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

From the blog

#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!]

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2014, The Year That Was

View of Campo Internacional from Playa del Inglés on my way to #running Gotta love the eternal spring, don't you think?  #grancanaria #playadelingles #campointernacional# #running  #exercise  #lifeisgood #landscapes #winter #eternalspring #sunshine #sunAnd nearly four months later… I am back to blogging. Again. And for how long this time around? I just don’t know. We will have to wait and see, but, I tell you, if I were to describe what 2014 has been like so far for yours truly, as we are coming close to its end, I would probably be able to describe it with just a couple of words: “in transition”. Frankly, I never thought it would be that way, or that it would take this long for it to be completed, specially, on a personal level, but you know how it goes, you make lots of exciting plans ahead of you in terms of what you would want to do and focus on and then life does its own thing and makes sure none of them eventually work out the way you intended them to in the first place. Well, at least, one thing did work out in the end though: at long last, and after a massively long hiatus (that is now over, by the way) I am back to blogging. Why? Plain and simple. Because I needed it.

2014 is one of those years that I will be remembering for a good number of different reasons (good and bad, in equal terms), but, mainly, because, if anything, it has been a year of change for myself, both on a professional and personal levels. And, as we are in the process of wrapping things up for another year (Goodness! Does time fly when you are having plenty of good fun or what?!), I thought what a better way to resume my blogging mojo than perhaps put together this article where I can reflect on a rather personal account of what has happened month by month sharing some of the highlights (and lowlights!) as an opportunity to not only go through a rather needed cathartic and reflective moment of sorts for myself, but also as a chance to consider that “in transition” period, finally, over, done and dealt with. Time to move on …

Oh, talking about moving on, I am sensing this entry is going to be rather long, so I am thinking that if you aren’t really interested in following up with the different thoughts and reflections of what 2014 has been for me so far, I would suggest you stop reading now, and come back to the next post I will be putting together shortly as well now that I am, finally, back to writing. No worries, no offence taken if you move on. I totally understand it. What’s about to come up shortly is perhaps a bit too personal any way; an exercise of self-introspection to help me understand better what’s happened this year and venture into what 2015 may bring forward. It’s an exercise I have been looking forward to engaging with for a good couple of months, since the last post I shared over here.

So I better get on with it then, don’t you think? Again, no offence if you would stop reading from here onwards. or if you decide to unsubscribe from the blog altogether after all of this time of silence. There is a new spirit, a massive transformation in the making, a rebirth of sorts, coming along to this blog as well that I will be writing plenty more about over the next few entries and it may well not be what you may be interested in reading, after all. It’s going to be good fun though as I will be rediscovering the true spirit from this blog from way back when it was first born in October 2005 as I get to celebrate its 10th year anniversary next October. Who knows… You’ll tell me, I’m sure. So let’s go! Let’s do it!


Christmas holidays. As usual, the time of the year where I take extended holidays (have been doing that for the last 15 years and counting…). However, this time around a little bit of a special one, since upon my return, on January 20th, I announced, after 17 years of (big) corporate life, I would be leaving IBM, my former employer, and embark on to whatever my next adventure may be like. Not knowing exactly how things would work out eventually, whether I’d be landing safe and sound, whether I’ll be able to justify what’s been my working life for the last of those 14 years as a social computing evangelist or whether I may be able to stay right where I am without having to migrate elsewhere, given the current poor state of things in this country. Lots of uncertainty, indeed, but at the same time plenty of excitement about the new adventures, whatever those may well be. About the change itself, about the new bits of fresh air coming along about figuring out whether I still have got a chance to do something else for the next few years outside of the well established comfort zone I have grown into over the last decade or so. But then … life kicked in, as home care of a rather close family member continued throughout the whole month. Not much of a holiday, after all, as I got to experience, in full force, the initial shift of priorities kicking in and, officially, beginning the “in transition” period…


