Tag Archives: professional development

Who Are You Working For?

September 30, 2011

9 Comments

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?”

Continue reading...

Rest in Peace, Social Media Ninjas

July 14, 2011

23 Comments

Ninja

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Seth W.

Let’s get this straight – a few years ago, you read The Cluetrain Manifesto or Groundswell or one of the other hundred social media books out there, you started reading Mashable, you created a Twitter account, and you developed a bunch of presentations you used internally to help get buy-in from your organization’s senior leadership for your social media ideas. It’s now two or three years later, and you’ve become the organizational “expert,” “guru,” or “subject matter expert” in social media, your social media blog receives a lot of traffic, you’ve championed the use of Enterprise 2.0 tools internally, and you’re managing your organization’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Everything’s going according to plan, right?

Eh….not quite.

Here’s the thing – over the last few years, you’ve probably gotten a few raises, won some awards, maybe you’ve even been promoted one or two times. I hope you’ve enjoyed your rise to the top because I’m here to tell you that the end is near. If you’ve ridden the wave of social media and branded yourself as the social media “guru,” “ninja,” or “specialist,” I hope you’ve got a backup plan in place because what once set you apart from the crowd now just lumps you right in there with millions of other people with the same skills, the same experience, and the same knowledge. A few years ago, you were innovative. You were cutting-edge. You were forward-thinking. You were one of a few pioneers in a new way of thinking about communicating. Just a few short years later, and you’re now normal. You’re just doing what’s expected. You’re one of many. Social media specialists are the new normal. Oh, you were the Social Media Director for a political campaign? Congratulations – so were the other 30 people who interviewed for this position. What else have you done? What other skills do you have? People with social media skills and experience on their resume aren’t hard to find anymore. It’s those people who don’t anything about social media who stand out now.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be the end.  Instead trying to be a social media ninja, try being a communications specialist. Try being a knowledge management professional. Try being a recruiter. Try being an information technology professional. Because guess what – THAT’S what you are doing. Instead of talking about how you have thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans, talk about what those fans have helped you accomplish. Instead of talking about the number of blog subscribers you have, talk about how much revenue that blog helped generate for your organization. Instead of talking about the number of members of your Yammer network, talk about how that community has positively impacted your organization’s workforce. Start talking about social media for what it is – a set of tools that people with real professions use to do their jobs. Don’t try to be an expert at using a hammer. Try to be the master builder who can use the hammer, the saw, and the screwdriver to build a house.

When everyone’s a specialist, no one’s a specialist. What makes you stand out now?

Continue reading...

The Two Things You Need to be Successful When Using Social Media

May 13, 2011

5 Comments

People ask me how all the time, “what’s the best way to use social media successfully?” I’m going to tell them (and you) a little secret – you need to have two things, and they won’t cost you a thing.

No, I’m not going to tell you that you have to create a Facebook fan page or that you just totally have to use WordPress for your blog. I’m not saying that you need to get celebrities and other “influentials” to retweet you or to hire some social media gurus to get you thousands of fans. No, the two things you need to be successful in using social media are inexpensive and available to everyone, yet are very difficult to attain: loads of self-confidence and extreme self-awareness.

big finish

Are you confident in your abilities? Are are acutely aware of your strengths and weaknesses? You better be!

Seems pretty simple right? Be confident. Know your strengths and weaknesses. OK, that’s do-able. No expensive training to take, no conferences to attend, no certifications to go and get, no books to read – what’s so difficult about this again?

Well, here’s the thing – a lot of people SAY they have self-confidence and that they’re pretty self-aware, but you’re probably not one of them. Oh, you might be totally sure of yourself when you’re talking to the people in your office but what about when your audience isn’t your Luddite boss, but a conference room full of other social media “experts?” Hearing negative feedback from your boss is one thing, hearing “you suck!” from another blogger is another.

Self-confidence and self-awareness can’t be achieved just by reading, attending conferences, or subscribing to blogs – it actually takes some honest introspection and humility. For example, are you confident and self-aware enough to handle these situations?

  • You might be used to seeing your boss mark up that report you’ve been working on, but what are you going to do when hundreds of people pick apart your blog post? Can you listen to that feedback, internalize it, and adapt?
  • At the same time, are you confident enough in your writing and opinions to stand up for what you believe and defend it?
  • Are you comfortable having an argument with someone in front of thousands of people? Can you remain calm, cool, and collected in the face of immaturity and uninformed opinions?
  • What are you going to do when your first 2, 6, 8, or 10 blog posts get a total of 30 visits? Keep plugging away? Adapt your writing style? Quit?
  • It’s easy to be confident when you’re the expert in the room, but what happens when you’re in a room full of other social media experts? Are you confident enough in what you know and aware of what you don’t know to have actual conversations with the authors of the books and blogs you’ve been reading?
  • Remember that the brand on your business card may give you some instant credibility when you first start out, but are you ready to deal with both the good and the bad? What are you going to do when people start attacking you on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter because they have an issue not with you personally, but with your company?
  • I know your officemates loved that blog post you wrote on your intranet a few weeks ago, but you and I both know you just paraphrased a chapter out of Chris Brogan’s latest book and called it a blog post. Are you comfortable enough in your own skin to attribute that or would you let your colleagues think you’re the “thought leader” behind it?
  • Are you comfortable asking for help or do you view it as a sign of weakness?
  • You’ll meet people much much smarter than you, people with more experience than you. Are you humble enough to admit that and learn from them?
  • You’ll be wrong…a lot…and everyone will know it. How do you feel about that?
  • Do you have visions of being the next social media A-lister? If you do, tell me what you absolutely suck at. Is it video blogging? Is it recording podcasts? Is it editing your own posts? Managing your time? Regularly commenting on other people’s blogs? What areas of social media do you struggle with and why? If you can’t easily answer this question, go back to the top and start over. You’re not awesome at everything, trust me.

The answers to these questions can’t be found in a book or blog post. Even the so-called experts’ advice for how to deal with these situations will be all over the map.  The answers will be different for everyone, depending on their own strengths and weaknesses, and that’s kind of the point. Are you confident in what you know? Are you willing to admit what you don’t? Until you’re able to develop that self-confidence and self-awareness, you’ll always find yourself struggling with how to best use social media.

Continue reading...

Activating Your Social Media Second Team

November 8, 2010

2 Comments

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.

Continue reading...