Friday, March 29, 2013

Why Must You Follow?

When I wrote the post, 'Why Must You Lead?', I intuitively knew that I would have to come up with another post on 'why must you follow'. But believe me, convincing people why they must lead is not even half as difficult as trying to make people believe as to why they must follow. So,why not take cues from the picture opposite and start understanding some fundamental facts on 'following'. After all, there's a lot to learn from the birds and the bees! After analyzing the picture, I was able to derive the following learning: -

  1. The followers recognize the leader as one of them. This is the most basic trait exhibited across all moving creatures.
  2. There is an unquestionable faith in the leader, either out of belief or ignorance.
  3. Following breeds 'Collectivism' or 'tribe behavior', which is so intrinsic to life.  
  4. In case the leader fails, it forces open other alternatives hence creating an opportunity for the followers.
  5. Following minimizes the risks associated with leading, but allows you to replicate success.
  6. Following leads to Division of Labor - it removes may tasks from the 'to do list' that can be done by the 'nominated leader'.
  7. As leaders in waiting (see the bird immediately behind the leader), followers can quickly analyse what went wrong and make improvements, thereby increasing the chances of success.
  8. Following allows to you mentally participate in the process of leading, hence it must be done well in order to become a good leader.
  9. You cannot lead everywhere, as much of it is situational. If it demands that a tall 'fellow' climbs the obstacle, so be it! You simply follow.
  10. Even by simply being there, a follower is contributing to the mass that believes in the leader (look at the lone bird looking the other way). Every leader looks forward to the support of the followers to gain strength from. Would the 'leader bird' in the picture have made the effort it has, if there were none behind him?
Is there a choice?
Apart from leading, the only available choice is following. Of course, there is seemingly another choice too - Status Quo. But is it really? Is there ever a status quo? Even if you do not act, will things stop from happening? Only a person in a delusional state of mind would accept status -quo as an option.

It is not about Following, it is about How Well Can You Follow
'Followership' is an art in itself. If done well, it can create leaders that are more future-ready than the others! Along with the question 'Why Must You Follow', there are related questions on 'Whom Must you Follow' and 'How must you follow' that also need to be answered to get there. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Is free costing you dearly?

This weeks sparkenation.

I am in the process of cleaning up the files on my old computer before transferring to my new one.  I am staggered at the junk I have collected!  Why did I download all this stuff in the first place? Partly it is because as a society we are fixated on free.

I have also been reflecting on the stuff I have made available for free and asking would other people on reflection be saying that my stuff is junk?

The internet and social media are great tools, that's all.  We need to be discerning about what we take notice of and what we put out there otherwise we clutter our lives and become unproductive.

There is nothing of value in being contributors (putting in or taking out) to a massive cyberspace junk yard.

Is free costing you dearly?

I for one am going to be more discerning in the future about what I put into and what I take out of cyberspace.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Why Must You Lead?

We all want to Lead. Be recognized for doing something great that inspires others to follow. Leave behind some kind of a legacy. Create wealth. Add value to our organization. Do something great that changes other's lives. Do we have a choice? Seemingly, yes.

There are so many people out there who are happy being mere spectators and critics, clapping when things go right and cursing when they don't.

 So, what if we don't lead? We end up becoming mere consumers, force-fed with whatever is offered to us. Our minds become more numb, unable to create/innovate, tamed to accept the 'status quo' as fate. Our consciousness  stops looking for a sense of purpose in whatever we do, our hearts cease to beat faster on the verge of success or failure. In short, life stops carrying any meaning and we merely 'exist'. 

So, why lead? We know that each one of us is unique, has been gifted with a unique DNA sequence and a fingerprint - so there is no one exactly like us, in the whole world - isn't that a wonderful thing? So, why did it have to happen this way? Why couldn't have there been more of our identical genetic copies that had exactly the same frame of thoughts and actions? Because, life does not touch any two people in the same manner. Because, when you say L.I.F.E, it means a product of millions of experiences, each of which happened at that one moment not replaceable by another.

But why is Leading a 'must' and not a 'should'?

 Because, to be able to make an impact of any magnitude in your lifetime, you have to undergo the process of identifying your USP, nurturing it, putting it into practice (with your inner circle of people) and finally  repeating the act for a cause larger than yourself, hoping to drive in a change. This, is the act of 'Leading Yourself'.  Leading yourself is the first step to leading others. Without Leading, life will be just status quo - a perennial comfort zone, that would become so boring that it would implode! And by deciding not to lead, you will fritter away any chance of handing over what was possible to be created/accomplished only by you. In other words, it is better to have 'tried to lead' and lost, than not to have led at all!