Reflection month. Spent vast majority of the time reflecting on what I wanted to do next, whether it was working for another vendor in the Social Business & Enterprise Social Networking space, or work for an international business, or work at a startup or, eventually, set up my own business. In the end, and after much thought put into it, I decided to go from one extreme to the other and from having worked 17 years in one of the largest and most complex IT environments out there (through 6 different Lines of Business and dozens of project teams) I decided to set up my own advisory firm around Social Business & Digital Transformation, Knowledge Management, Learning, and Online Community Building. Was that the right choice? I don’t know. Nearly a year later, it looks like I may have made it, after all. But can I sustain it for the next few years? Or was it just the beginner’s luck of someone starting up hoping for the best? I still haven’t been able to answer those questions and I suppose it may need to wait way into 2015 to confirm it. What I knew for sure back then was that I needed something different than whatever I was involved with over the last 17 years. Shifting work environments of similar traits was not going to do it. At the same time, I knew I also needed to have a Plan B and may be a Plan C as well, both of which I haven’t resorted to just yet, which may confirm that initial decision as the potential correct one, if there ever was one. Home care, after nearly three months, finished up on a high note and everything was back in order, although too close for comfort! Phew!


The start of my next adventure. Going solo, as they call it, although I have never been, nor felt, alone, as some people say when you are just getting stated with a new career. Having cultivated and nurtured social networks over the course of the years (As an opportunity to build further up on the collective digital footprint of those friends who you care about and who, in return, would care back), I spent lot of time catching up with folks, whether face to face, or virtually. A very much worth while doing exercise, since it helped me rekindle plenty of those personal business relationships as well as come to terms with the fact and comprehend how plenty of people move on from you, once you stop being enterprisey with no corporate tag attached at the back of your neck, and, how, instead, you meet up other new, but equally interesting and fascinating people you feel you would have never met working in a corporate environment. The “in transition” period fully kicks in by then, as I started working on the pipeline of my own business; trying to figure things out, as I go along, as an independent freelancer, realising the massive learning curve I had just embarked on. Things will never be the same anymore. Excitement is peaking up by the minute as the first potential client prospects help me build that so-called pipeline. No income yet though. Uncertainty makes an entrance. Again. Do I need a Web site to describe my services and myself and hope for the best or will just my Social Web presence (including this blog) be good enough? I still don’t have my site up and I keep wondering whether it’s necessary, or not, in the age of the Social Web, specially, for the kind of work I do.

[Oh, don’t worry, there *is* a Web site in the making, right as we speak, so I guess I may have answered for myself that question… Yes!, you do need a Web site for those people who do not know you just yet to get to know you eventually before they will engage through other digital channels!]


Resumed travelling for business (to a couple of conferences, mainly), but this time around, and for the first time since I can remember, as an independent advisor. The business world changes around you. Or you change. Or both for that matter. I don’t know. Things are no longer the same, that’s for sure! You start seeing things through a different lens and all of a sudden you notice how your opinions, thoughts and reflections run free, unbiased, uncensored. Liberating to no end. Hugely refreshing and soul rewarding at the same time. The pipeline for potential work keeps growing, but still no income. Excitement still high though, mainly through the rekindling of those personal business relationships, while forming new ones, as my close social networks morph along to meet, connect and share (with) the new me. Uncertainty starts crippling in, but it doesn’t bother me. Still doesn’t today. A new world to discover and enjoy opens up every single day. Opportunity takes a new meaning. Self-discovery regains strength on everything I do as I try to figure out the what next and, most importantly, the whom with. 


