Ze Frank and I were having dinner a several months ago at a fantastic Thai “hole in the wall” in New York. The conversation turned to a subject we think about a lot, albeit coming from different perspectives. We started talking about how conversations and ongoing touchpoints really make the difference – when actions build upon each other, it can be incredibly impactful. We decided to call this the “participation chain.”
People aren’t born into leadership positions. We usually start in the trenches, as the doers. The bricklayers. The people touching all the parts, from the inside out. We earn the right to lead the projects and the vision by doing the work itself, and doing it well. But therein usually lies the rub.
Because the hardest part of learning to lead well is letting go of the execution, the very thing that earned us our spot at the head of the team, and entrusting others with the building and construction.
The old saying of “if you want something done right, do it yourself” just doesn’t play at scale. That’s not how great ideas come to fruition, and it’s not how great businesses are built.
As I’ve learned to lead rather than do (and that’s a constant process), a few key concepts have helped me a great deal to stay on track, and perhaps they’ll help you too, or someone you know emerging into a leadership role.
* Build consensus around shared goals and direction.
* Present the what – the shared vision or goals – but not necessarily the how.
* Communicate expectations clearly and often.
* Avoid dictating the plans yourself, but rather help refine the roadmaps that others have built and presented.
* Champion and enable others’ ideas instead of always handing others ideas to execute.
* Allow your teams sometimes to fail in their search for the approach that works, and to help them find the lessons in those failures.
* Protect nascent ideas and allow them time to incubate without immediate interference from bureaucracy and naysayers.
* Encourage respectful discourse and sharing of opinions and viewpoints, including opposing ones.
* Recognize success openly, sincerely, and often.
* Provide context, history, and organizational intelligence to empower your teams with information upon which to build their plans.
* Look past today’s projects to envision what tomorrow might look like and how you can guide toward it.
* Present alternative views or looks at stubborn problems.
* Consistently evaluate team dynamics and capabilities, and make the tough people decisions to ensure you’ve got the right people in the right roles.
* Provide direct lines of communication with each team member, and be available.
* Keep confidences, period.
* Hire capable, smart people, and be willing to get out of their way.
* Be responsible and accountable for your decisions and their results, and avoid scapegoating and blame.
* Share the credit, and the spotlight.
Learning to be a leader can be challenging when you’ve built a career on doing the work. Old habits die hard. It’s sometimes hard to believe that anyone can do what you do and do it as well, or better. But if you’ve got designs on building something bigger than you, you’re going to need to build and empower a team around you. It’s just not possible to do it alone.
So what would you add to my list? How would you help new and emerging leaders get comfortable with their roles? I’m looking forward to your comments. Fire away.
When it comes to communication that is critical to the future, it’s easy to let the negatives we know (and probably understand very well) completely determine the framework of an important message.
Case in point — when discussing dating with my teenage daughter, it’s difficult for me not to speak completely out of personal experience, framing the message in the context of the “devil” I know – ”I know exactly what boys are up to because I was one!” Few would dispute that my perspective is rooted in fact; there is no shortage of data points to support the message. But the problem (apart from the fact that my target audience has no interest in hearing this message) is that this one-dimensional message does little to help my daughter develop a perspective that helps her move into the future.
What does this have to do with our communication as leaders? Simply this: without exception, when communication is couched and “toned” only by data points of the past — or for that matter, the present — it will lack dimension, skew perspective, and seed a faulty response.
Absent a perspective that allows for (and prompts) vision, the communication of leaders runs the risk of doing little more than contributing to the current noise of the marketplace. If the data is less than stellar (consider recent communication concerning the U.S. economic strains), the chances are great that the devils we know have far too much influence on the message — even when the message is future-looking.
Consider this: had the framework for Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or poetic Second Inaugural referenced only the reality of the moment, his speeches would simply have decried the nation’s condition, and mourned those yet to die. Instead, Lincoln used the past only to raise a new vision.
Had Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the throng speaking only out of experience, the “I have a dream” refrain would never have passed his lips.
And in the wake of the USSR having won the race to orbit the earth, JFK dared to stir the US with an unthinkable vision — to put a man on the moon.
What Lincoln, King and Kennedy did was seed a vision. Some might suggest that known data points and vision represent opposite perspectives — that the former is grounded in fact and the latter is right-side-of-the-brain creativity at its best . . . spin at worst. Yet, modern history’s pivotal moments are often marked by the communication of a leader who, unprepared for the past to define the future, was able to articulate a new view of the horizon.
Pivotal moments — whether in commerce, social enterprise or political endeavors – come when leaders understand that most of us are ready to be done with the devils we have known. We simply need someone to help us with the vision of what might be.
Have a Vision? Lead on.
We’ve been helping our corporate clients with social media or online social network strategies, uses and policies of late and as I have been reading through the volume of information, I thought I’d post and share the “best of the best” that I’ve found thus far (I would say Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood if we had to equate these corporate studs to cinema action heros). Jumping into social media if you are a business is intimidating and risky to say the least.