 Leading comes with its inherent aspects like opportunities, risks, excitement, danger, hope, possibilities, promise, which hold the key to 'Purposeful Living', that it attracts everyone. It is so powerful a phenomenon that even if there is partial or little success, the results get passed on, and from a distance it resembles a mass effort by the whole mankind in taking the civilization forward.

No matter how small and significant your role appears to be in the larger scheme of things, it is still significant, because if you do not do it today, it will take a combination of humans spread across different time zones/eras to fill the gap that could only be filled by you. Because You were the one chosen to be here and now to do what you were born to do.

 So, believe in yourself, and Lead yourself to your place in the sun!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The biggest problem we all need to solve

Albert Einstein made the following observation:
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

In a great book ‘The Philosopher and The Wolf’ Mark Rowlands says:
“Humans are the animals that believe the stories they tell about themselves.”

What stories are you telling yourself about yourself?
And are they moving you forward or holding you back?

Everywhere you look there are warnings about the problems that our thinking, and particularly our attachment to our thoughts, can cause us.

Here are some of my favourites:

“The only thing that keeps us down and keeps us stuck is our thoughts”
John Kehoe

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Steve Jobs

“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.”
Susan Sontag

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”
Henry Ford

“Every faction conditions its members to think and act a certain way. And most people do it. For most people, it's not hard to learn, to find a pattern of thought that works and stay that way. But our minds move in a dozen different directions. We can't be confined to one way of thinking, and that terrifies our leaders. It means we can't be controlled. And it means that no matter what they do, we will always cause trouble for them.”
Veronica Roth

“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. ”
Marianne Williamson

“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”
Byron Katie

"Begin challenging your own assumptions.  Your assumptions are your windows on the world.  Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in."
Alan Alda

"Thinking is what a great many people think they are doing when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."
William James

Here’s the thing.  If you are achieving what you want in your life and work my educated guess is that your intentions, feelings, and thoughts are in alignment and your behaviour matches.

Of course if you are not achieving what you really want in your life, either your thinking is stopping you and/or your intentions and feelings are out of alignment with your thinking and therefore your actions are betraying you.

Wherever the status quo no longer serves you, it’s time to change what’s normal.  Changing your thinking is a great place to start.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."

To solve all your problems in your life and work, to overcome your challenges, first change or modify how you think about them and then make sure your intentions and emotions are in alignment, then take action in sync with your intentions, feelings, and thinking.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.”
Lao Tzu

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stress Less With Social Media: 5 Surprisingly Simple Tactics

WomenInGrass16995302You know social media is an important part of your marketing strategy. But it might seem that the only way to succeed is to spend hours on it every day - or pay somebody else to do that for you. Fortunately, that doesn't have to be the case. Here are five surprisingly simple things you can do to enhance your social media presence, while spending less time on it - for less effort and less stress.

The key is to start treating social media differently: Use it as a content tool, not a conversation tool. In other words, use it to distribute your expertise and knowledge to people who want it, rather than an informal channel for chat and conversation. I admit this is very different from the way most people use social media, but it allows you to stand out from the crowd and be seen as a leader in your social media circles.

So here are five things you can do to use social media in this way.

1. Consume lots of content.

You should already be on the path of constant learning and improvement in your business - just because you need to do it in a fast-paced world. So be sure you are consuming high-quality, relevant, appropriate content for your business. You can do this by subscribing to blogs and e-mail newsletters, setting up Google Alerts for important topic areas, watching videos and slide shows, listening to podcasts, and so on.

You do need to be selective, of course, so you don't suffer from information overload. But you do need to be constantly learning for your own business first, before you start sharing it with your social media circles.

2. Share content with your networks.

Some of the content you receive is worth sharing with your network. So share it!

You can do this by posting links to all the social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Simply post a short message with the title of the content (article, blog post, video, whatever) and a link to it for readers to find out more.

Don't worry that you're sending people to other people's Web sites. The goal here is not to increase traffic to your site; it's to demonstrate your expertise as a source of high-quality material. That builds your reputation, and the traffic will follow later.