Travelling for business to present at conference events continues to take place, although starting to appreciate, and quite a lot, how the frenzy of biz travelling from back in the day (i.e. almost always on the road) is no longer there, so I can start enjoying travelling again with a pace that just feels right! Yes! The every other week on the road mindset, all of a sudden, drops almost dead and, instead, I get to appreciate how wonderful it is to travel the world, still today in 2014, to meet up some rather beautiful and amazingly talented people. Still one of the things I appreciate the most from my past corporate life, even though it’s no longer happening with the maddening frenzy as it used to be, which means that every time I travel nowadays I enjoy it even so much more. Pace is everything. Pause is the killer. Time is all we got left as the new currency, so making the most out of it, day in day out, takes a whole new meaning altogether. Apparently, I have become a nowist. And I am enjoying it quite a bit, because who knows what will happen tomorrow or the day after? That’s just too far into a future we can never grasp, nor comprehend accordingly, so why bother? Why not enjoy the now as much as we possibly can? And let the worrying about the future for a later time…

Pipeline work continues to build up helping me realise, finally, how important it is to constantly keep moving, regardless. Multiple touch points, follow-ups, conversations, social networks and other groupings or associations, etc. No waiting times. If it comes, it comes, if not, we’ll just keep moving along. It will come back at some point, eventually, if it needs my attention, help and support or further involvement. Still no income. Uncertainty grows on the third month in a row without revenue starting to make me wonder whether I made the right decision back in January about moving on. The excitement of the new adventure, the unknown, and what may potentially lay ahead, day in day out, still keeps trumping it all though. Life moves on and so do we. No turning point back. That’s what decisions do for you. You just keep moving on. The constant learning never stops. Regardless.


Surprise, surprise! Huge month ahead! Finally, I got to discover and fully experience what, till today, have been my two main sources of income as an independent advisor: 1) Client work and 2) Hosting face to face workshops around Social Business Adoption & Digital Transformation. Yay! We are back in business! Phew! Was starting to get worried to see how some work streams I initially thought were perhaps going to help me generate some earnings didn’t produce a single dime. Nothing. Zip. Nada. And, yet, on the other hand, and all of a sudden, BANG! first round of revenue kicks in from a work activity I never thought I would be able to pull it through, but there it was … Extremely happy AND hugely relieved. The adrenaline rush of your first client kicks in confirming what you initially felt may have been the right move from the start.

[What were those other work streams I thought were going to generate $revenue$ but didn’t? Well, I will blog about them on a separate entry, as I think they deserve their own attention and perhaps additional discussion. You will see what I mean when I share that post across. It will be a bit surprising and very much thought provoking, at least, in what’s meant for me ever since I went independent]


Client work continues. Incredibly exciting and enjoying it tremendously, realising how lucky and privileged I have been to have worked with such a group of rather smart and talented group of clients, and very excited at the same time about helping them accelerate their own collective digital journeys starting it off as a personal transformation. Business travelling for client work picks up a notch or two as well, summer holidays kick in and that feeling that August will be a slow month starts to settle in. Unfortunately, life, once again, had other plans in the making…


Home care for a loved one. Again. Seriously, 2014 has been one of those years that will be rather tough to forget and for a good number of reasons! I couldn’t wait for it to be over, done and dealt with and off we go into 2015. Being stranded at your own home place takes a whole new meaning for the following three months of daily home care for the rest of the family and yours truly. Priorities get reshuffled big time: home nursing, looking after the household, Boira (our Belgian sheep dog), shopping, day to day work (to keep paying bills) and that strange feeling of a much more profound change in the making, building up more and more by the day, once you realise the village you once loved and moved into, because of how much you enjoyed the atmosphere and sense of closeness and proximity, is no longer as charming as it used to be. Quite the opposite.

I lost 6 kgs that month. Running every day for an hour kept me going as that was the space where I could get back my sanity from the frenetic day to day craziness of life taking over. It felt great, as it helped me go back to my expected weight that I lost during the course of the Christmas period just a few months back.


Still heavily involved in home care, although the worst was already over (Thank goodness!). Business travelling, after the summer break, resumes itself and additional client work comes along at a nice pace. The reshuffling of priorities and focusing on other more mundane work streams / aspirations, essentially, coming back down to earth, so I could keep paying the bills, results in me having to move on from Change Agents Worldwide. I will miss them, I still do every day, but, you know how it goes, life goes on and has got other plans for you that most of the times you just can’t control, nor manage, but embrace them and hope for the best of potential outcomes. This was one of them that I needed to prepare myself for. Time is the new currency, remember, and massive disruption starts lingering around in the horizon, right as we speak: after 10 years, we are, at long last, moving! Oh, the adrenaline rush of a much needed change kicking in again! Gotta love it. Yes, house hunting begins… A new home beckons a much needed change. A new light. A new life. Eventually, together.