The chief purpose in communication is to be read. Whether it’s emails, texts, tweets, blog posts, letters, memos, or proposals—we want people to read what we’ve written. Good writing is clear, readable, and audience appropriate. It attracts the reader to the message. On several occasions, I have read a book review in the Wall Street Journal and within the hour left my house and bought the book—Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss was one of them. That’s effective book review writing.
Is there a difference between being a leader and being a manager? The answer to this question is – yes- indeed there is clearly a difference. A friend of mine once said, “you show me someone who can get a group of unpaid volunteers to work together and accomplish something great- there you will find a leader.” Let’s take a closer look at both management and leadership.
The vast majority of business people out there still don’t understand what’s really going on here yet, they think Twitter and social media are just some new advertising flash in the pan that will just come and go in a New York minute.
I don’t care about social media gurus or experts or mavens or whatever. That whole thing is going to settle itself out eventually, when the good work starts getting more concrete, and the people actually doing the work continue demonstrating and illustrating their learnings and results.
What concerns me far more than some nerd slinging his Facebook skillz around the fishbowl is the fact that in so many disciplines – social media included – we’ve got legions of people out there that are missing fundamental business acumen.
Newest member of The Social CMO group is Glen Gilmore the @TrendTracker and he shares with us 4 Reasons For Brands to Tweet.
1. Twitter is knocking out the competition.
While Twitter is still more than a bit confounding to those not tweeting, its exponential growth is knocking out the competition in the world of messaging. What was previously viewed as a fad for the techie fringe, is now the darling to daytime talk shows, sports figures, newscasters, and nearly anyone hoping to have their message heard.
More importantly, moms and dads are tweeting, teachers are tweeting, and a whole lot of other mainstream people are in the process of signing up to enter the conversation.
The question of “What are you are you having for lunch?” has been replaced by, “Where are you going for lunch?” “What specials are they offering the Twitterverse?” Ditto for computers, shoes, vacations, and much, much more.
2. Twitter creates the opportunity for brands to find and connect with new customers.
A great example of this is United Airline’s (@UnitedAirlines) Twitter campaign offering special incentives to the first 10,000 twitterers who follow their account. @TrendTracker was one twitterer who took the bait. The result? To participate in the special offer, one had to have or open a frequent flyer account with United….And @TrendTracker did just that then. So Twitter can not only provide a forum for creating new connections to potential new customers, but it can even create the buzz to make it happen.
Want another example? Visit one of the many Dell computer Twitter accounts, such as @DellHomeOffers, to discover how they sold $3 million of additional wares thanks to their Twitter presence.
3. Twitter creates a critical listening post and damage-response base that brands ignore at their own peril.
You live and learn. Without belaboring it, one of the most glaring examples of the dangers of ignoring the Twitterverse was the failure of Domino’s Pizza to quickly pick up on and respond to the buzz in the Twitterverse of a terrible brand attack by a couple despicable, now former, employees. Domino’s ultimately succeeded in putting out the firestorm, but it would have had a better response if it had been listening to the social media buzz and sharing a home within the social media community. It is now doing both and doing both well. (Visit @dpzinfo)
4. Twitter is a community that shares.
Twitter is a community that shares — just about everything and at lightening speeds. This can be good or bad: good if you’re listening, have established credibility, and earned a tribe; bad if you are ignorning what is being said, have no presence and no tribe that will share your message when you need it most.
Brands that understand Twitter, get to be treated like an equal member of the community: they’ll get important tips, they’ll get to share their own message (yes, even when it’s commercial in nature!), and they’ll develop relationships that someone, somewhere will be able to quantify as an important return on the investment of listening and sharing in this incredible forum.
And if they listen and share in somewhat equal portions, there is no doubt that they will discover that their brand has gotten just a little bit better than the one they brought to the conversation….
For more thoughts on Social Media, follow @TrendTracker on Twitter.
When I was a boyscout I learned how to best set and build a fire. First you needed the right place, then some kindling, small wood and finally to lay on the logs. Then comes the most important element required to bring a roaring fire to life and that is when you strike the match or scratch out a spark.
Over the last several weeks we have been learning to build a new kind of fire by combining people, ideas, technology and community to build something called The Social CMO. This upstart social media fire began with the construction and linking of two simple WordPress blogs in combination with the @TheSocialCMO Twitter account.
The kindling for this fire was collected imperceptibly through participation in a growing network of likeminded tweeters, great people like Amy @HowellMarketing, @TedRubin, @KentHuffman and @EricFletcher to begin with. And of course every team needs some cheerleaders and one of our most fervent from the start has been Cheryl Burgess @ckburgess!
The small glow already emanating from this modest group led us to believe that something more was happening here but clearly some really large logs were now needed. However, it turned out that not elongated chunks of wood, but social media and community pros @Ambercadabra, @TreyPennington and @TrendTracker Glen Gilmore were all that was required to fuel the spontaneous combustion that is now taking place.
It took man thousands of years to fully understand and harness the power of fire to form tools and sharpen weapons, melt sand into glass and launch ourselves into space. But there seems little doubt this new fire will have the strength to not only improve us all as individuals, but also to create and deliver grand new discoveries through this collective entity The Social CMO.