3. Add value with your comments.

Whenever you comment on something - whether it's a blog post, Facebook picture, or tweet - make sure you're adding value to the conversation. You can make purely personal comments from time to time (on Facebook, in particular), but aim to make most of your comments useful and educational.

4. Publish more to your blog.

Every blog post you write doesn't have to be a well-consider 500-word article. It's appropriate - and in fact, very useful - to publish shorter blog posts that comment on other people's material.

For example, you could link to a relevant news story, embed a YouTube video, embed a Slideshare presentation, or share an infographic somebody else has created. In each case, add a paragraph or two explaining why you're sharing this, so your networks understand how it's relevant for them.

5. Auto-post to your social media networks.

Connect your blog to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, so that every blog post gets posted automatically to those networks as well. Ask your webmaster how to do this, or use the free Twitterfeed service.

Auto-posting is a slightly controversial topic, with some experts recommending you never do it, because it doesn't allow for free-flowing conversations. But remember, our aim is to focus on content, not conversations!

How much of this can you do?

Some of the ideas above might sound a bit daunting. But if you try putting them into practice, you'll find them easy and quick - especially because you no longer have to spend hours every day on social media conversations!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WANTED. Leaders with heart

I am looking for leaders who want to value their employees more, help their employees lead more fulfilling lives, love their employees like family.


In my work with leaders in 40 countries since 1991 the above three are the standout pathways to unleashing the unique talents/gifts that are lying dormant in most people.

The results of this unleashing

Higher levels of productivity and engagement from employees, higher sales, lower costs and lower employee turnover, and more time for you to pursue what really matters to you.

People are referred to as assets, resources, and even capital. We are none of these things. We are flesh and blood beings with needs, wants, fears, and aspirations.

When we are respected and treated as the one-of-a-kind that each of us is, we respond with remarkable performance.

By guaranteeing your employees feel valued, fulfilled, and loved, in the process you will overcome 6 challenges

1. Are the majority of your employees bringing their best to their work on a consistent basis?

2. Do most of your people excel at having conversations about performance when there is difficulty, conflict or disagreement?

3. Are most of your employees wise investors in time?

4. Do all of your employees know their unique gifts/talents and are they enhancing them in their work?

5. Is your performance management system leading to definitive and easily measurable performance improvement?

6. Do the majority of your employees know your strategy for growth and particularly do they own their unique piece of your execution map?

If you answered no to parts or all of the above then Enhancing Their Gifts System (ETGS) is for you.

3 ways I can help you to unleash your employees

1) The heart-stirring, mind-shifting, game-changing one day Enhancing Their Gifts program

In this highly interactive and practical program (only available to 40 organisations a year) I teach you and up to 5 of your people my Enhancing Their Gifts System™ - the simple framework that profoundly unleashes employee talent.

The most important thing about this day is not my teaching, rather what you hear yourself say to yourself and then what you do that changes what’s normal.

This day ends with you having a 63 day licence to implement and embed ETGS with a pilot group and therefore prove for yourself the value of the system meaning you can make an informed decision about purchasing a full licence for you organisation. Your 63 day licence includes support from an accredited mentor.  
Find out more here.

2) Presentation packages that help you to overcome the challenges that keep you awake at night.
Find out more here.

3) No BS mentoring. You just might be staggered how far this can take you.
Find out more here.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

ROI, as in return on investment. is an outcome, an end

Return on investment (ROI) is being is discussed in the executive suites of organisations more than ever before.  And a number of CEO’s of major companies have received their marching orders recently because ROI failed to meet expectations of the board and shareholders.

ROI, as in return on investment. is an outcome, an end.

Focusing on outcomes such as profit and return to shareholders is short term thinking mostly and usually leads to less than possible results.

A few years ago I was privileged to hear Kevin Roberts, the world-wide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, and one of my heroes in terms of a real leader, speak about ROI.  Kevin spoke about return on involvement!

How involved are your employees in where you’re going?
What kind of investment are you making in your employees?

To get a return you must first make an investment.  And investing your time, energy, and money in your employees is the greatest investment you need to make.

Many years ago I emceed a function where the famous baker Tom O’Toole was the speaker.  During the Q & A Tom was asked “What if I make all this investment in my people and they leave?”  Tom replied: "What if you don’t and they stay!”

Inspiration and influence really matter because they lead to involvement.

