At DellWorld 2015 I had a chance to participate in a panel discussion that was moderated by Charlene Li where we dove into the whys and hows of social selling. Afterwards, I got my hands on a signed copy of The Engaged Leader through a book swap with her (I think I got the better end of the deal). I finished it on the plane ride home and it’s provided some fantastic illustrations and insights into social media in the C-suite.
I think Charlene says it as well as I could: “Engaged leadership means not chasing the latest apps and gadgets. Being an engaged leader in the digital era means knowing what your goals are and what tools to use to achieve them. It also means being brave and bold enough to step into the fray: listen to your followers, share yourself with them, and engage directly in new and amazing ways.” (pg 20)
Ideas, Implications, and Questions
- The core of Charlene’s approach to executive social media use is: Listen at Scale->Share to Shape->Engage to Transform. This process: pay attention to what people (customers, internal teammembers, partners) are saying, contribute to the conversation when appropriate, and move the relationship in a new direction is exactly how I view online networking and social selling. The only difference between a CEO and front line salesperson is scope and perspective.
- A key theme in the book which mirrors my philosophy is the idea of matching social media tools to specific end goals. Because social media is still relatively new, it still has the shiny veneer and people trumpeting it as “the most important thing ever”. Leaders (and most other professionals) hear this and either jump in without forethought or they become obstinate and resist because they think it’s just a fad. For me, social becomes another tool in the toolbox. When working with clients, I’ve always connected very specific tools and tactics to the desired outcomes. There are great examples in the book from both sides of the usage spectrum: everything from execs who use Twitter to connect with their teams to those who have made a deliberate decision to abstain from some platforms because it won’t advance their goals.
- I loved that Charlene used the psychological “grief” model to describe how executives are handling the “loss” of the old-way of communicating. I think she’s right on, but I think that the emotional and mental blocks are even more central to the question of social media adoption. Leaders who rose to success in an old world of top-down communication and corporate opaqueness are going to struggle and fail in marketplace where communication is open and distributed. They are going to need functional help, but also support and coaching to evolve personally.
- There’s a lot of discussion of the dynamics between the science and the art of using social media. This recognition of the importance of non-quantifiable aspects of social media is critical because much of social media is about being “social”. It’s about influencing, connecting, conversing, and ultimately helping people. It’s hard to create spreadsheets about those things, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact. Organizations do have to pay attention to the numbers, but if they only look at ROI for social, they are going to lose in the long run.
Should you read this book? Who should read this book?
I think Charlene has done a great job of outlining an approach to social media that is strategic and actionable. Although aimed at an executive audience, I think that we are all the leaders of our own company “You, Inc.” and therefore can pull useful information from the book. People who will get a lot out of this book:
- Organizational executives who want a straightforward guide to using social media that will organize and stimulate their thinking
- Marketing and communications professionals who are trying to influence their leadership to embrace digital transformation
- Small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to find a leadership role in their companies and their larger networks.