Tag Archives: leadership

Who Are You Working For?

September 30, 2011

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What are you working on right now? Can you explain exactly why you’re working on it?

Do you know why you’re spending time writing that blog post? Sitting in that meeting? Answering that email? Preparing that presentation? Do you have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you have a strategy for what you’re working on?

Who are you working for right now? Your boss? Your company? Your family? Yourself? Do you even know?

Over the last six months or so, I’ve found myself asking this question of myself more and more. Four years ago when I first started our Digital Strategy and Social Media practice here, I had a seemingly unlimited amount of time – I had no problem with putting in a 9-5 day followed by a 5-9 night. I could do everything my boss asked of me as well as everything that I wanted to do. I could start this blog even though my boss at the time didn’t see the value in it. I could go out and spend my evenings attending Gov 2.0 and social media events even though no one was telling me to. I could work on a proposal throughout the weekend. I could create presentations and accept speaking gigs because I felt it was important to do.

One of these will make you shift your priorities!

But things change. Since then, I’ve had my first daughter (Hi Annabelle!), social media has become more and more integrated into our business, and some of my most talented team members have been promoted into positions with more responsibilities. We now have experts at using social media behind the firewall, social media and healthsocial media and design, social media and privacy, social media and the DoD, social media and emergency communications, and so on and so on.  Each of these individuals has become the “go-to” person for questions and needs in each of their respective areas. While that’s great for them and for the organization as a whole, it has also limited the amount of time they can dedicate to the things that I want us to accomplish as a group. They have to respond to their project managers, to their husbands and wives, to their teams and to me. There just isn’t as much time to go around to do all of the things that we want to do.

As these changes have taken place, I’ve found myself doing less of the work that I’ve wanted to do:

  • Blogging
  • Tweeting
  • Attending Gov 2.0 happy hours
  • Speaking at external events

And doing more of the things that my managers and my company want me to do:

  • Meeting with senior leaders throughout the firm to discuss strategy
  • Reviewing our various project team’s social media efforts and ensuring quality control
  • Participating in client meetings
  • Writing performance assessments

And of course, doing more of the things that my family wants me to do:

  • Turning off my computer until the kidlet goes to bed
  • Spending more time on the weekends with my wife and daughter
  • Making more trips to visit family and friends

As your career and your life evolve, your priorities and work have to change with it. It took me a while to really understand and accept this – I just can’t do everything that my boss, my family, and I want to do anymore. There’s just not enough time in the day to do it all. That’s why before I  sit through that fourth conference call of the day or drive downtown for that event, I’ll ask myself, “who I am working for right now?”

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Mr. Popularity and Your Enterprise 2.0 Community

August 22, 2011

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Let’s do an experiment. Take five minutes and do a quick search of your organization’s blogs, microblogs, wikis, and forums that are available behind your firewall – and then let me know what the most popular topics are. Do they involve “social media,” “Web 2.0,” “new media,” “mobile,” “enterprise 2.0,” or “collaboration?”

Now, take a look at who is posting and commenting on these topics. Are these the same people who also have the most overall comments, posts, edits, and connections? If so, Mr. Popularity may be taking over your community and the worst part of it all? He may actually think he’s helping you.

Starting and maintaining a vibrant online community behind an organizational firewall is already fraught with challenges – integrating it into the workflow, securing funding, scaling across the organization, developing policies and guidelines, creating rewards structures, identifying active champions – and now I’m here to tell you that those very active champions who are so critical to the early growth of your community may also be the cause of its downfall.

You see, while these active champions are responsible for seeding a majority of the content, answering questions, posting content, editing pages, and creating topics, they can also skew the content to suit their own agenda and create a chilling effect on opposing viewpoints and topics. This makes your communities far more social media and technology-oriented than your organization really is. In the early days of your online community, this may be of little concern to you – content is being created, new members are joining, and discussions are happening. This creates a vibrant community for those employees interested in social media and technology, but unfortunately, further dissuades those interested in other topics from joining. Mr. Popularity, once an ally, now becomes a challenge to be overcome.

I’ve actually experienced the pros and the cons of being Mr. Popularity on our  own hello.bah.com community a few years ago. I was one of the first community managers and was a very visible and active champion for the platform. I became known as the guy who could get conversations started, who could help increase traffic to a post, and who would be willing to give an opinion when no one else would. Our internal communications staff was even pitching me to get me to share official corporate messages because I had built up a decent sized following on my blog. This worked out great in the beginning – I was able to help drive some additional traffic to the platform, increase user adoption, and create a ton of new content that was shared across the firm. The double-edged sword of being Mr. Popularity hit me right in the face though when I got the following email (excerpted below):

“When I ducked into our VP’s blog, I noted you had already jumped in with what appears to be a standard, or getting there, pat on the back and tutorial…  Are you becoming too intrusive beyond cheerleading?  The speed at which you’ve already entered the room is giving me the thought that you are becoming Master Control from the movie Tron. I can’t recall reading anyone’s blog that I can’t remember seeing you there in the first couple of replies.  You write extensive replies very quickly that to me verge on being somewhat inhibiting for others, like me, to weigh in so as to not repeat a point.”