I define leadership as the art of inspiring people to bring everything remarkable that they are (that one-of-a-kind each of us is) to everything they do.  Such inspiration influences people.

Warning: Leadership usually fails without management which I define as the practice of making it simple for people to bring everything remarkable that they are to everything they do.

Leadership is about inspiration and influence.  Management is about systems and processes.  Both are an essential investment you must make.

Long before the end, there is a beginning and a middle.

I hear politicians and business leaders talk all the time about the end results as though they matter above all else.  They don’t.  What really matters is the journey we take together that leads to win/win/win/win/win i.e. a win for individuals, families, communities as much as organisations and countries.

If you want to achieve possibility in your life and work focus on the journey and involving all your stakeholders, particularly your employees.  Return on investment will take care of itself assuming your diligence, care, financial wisdom and ability and willingness to be aiming for long term sustainability rather than quick fixes to satisfy the few people who are, rightly, at the end of the food chain.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Please consider an investment in my Enhancing Their Gifts System.  For as little as $1320 you can inspire, influence and involve your employees to bring everything remarkable that they are to everything they do.  Imagine the difference.  Details here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Digging into culture at work

A healthy culture is the starting point for any successful organisation just as good soil is essential for a successful garden. If you have ever worked in an organisation with an unhealthy culture you will understand the impact culture can have on performance. As a leader, digging into your culture can be a very revealing exercise that you should do on a regular basis if you want to keep your organisation healthy.

So what makes up culture, how do cultures vary and what can you do to improve them?

What makes up a culture
Organisational culture is a complex mixture of elements, not unlike the complex mixture of elements that make up soil in the garden. You need to get all of them in balance or you won’t get the result you want. These 5 layers of organisational culture are:

Organic layer
This represents what people see, the outcome of your culture. Are your visible results the equivalent of productive plants or are they more like annoying weeds?

Top soil
What people do to demonstrate your values including how they act towards each other and respond to situations. It also represents the practices that get rewarded.

Sub soil
What staff, clients and suppliers say about the organisation, almost like the subtext of the organisation. It is also what the organisation says about itself in the form of written policies and procedures that express its values.

Parent material
How you want people to think. The mindset you want your people to have based on your values. This will inform what they deem important and where they channel their efforts.

How you want people to feel about the organisation. In other words, the values you want them to live by that support everything you do.

Think for a moment about your organisation. Can you identify how people feel and think, what they say and do and the results you see from this? If you want to get more insight into how your people view your culture, here is an interesting activity that is bound to open your eyes.

Ask people to give a few words that describe your culture in the past (say, 2 to 5 years ago), in the present and what they would like it to look like in the future (say, 2 to 5 years from now). This exercise can highlight the areas where work is required.

How cultures vary
Different climatic conditions mean that certain types of soil are required for each region in the same way that certain cultures are required in specific industries. The problem becomes when you impose the wrong culture on an industry and then wonder why it fails to perform. The classic example is when a government department tries to compete with the private sector but still has a public service culture.  Perhaps three of the most influential factors are:

Are you in an industry that is on the slow and steady end of the continuum or do you belong at the other end due to the fast moving and constantly changing nature of what you do?

Does the word conservative best describe your industry or would people say you are more in the innovative category?

Is yours a highly regulated industry that must operate within rigid guidelines or do you have the ability to be more flexible in what you do?

Improving the quality of your culture
Changing an organisation’s culture can be a slow process but with the right formula you can do it. If you want to see your organisation flourish then follow these three steps.

Clear out
Start by clearing out any ineffective policies, procedures and people that are reducing the quality of your culture. If you aren’t sure what they might be, ask your staff – they will know!

Own up
Now it’s time to address any past issues, errors or concerns that have contributed to the poor quality culture. Be honest with people about decisions that were made and their impact on the workplace. Analyse what happened, why it happened and how to prevent it happening again.

Move on
By introducing new people, new ideas and new ways of working that fit your true values. Again, get your people involved in coming up with ideas that will replace your old culture with a new one that is engaging for employees and customers alike.

To learn more take the “How healthy is your workplace culture?” quiz at

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are you doing what you were born to do?

This weeks sparkenation: Are you doing what you were born to do?

“Whoever is born with a talent, or to a talent, must surely find in that the most pleasing of occupations”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Are you doing what you were born to do?

“If a man is called to be a street sweepr, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Are you doing what you were born to do?

