January 18, 2016
There is a big noise about how companies are trying to get people more engaged in their internal social communication. The answer is simple: by forcing them. Companies are measuring employees’ on-line collaboration activities, but unfortunately they can only measure the quantitative factor of their social interaction neglecting totally the qualitative factor. We are sacrificing quality for quantity to structure the unstructurable.
The way companies are using internal social communication and connections today is so much fictitious… And yet no one talks about it. Are employees afraid to raise their concerns? Is it generally true that most of them really like everything their colleagues or management post? Where is the critical thinking? Is the way in how we approach ‘being social’ actually valuable?
Can social communication be structured and driven by rules?
One question then, is how to measure the qualitative part of the social activities? I know that this is a very difficult thing to be done as quality is a subjective factor. Some say that measuring the ratio between likes and comments could be a good start, but I debate this as most of the comments look like “this is a great initiative” or “I fully agree with you”. It would be preferable to see comments which are debating or challenging the statements and initiate a discussion but unfortunately even if somebody writes something valuable it gets lost among the noise…What kind of social leadership styles can we observe?
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to discuss this topic with 30 executive MBA students. Most of them confirmed that they are facing similar challenges in their organizations. We spent few hours discussing the topic and we could define 3 types of Social Leadership styles:
- Socially passive leader. Many leaders today are still not using social communication at all. This doesn’t mean by default that these leaders are not good leaders. It is better to not pretend something if the person is not comfortable with it.
- Socially active. These are the leaders who are pushing out the message and communicate regularly even if they do not have something to share. This can even be worse than the socially passive leader because in most cases the communication is one directional.
- Socially interactive. Are the leaders who spends more time on listening to social channels and reacts when needed by collaborating on an equal level with their followers.
I personally know many leaders who are not very good in social communication but they are truly inspiring and motivating in real life. Are they good or bad leaders then? Is a socially loud leader a good leader? Definitely not, since this is an absolute misinterpretation of Agile Leadership something that has not yet been fully defined by the Academic environment.
An Agile leader in my personal understanding is a leader who reacts to business changes and tries to engage and empower his/her team in finding solutions aligned with the changing environment. How can a good leader measure the motivation and commitment of his team? Definitely not by monitoring the social activities of his/her people but by working with them in the field. One thing is for sure – a leader (instead of being socially loud), should primarily be socially listening.
So the question becomes how can we BOOST social collaboration then?
First of all the most obvious answer is: Let people do it their own way. Give them good and fancy tools and they will start using them. We should not put rules and regulations around it. If a manager for example doesn’t feel comfortable using social communication, let him or her use the method he/she wants. We cannot all be transformed into homo informaticus and we definitely should not eliminate the traditional way of communication just because some statistics say that this is the future of business.
Social communication needs to be engaging. Most of the ongoing communications at every company are one-directional so the only reaction they can bring is that people start LIKE-ing it. Instead of stating things, it would be much efficient if we raise questions and concerns, or we just simply ASK people about their opinion and ideas – this way we can initiate valuable bi-directional communications.
Social collaboration should ensure equality among the people so even if an organization is not flat by nature, then on a social level there should not be any hierarchies.
There should not be any control on social communication, as the network is self regulating. There is a general rule that Network Dynamics cannot be forced top-down; we cannot intervene by making rules and regulations. Facebook would have never become so successful that way. The network generates its own unwritten rules being accepted by the community. We need to moderate the communication, though, but that is the maximum we should do.
Last but not least, social communication should be fun. Most of the young employees are coming from generation Y and are only mostly interested in having fun. When the fun factor increases, people are motivated to share and contribute.
We need to take the stress of MUST doing something from the table and let people WANT to do something. What are the best practices in your organization?