Wow! And here I thought I was being helpful! I thought by commenting on everything I could get to, I could help build and reinforce the collaborative culture we were trying to create. And at first, that’s exactly what I was doing. Little did I know that as the community grew beyond the early adopters, my hyper-activity that was a boon at the start was now becoming a detriment. Instead of a community manager, was I becoming a community bully?

To find out if your Mr. Popularity is negatively impacting your community, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does Mr. Popularity know that he/she is having a negative impact? These active champions probably don’t even know that they’re causing harm. Quite the contrary – they probably believe that they’re helping. Like the email I received above, reach out to them and have a discussion with them about their contributions and show them areas where instead of helping create conversation, they may have inadvertently stopped it.
  2. Who are your most active contributors beyond social media and technology? The best way to lessen the influence of Mr. Popularity is to identify people in other business areas who are willing and able to post and discuss content areas like HR, Legal, and Operations.
  3. What is your role in the community? Do a bit of self-reflection – maybe you are Mr. Popularity. Talk to your colleagues and find out what they really think of your online presence. Do you come across as overbearing? Too focused on one topic? Closed off to other opinions? Publicly, you may be receiving all kinds of positive reinforcement. But what are people saying among themselves that they aren’t sharing publicly?
  4. What other possible reasons exist for the gluttony of social media/tech-related topics? Are community members discouraged from discussing operations? Has the Director of HR banned his staff from participating? Having a few individuals who are hyper-active on your online community and skewing the conversations toward their interests is like having two good quarterbacks and not being able to decide which one to start. It’s usually a good problem to have, and despite some of the challenges identified in this post, they are still likely helping more than they’re hurting your community.

Mr. Popularity isn’t necessarily a detriment to your community. Quite the contrary – they’re likely some of your most valuable members. But, left unchecked, they do have the potential to take over the community – its members, its content, and its discussion. The key is in channeling their energy and enthusiasm and focus it on helping grow the community as a whole, to include topics other than social media and technology.

*This post originally appeared on my AIIM Enterprise 2.0 Community blog.

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The “New Media Director” Position is Just a Means to an End

November 24, 2010

14 Comments

We've got a long way to go...

In 2010, the position of “New Media Director” within the government has become almost commonplace. From governors to senators to Departments and Agencies, now you can attend a GovUp and leave with more than a dozen business cards, all containing the title of New Media Director. Some may herald this as a sign that yes, the government finally “gets it!”  Some may even look at a role like this as the pinnacle for a social media professional in the DC area.

The role sure sounds enticing to anyone working in the social media community (the below represents a composite job description that you might see):

Job Title: New Media Director
Department:
Department of Take Your Pick
Grade:
GS-14 or GS-15
Salary Range:
$100,000+
Job Summary:
Oversee the development and implementation of a new media strategy;  respond to public information inquires via new media outlets; serve as an agency liaison for new media relations; electronically manage the marketing of agency press releases; responds to various important agency and departmental priorities and events; coordinate video and audio production of content and upload to Agency web sites; develop and implement a process for creating and posting content to multiple Agency websites.

Unfortunately, as many of the people with this title have discovered this year, there are some not so minor details that aren’t talked about as often. Let’s read between the lines of the job description –

Job Summary: Oversee the development and implementation of a new media strategy (by yourself, with no staff or budget);  respond to public information inquires via new media outlets (but make sure every tweet gets approved by public affairs first); serve as an agency liaison for new media efforts across the Agency (create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for people); electronically manage the marketing of agency press releases (make our stuff go viral!); respond to various important agency and departmental priorities and events (get media coverage for our events); coordinate video and audio production of content and upload to Agency web sites (get us on YouTube and create viral videos, but make sure they’re approved by General Counsel and Public Affairs); develop and implement a policy and a process for creating and posting content to multiple Agency websites (but without any actual authority- just get buy-in from all of the public affairs officers – I’m sure they’ll be happy to adhere to your new policy).

Sounds a little less glamorous now, right?

Here’s the problem.  As Gov 2.0 and Open Government became buzzwords within government, more and more senior leaders decided that they needed to have someone in charge of that “stuff.”  Thus, the “New Media Director” was born.  Despite their best intentions, this role has too often become a position that not many people understand, with no budget, no authority, and no real support beyond the front office.  Unfortunately, by creating this separate “New Media Director” position, these agencies have undermined their own public affairs, IT security, privacy, and human resources efforts. The “New Media Director” position has allowed social media to become this separate, compartmentalized thing. Rather than public affairs officers learning about how to use social media because they it’s just part of what they do, they can say, “well, that’s not in my lane.”  Instead of HR learning how to handle employee use of social media, they can say, “well, the New Media Director is handling that Tweeter stuff.”  The law of unintended consequences has struck again.