More sparkenations here.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Some personal reflections on unleashing employee talent - my short interview with Paul Lange

I was honoured recently to be interviewed by Blue Ocean Strategist Paul Lange about changing what’s normal and the Enhancing Their Gifts System of which Paul is an accredited mentor.

Please grab your favourite beverage before watching the 20 minute video here.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The real currency of the connection economy

Seth Godin and many others are talking a lot today about the connection economy.

Here is an excellent short video from Graeme Codrington about this.

There is also a great article from Graeme’s colleague Keith Coats here.

In this post I explore what I think is the most valuable currency of connection for individuals, relationships, at work, at home, in our tribes, and in our communities from my perspective.

All change is personal first

We have a hunger for human connection from the moment we are born.  For several years most of us do what we think other people want us to.  We behave to please.  The key to being valued by people who really matter in our lives is to be ourselves, that one-of-a-kind each of us is.

Andy Warhol said: "They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them for yourself"

My pathway for personal change is compete with yourself.

Want to change or modify something in your personal life? Change or modify intention first, feelings second, thinking third, and then align behaviour and the outcome you want will take care of itself.

Relationship change follows personal change

There are two keys to relationships of high value and mutual reward; serving and shared-view or common-ground.

Who are you serving?  What value are you delivering?

In a organisational sense your customer is whoever gets your work next.  Are they receiving the value from you that they demand, desire, and feel that they deserve?

In a personal sense we serve others in all kinds of ways.  A key question to ask: Is what you are giving to others exactly what they want?

There are three worlds.  The world in here, that’s my world.  The world out there, that’s your world.  The world that really matters though is the world we share.

In all our relationships we need a shared-view about where we’re going, why we’re going there, how we will get there, and who will do what and when.

My pathway for relationship change is collaboration.

Want to change or modify a relationship in your life?
Change or modify how you make contact with the other person first, how you connect second, how you discover common-ground (shared-view) third.  Then align how you demonstrate commitment to one another.  The relationship modifcation or change you want and the continuity of the relationship will take care of themselves.

You can download a complimentary copy of my Changing What’s Normal book with my compliments by enrolling in the Enhancing Their Gifts System short 3 lesson trial here, or by completing the Doing Your Life’s Work Pulse Check here.

Organisational change follows relationship change

Connection is all about who we are. It's about our true selves meeting other people's true selves.

There is nothing more important than who we all are when it comes to boosting employee performance.

Below are 9 ways to really connect with your employees and as a consequence boost performance

Employee engagement is an outcome of human connection.  We must be engaging before engagement is even remotely possible. 

#1. Only recruit people who live your values or whose personal values are aligned with yours.

#2. Professionally induct people into your culture, the way you do things.  Sometimes called onboarding you are looking to be so engaging with people that they quickly become on board.

#3. Celebrate what's working as well as what's not.  Authenticity, candor, honesty, and openness are the currency of the connection economy.  They lead to trust which is the bedrock of true collaboration.

#4. Help people identify and cultivate their unique gifts/talents. This is your number one role as a leader.  When people are bringing who they truly are to their work on a consistent basis high performance is a natural consequence.

#5. Co-create with people their unique piece of your strategy execution map.  Most strategies fail to get executed because employees, the chief executors of strategy, haven’t yet bought into the strategy or as is more often the case, they don’t yet understand or own their unique piece of the execution map.

#6. Fulfill the promises you made to employees when you employed them and make it simple for your employees to fulfill the promises they have made to you and that are articulated in their unique piece of your strategy execution map.

#7. Co-create a culture with your employees where appreciation and accountability conversations are integral to daily work.

#8. Agree with your employees on what continuous improvement means in the reality of everyday work and never deviate without a shared-view about possible change/s.

#9. Ensure that everything you do and how you do it means your employees have continuous opportunity to enhance their gifts and live happier lives.

I have made it simple for you to enact these 9 in my Enhancing Their Gifts System - the simple framework that profoundly unleashes employee talent.  You can experience the system first hand through a complimentary 3 lesson trial.  Straight away you get to download my Changing What's Normal book. Simply put your details in the boxes here to get started on the trial.