Revenue keeps coming along nicely, helping me not having to worry too much about how we’re going to keep paying the bills. Grateful to no end. Eternally. Work is pretty much focused on helping clients achieve their goals in their own digital transformation journey(s) as well as face to face workshops (as already mentioned above). Things are starting to become more steady and pipeline continues to consolidate with 2015 already in the horizon and looking very good. Or so it seems…

For the first time in over 10 years though, it’s time to move on again. Change happens in many ways and this one of finding a new home was no different. It was the end point of the period I have been calling in this blog post as “in transition”. By the end of the month, after two to three weeks of heavy search all over the place, we, finally, had a new home. Boy, do I love this place! We were born to live in it right from the start for real! Just brilliant! Just what we needed to conclude that phase of our lives and move into the next one, whatever it may well be.


Within just a few days since we found the bungalow, i.e. our new home, we finally moved in! I still can’t believe how lucky we were in finding such a gorgeous place! Of course, I will be sharing some pictures both in my Flickr and Instagram accounts. Perhaps it was our lucky shot at that point in time, but so very much needed altogether, after such an interesting year gone by so far!

Conference month kicks in in full force so it looks like moving in needs to slow down a bit while I get to do a bit of business travelling around Europe. After Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Madrid, London, Prague, Zurich (twice!) it is now time to check out Stockholm, Madrid (again) and Zurich (for the third time!). Not sure why there seems to be this obsession by conference organisers to put together all of their tech events either in March or November. It must be the winter! Do them in March to get people out of their homes right as spring kicks in or by November before everyone hides for the remaining of the year as winter approaches fast and furious. It’s crazy! Either way, loved the travelling to all of those cities and even more when the prospect of coming to a new home made it all really worth it.

But then another nightmare came through. As if I didn’t have enough with the rather tumultuous personal life throughout the year, my daily work was just about to be hugely disrupted. To the point where I haven’t recovered just yet from it and it may still take a while. Apparently, I have been forced, to put it mildly (by my telco / ISP) to go through this excruciating and horrifying experience of not having a landline, nor ADSL connection, at the new place, meaning that every single day that has gone by since November 7th (When I requested a landline / ADSL transfer) I have been losing revenue for not having worked with clients while collaborating remotely through the Social Web.

Yes!, 45 days and counting… Apparently, this is what you get in exchange of 10 years of customer loyalty spending about 175€ to 200€ per month steady for all the services I have contracted with them. And the worst part of it all? Well, that it is not over yet. 45 days later, I am still waiting for someone at that ISP to fully understand and comprehend the kind of damage they have done to this independent freelancer who happens to live off the Internet (as a remote knowledge Web worker) for his day to day work. Apparently, as a customer, that’s not important. After all, it’s not their revenue (they still get paid for not providing any kind of service!). It’s my own. Yes, you are guessing it right. There is a blog post coming up where I’ll be detailing what it is like living without access to the Internet when it’s your primary means of income while a Queen Between stands in the way not wanting to address and fix the issues sooner rather than later.


Phew! 2014! The Year That Was, indeed! Still without connectivity at our new home and surviving on a hugely expensive data plan for my mobile which runs out incredibly fast given the demands of my Web work and where my telco / ISP has decided that, as a token of generosity, they have extended my monthly quota of 4GB at a lovely price increase I just can’t resist paying for it. Yes, I guess gratitude from their side is taking a new meaning I should fondly remember over time. Anyway, that separate blog post will detail plenty more what’s been happening so far, or better said, what’s not been happening…

For now I bet I will be spending the remaining of the year musing about the new exciting adventure(s) at work. The amazing people I have been meeting throughout the year and who have made it a rather special one (Yes, you know who you all are!). The excitement of doing what I love doing, finally, has kicked off the uncertainty into no-man’s land. And although current pipeline work for 2015 has been abruptly halted to a standstill by my local ISP blocking me from accessing the Internet to do my job, I am hopeful the issues will be sorted out soon enough to be able to enjoy a Christmas break I will be treasuring to bits after everything that has happened this year: 2104. The Year of Change. Massive change.