As these New Media Directors have found out, social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum – there isn’t one person or team that can own it. The position of New Media Director then is just a means to an end. It’s just a phase. No, the end state shouldn’t be when every Agency has a New Media Director, but when every Agency has Communications Directors, Directors of Human Resources, Chief Information Officers, Office of General Counsel who are all knowledgeable about social media and its impact on their specific area of expertise. Teaching a New Media Director how to get the UnderSecretary’s buy-in for some social media effort is just a stepping stone. The real change will come when that New Media Director IS the UnderSecretary.

We should stop aspiring to become New Media Directors where we have to fight for leadership buy-in, and instead aspire to become the leaders ourselves. Otherwise, we risk marginalizing the very movement we’re trying to create.

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Activating Your Social Media Second Team

November 8, 2010

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Who gives that big social media presentation if you can’t make it? If you get pulled into another big project and can’t take on that client meeting, who do you send in your place? If you’re on vacation, who picks up where you left off? Who do you rely on to help you implement your initiatives?

These are questions that every executive should already have answers to as most organizations are already set up this way. You rise up through the ranks, you gradually accumulate more and more staff, funding, and authority, and are given management training. However, most of my readers aren’t in these sorts of positions – they’re more than likely serving in a different role where they’re given a similarly broad set of responsibilities, albeit limited funding, no staff, and even less authority. Welcome to the world of Community Managers, New Media Directors, Chief Community Officers, and Chief Social Media Strategists.

And for these people, answers to these questions are a little less clear, but even more important. That’s because the people who have ascended into these sorts of roles are often the people who have started the social media efforts. They’re the ones who have put their butts on the line to even justify the creation of a position like this. However, while they may have finally broken through and are now able to focus 100% of their time on their organization’s social media efforts, they generally haven’t been given the same level of support (in $$ or staff) as people with similar leadership positions.  That’s why these people MUST learn how to identify, develop, and empower their second team.

What’s a “second team” you ask? I was surprised that I didn’t find many references to it online – it seems that it’s a term that was use primarily here at Booz Allen. So I’ll just give you my definition based on how we use it here.

Second Teama group of individuals, formally or informally organized, who are mentored and coached by a leader and who work together to further a shared vision and goals.

Others may define it differently, but what it boils down to is this – who are the people whom you trust and depend on to do the work that you do and do it just as well, if not better, than you do?  When someone asks for your help and you can’t help, for whatever reason, who’s the person you feel 100% confident recommending instead?  These people, regardless of where they fall on the org chart, are your second team.

I rely on my second team to handle everything from developing and delivering briefings to ensuring quality client delivery across our entire social media portfolio, and I can honestly say that without them, my company’s social media efforts never would have scaled beyond what one person could do during a fraction of their day. It’s because of this second team that our social media efforts have scaled across the organization while still allowing me to take time off, have a baby, and do a better job of balancing my work and personal lives. And this second team wasn’t created on an org chart or via an email from the boss – it was created through good old-fashioned respect, cooperation, shared goals, and passion.

So how can you identify, develop, and empower your second team? Here are five helpful tactics that I’ve used:

  1. Diversify your people – your second team doesn’t have to be people under you on the org chart. They just have to be the people whom you trust and who believe in what you’re trying to do. They should also fill in your weaknesses with their strengths. That’s why I love working with Jacque Myers – she’s never afraid to tell me that I’m wrong.
  2. Stick your neck out for them – I want to create a culture of innovation among the people I work with, and for that to work, we need to not be afraid of taking risks. I often tell people to use their best judgment, but don’t worry about asking for approval for everything. If you get into a sticky situation, just direct it to me and I’ll take care of it. People can’t take risks if they fear for their jobs. Remove that fear as much as you can.
  3. Give them enough rope to succeed (or hang themselves) – Give them big picture initiatives and let them figure out the details on their own. Allow them the freedom to make it their own – after all, you don’t really have any sort of hammer to “make” them do it, so you have to rely on stirring their sense of ambition and initiative.
  4. Give them the credit – While I may ultimately end up being the one to actually give the presentation or submit the final product, I also realize that I had to rely on other people to get it to that point. Make sure others realize the role that they played and that without them, you wouldn’t have been able to deliver what you did.
  5. Put them out front – As the primary social media “evangelist” at my organization, I get lots of opportunities to brief very senior members of the firm, to give firm-wide presentations or to work on some very exciting new initiatives. As much fun as these opportunities may be, give some of them away. That presentation next week? See if you can tell the organizers that you can’t make it, but that you’ll be sending one of the top members of your team in your place. Then coach up that person and give them the tools/training/confidence they need to knock it out of the park.

These are just five of the tactics that I’ve used – regardless of which ones you use, remember that the best second teams are created out of leadership, respect, and inspiration, not by org charts and memos.

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