Be a hero in your own home first

There is a lot of talk about life-work balance.  I think most of it is nonsense.  Balance for me suggests equality.  There is nothing equal about personal life and work.  The facts are we spend about a third of our lives at work.  Life-work harmony is possible.  I write about this in sparkenation 26 of my Changing What’s Normal book.  The key is this:  Do the people living with you truly value you and you them?  If your answer is no, fix this first.  An unhappy home life spills over into your working life and vice-versa.

The currency of connection in our tribes and communities

All the talk today is about online and social-media.  Are you being fooled by it?

There is value in online. You’re reading this post!

Who Google says we are is true, yet only to a point.  I see value in online because it can enhance our credibility, visibility and searchability.  Sharing online is a great way to give value in advance of a relationship.  Online significantly enhances our ability to share, stay in touch and connect. 

The truth though is that nothing can replace real human connection.  There is nothing quite like the touch of another human, a look in the eye, in-person conversation, and everything else that we really value about being alive and sharing our lives with others.

Have you spoken to your neighbour lately?  Did you stop and chat with your friend you haven’t seen much recently who you bumped into into in the supermarket, or were you too busy, or on your phone perhaps?

We can tap into anything, anywhere, 24/7.  There are many great advantages to being able to do this.  Is it really what we actually want though?  I don’t think so. 

We all want to be loved, valued, and fulfilled.  Authentic, in person human connection leads to these things more than anything else.

For great insights into real connection please watch this video by Amanda Palmer.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

One team Enhancing Their Gifts System licence available for just $1320.  Find out more here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Take a Chance on Social Media Leadership

Rupert Murdoch recently made headlines in the online world by personally responding to a tweet from a disgruntled customer (a Wall Street Journal subscriber complaining that it wasn't being delivered to him), and offering to personally intervene in getting his issue resolved. Murdoch's action was endorsed by some online commentators as an example of how CEOs can use Twitter to engage directly with customers.

But is this really the best use of a CEO's time? I'm not criticising Murdoch here - it's generally a good thing when a CEO takes some interest in other levels of their organisation - but I don't think this is the best way for a leader to use social media. If this was a one-off event, and an example of Rupert Murdoch trying to walk a mile in a customer service representative's shoes, then fair enough (and congratulations to him for doing it). But it shouldn't be held up as an example of how leaders should use social media in general. It's unreasonable for customers to expect business leaders to respond to every little problem, and it's unrealistic for leaders to commit time and effort into these activities.

As a business owner or business leader, you're responsible for strategy, not low-level tactics and customer service. You might be involved in the customer service strategy, but that doesn't mean you should be responding to customer tweets every day.

So what should you be doing instead?

If you're a thought leader or business leader, you have important messages to share with certain stakeholders. So think of social media as just another way to share those messages. Instead of using it as a tool for two-way conversations and discussion, use it as a tool for one-way communication of your key messages. This is the key focus of social media leadership - which is about how leaders should use social media effectively.

I realise this is a controversial approach to social media. Most social media experts will tell you to engage in conversations, build your followers, reply to everybody, and actively spend time in online discussions. And I'm telling you not to do these things!

So yes, you do need to take a chance on this idea of social media leadership! But if you embrace this idea, it can reap a number of benefits.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • You focus on strategy: Instead of getting caught up in the day-to-day details of customer service and marketing, you do what you should be doing: the overall strategy and direction of your organisation.
  • You don't interfere: You leave the customer service and marketing activities to the right people. These are the people who have the responsibility, the resources and the skills to do them properly. Oh, and by the way, they probably don't appreciate the CEO interfering with them.
  • You cut through the clutter: If you only use social media when you've got something worthwhile to share (and not tweeting 20 times a day just for the sake of it), you're more likely to be noticed.
  • You position yourself as a leader: Organisations, communities and tribes want and need leadership. Everybody isn't equal, and when you have a leadership position, your followers expect you to act as a leader.

So take a chance on social media leadership!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

“It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do about it”

This weeks sparkenation - “It’s not what happens to you.  It’s what you do about it”

I am a big fan of W Mitchell the originator of the above statement.  If you ever have the chance to hear Mitchell speak, don’t miss it! Of all the 1000's of speeches I have heard I remember his the most.

Whatever happens to you this week, don’t react.  Instead respond in a way that will likely lead you to the future you want.