Finally, the most important thing, at least, to me, that clearly helps me understand what we are all up to in our personal lives with the odd distraction here and there: caring for one another. Indeed, home care, at long last!, is also now over! A thing of the past and, thank goodness!, everything worked out all right in the end, despite the initial hurdles and health scares! Our new wonderful home has done the rest in the healing process making up for a superb end of a rather interesting and challenging year, both on the professional and personal levels, and where I have learned perhaps the most important lesson to date: life has its own plans and ways of developing things further and only thing we can all do is to adjust and adapt accordingly, and make the most out of it all, while having plenty of really good fun!

Life is just too short not to enjoy it the fullest. Today. Don’t leave it for tomorrow. And if that means I am a nowist, be it. After all, it’s Christmas and a good time to get back plenty of the social life we just didn’t get a chance to invest in this year with all that’s happened. It’s never too late, I know. Life keeps moving on and with it all of us, whether we like it or not.

I guess it’s now time for you folks and me to move on, too! I suppose it’s good enough for today as a yearly catchup update of sorts, where I can share with you all what’s been happening so far this year and why there has been, at times, extensive periods of silence from yours truly while I was focusing and spending my time fiddling with other priorities. For those of you who have stuck around thus far into this blog entry, please do allow me to share with you all a sincere token of gratitude for sticking around. It’s hugely appreciated and I’m certainly looking forward to resuming plenty of the online interactions we used to have in between those periods of quietness. 

I’m now back business as usual (At least, for as long as I can without blowing away the monthly mobile data plan) and while I get to put together the next blog posts over here, as an opportunity to resume my blogging mojo, I thought I would share with you all one other major highlight that I went through earlier on this year that I think you might find interesting as well. It’s a podcasting recording. Perhaps one of the most thorough and intimate interviews I have recorded in a good few years.

The interview was hosted by the wonderful and incredibly smart Michael Hicks from the My Way Podcast show. During the course of an hour we got to discuss plenty of the key experiences that throughout the years, starting off at a rather early age!, have shaped and nurtured who I am today: Luis Suarez. It’s that kind of a rather personal podcasting episode where plenty of the nuggets I talked about may not well be known, if only, but a few rather close friends. My Way Podcast is “committed to telling people’s stories” and I guess that’s just what we did: narrate my story.

So, if after reading this rather long post you still feel like going for a good listen of what I have been up to in the last two decades, with lots of personal touch points, and hilarious anecdotes, feel free to head over to the podcasting episode and have a listen. I can guarantee you would have a good laugh or two in between some pretty interesting insights we talked about and shared across around “confidence, working in a team, why it’s important to work in customer service, how and why he no longer uses email at work, working remotely, pursuing multiple interests to find what you are really passionate about, how he uses his blog as his external brain, his recent switch to freelancing, and so much more”.

Hope you enjoy it and from here just a special thanks to both Michael Hicks and Amber Robbin for making it possible! What a wonderful finishing touch to quite an exhilarating year and here’s to plenty more for 2015 and beyond!

Written by Luis Suarez

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

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The Call to Adventure – On Doing What You Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Pardon the Interruption … From Adaptation into Engagement by Luis Suarez #soccnx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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Active Listening – When Shutting Up Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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#LeadWithRespect Meme: a Challenge for 21st Century Management

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

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


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

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

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

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

What is it to lead with respect?

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

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

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

What does it mean to show respect to employees?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Written by Luis Suarez

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

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