it all a learning experience, why not, right? I am sure it’s going to be a rather interesting one. It’s the least I could do and see how things will pave out further along over the course of time on whether I’ll be sticking around with plan A, B or C. Plan B, if you remember from a previous blog entry, is essentially go back to basics: teaching (I am an English teacher, after all 🙂 and I have always loved, and enjoyed very much, helping enable people to deliver their best at what they do -that’s what, to me, teaching and learning have been all about all along). Oh, and today’s snapshot, shared above, is a hint of Plan C, in case you are wondering… But somehow, I need to come down to earth again and be reminded of Ayelet’s wonderful piece of advice that keeps coming back ringing true more and more by the day: 

What I know today is that if I focus on why I am doing something and identify the core problem that needs to be addressed, I can go out and solve it. I can ask for help. I can connect with other smart people who choose to work with me to make a difference and get shit done.

Thus, I guess I will just start there: get shit done

#Onwards


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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