The moment something happens it’s the past.  We can’t change the past.  We can respond in the present in ways that determine a better future.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Leaders: When saying nothing can be a COST

Last week, a girl friend visiting from out of town, posed this question “Jas when is it appropriate to say things as they are versus not saying anything for the sake of maintaining the relationship?” As you can imagine, this led to an engaging conversation on what the context of the question was including the nature of the issue, how long the issue had existed, what she was feeling and what she really needed from her partner. My friend was obviously grappling with some relationship issues as we do from time to time. However, it got me reflecting on how similar dynamics show up in organizational life with our clients, colleagues, managers, leaders and or suppliers?
Let us take our colleagues and bosses. How free do we feel to openly communicate our thoughts and feelings with them? How often do we not share with a team member that their annoying and seemingly disrespectful behaviours perhaps borne of poor EQ skills are getting in the way of a potentially good working relationship?
My experience is that we cannot avoid and gloss over issues and our rumbling feelings for too long. Sooner or later things do catch up and bubble over at inopportune moments and in inappropriate ways. When this happens, it is generally not a good look and typically does more harm than good.

The other down side of not being able to discuss and share our concerns is that it does not call for a good, healthy and robust team and or relationship where differences can be voiced, feelings can be heard and decisions still made for the greater good. In fact, what is “present” but not spoken becomes the “pink elephant” which is very much present but everyone ignores and carries on regardless.

On the face of it, it appears that people are working towards the organizational goals and objectives but seriously, what will be stampeding your progress will be the unspoken shadow side. Not dissimilar to the subtle powers of the unconscious mind.

Taking the risk and sharing or giving feedback to another is a challenge most people do not relish. Managers would rather focus on operational aspects of the business than have to deal with the difficult domain of having to contend with “all the other stuff to do with feelings and emotions – “yikes!” But for managers and leaders this is part of the job. What is negative and not dealt with grows and becomes more toxic and pervasive with time. However, if we can set up the right context and culture for team members to be able to do this easily and routinely then everyone wins.

As a manager and leader, a good first step is to do some self-reflection and identify what your own fears/self-talk might be with regards to giving feedback. Is it time? Trying to please everybody? Don’t know how? Waiting for the performance review? Organizational politics? A relationship or team is as good as the degree of openness, trust and flexibility present. Yes – these things take time to build but if we leave the issues unaddressed and get into “conflict avoidant” mode than everyone loses. Moving beyond the initial discomfort and taking the appropriate action ultimately benefits the entire team. Feedback given sensitively and appropriately can be the ultimate gift – you care enough to tell it like it is.

Jasbindar Singh is an experienced business psychologist and leadership coach who is passionate about creating workplace excellence. She speaks on this topic along with employee engagement, leadership and “being in our groove”. She is also the award winning author of “Get your Groove Back.”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In business some things are just plain wrong

It turns out that something far more profound than my birth occurred in 1968.

My wife and I recently viewed a film called, Made in Dagenham. The film tells the story about 187 female machinists who went on a three week strike at the Ford factory in Dagenham, England. Initially the women were outraged that they had been classified under a wage review as 'unskilled', and became more indignant when they became acutely aware of the difference in classification and wages between themselves and men doing exactly the same work.

What I found fascinating about the film and my subsequent research was that the women, led by Eileen Pullan were not skilled negotiators. They had to defend their actions within the union movement itself (largely run by men) the factory (which employed nearly 40,000 men) and their community. Their strike quickly shut down the entire Dagenham operation 'laying off' thousands and thousands of workers.

They stuck to their principles because the behaviour of management, while generally accepted at the time, was just plain wrong. The same level of work should receive the same level of pay irrespective of gender.

Despite the enormous pressure to return to work (including from some of the women's husbands who had been laid off) the women stuck to their principles and only returned once a guarantee for equal pay had been established and brokered by Barbara Castle, then the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. At the time the Secretary's direct intervention with the women was a breach of normal protocols.

As a result of the strike the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, leading the way for equal pay for women throughout the Western World.

The story and its impact highlighted for me that some business practices and/or behaviours of management are just plain wrong and need to be treated as such. The courage of the Dagenham women highlights how a single minded approach to 'righting wrongs' even in the most lopsided of 'fights' can and does result in positive change.

It would be inaccurate of me to suggest that equal pay for women is now a non issue. Quite simply it isn't. But the Dagenham Strike started the ball rolling in a positive direction.

I recommend watching the movie, not just from an entertainment perspective but from a historical one as well.

Finally, what 'wrongs' need to be 'righted' in your organisation?