Opening Up Your Organization with Social Media

“Be open, be transparent, be authentic,” are the current leadership mantras but companies often push back. Traditionally, business is premised on the concept of control and yet the new world order demands openness. Leaders need to know how to tap into the power of the social technology revolution and use social media to be “open” while maintaining control. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yammer, Jive and other popular social media sites can improve efficiency, communication and decision making for leaders and their organizations. Openness requires more not less rigor and effort than being in control. By embracing social media, leaders can transform their organizations to become more effective, decisive and ultimately more profitable in this new era of openness in the marketplace.

As your customers and employees become more adept at using social and other emerging technologies, they will push you to be more open, urging you to let go in ways in which you may not be comfortable. Your natural inclination may be to fight this trend, to see it as a fad that you hope will fade and simply go away. It won’t. Not only is this trend inevitable, but it also is going to force you and your organization to be more open than you are today. In the past, organizational leaders had the luxury of remaining ensconced in their executive suites, opening up only when they felt the need to. Today there is information leakage everywhere, with company miscues and missteps spreading all over the Internet in seconds. And all involved — from employees and customers to business partners — feel entitled to give their opinions and get upset when their ideas are not implemented.

The fundamental rules that have governed how relationships work are being rewritten, because of easy, no-cost information sharing. The challenge, therefore, is to redefine how those relationships will operate. Organizations and their leaders need to lay out the commitments they expect from these new relationships. The advantage of pursuing an open strategy is that you will do it in the company of people who wish you the best, who will be there to support you and will count themselves among the many who will benefit from your success.

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Challenge the Status Quo

This blog post is about freeing your organization’s future from the pull of the past, but we should ask ourselves right from the start, why should one believe it is in need of liberation? What change is so dramatic that it calls into question the working assumptions that have sustained successful business performance for the past half century? In a word: globalization.

One way or another, for everyone involved, globalization means a whole new ball game. And that means back to the drawing board for vision, strategy and execution. Which markets will create your best returns, and how will you realign your management and resources to capitalize on them? Who will design your next generation of offers and for whom will they be designed? How will your legacy business models stand up in an increasingly digitized, globalized and virtualized economy?

Now, what if there is some hidden force working against your best efforts? What if this force is operating inside your own company with the full support of your executive team, your board of directors, your investors and, indeed, yourself? What if this force is able to mysteriously redirect resource allocation so that it never quite gets deployed against the new agendas?

That force is the pull of the past, most concretely embodied in your historic operating plan. That plan exerts a gravitational force that pulls inexorably at any investments that seek to depart from its inertial path. The larger and more successful the enterprise, the greater the inertial mass, the harder it is to alter course and speed.

There is a path that can achieve the momentum required to engineer a genuine change in course. It begins with a highly structured set of dialogues around vision, strategy and execution that tee up future opportunities and risks in a way that allows them to compete more effectively for resources against our existing franchises. If we are to lead our organizations beyond past success and failures, and drive next generation growth we cannot be obstructionists in freeing our organization’s future from the pull of the past.

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The Power of Touch Points

It’s 3:30 p.m. You’re holed up in your office, trying to grab some time to finish a proposal that’s critical to the future of your department –– and your own career –– when a team member knocks on your door to ask for advice. How do you respond? Do you give in to the flash of irritation and tell him to come back later? Or do you stop what you are doing and help him right now? It’s your choice. As a leader, you make these choices all day, every day. The “knock on the door” happens over and over again –– phone calls, meetings, e-mails and text messages, all with questions to answer and fires to put out. The workload is expanding and the time you have to deal with each issue is shrinking. Some days it feels as if the information age has morphed into the interruption age.

But what if you could step back and look at these interactions with a fresh perspective? What if, instead of seeing them as interfering with your work, you were to look at them as latent leadership moments? What if these moments held the answer to leadership in today’s busy world, turning ordinary moments into touch points? Touch points take place any time two or more people get together to deal with an issue and get something done. Touch points can be planned or spontaneous –– in hallways, on factory floors, in conference rooms, on the phone and via e-mail. Some deal with straightforward issues; others involve complex challenges. These touch points are the real work. They are the moments to bring your strategies and priorities to life, the interactions that translate your ideas into new and better behaviors.

Touch point leadership capitalizes on the social networking effect, what we call the exponential effect. Every person you engage with is embedded in webs of relationships. Whatever you say or do in a touch point may be quickly transmitted to five or six people in that person’s network –– and then relayed to their colleagues and so on. Therefore, when you impart a sense of urgency, people may pass that on; when you inspire confidence, that too may be transmitted; and when you blow it, people are bound to hear about it.

You can choose to bring a sense of positive energy and direction to your very next touch point, and then do it again. To get started right away, simply take the next unplanned interaction as an opportunity to help. Twenty touch points a week would add up to more than 1,000 touch points in a year. This would be a very small commitment, yet the impact would be significant because you would not only feel more in control of your time, but you would also gain more influence. One of the greatest investments you can make is constant attention to touch points; your mental model, your emotional maturity and your bias for action.

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How Do I Want to be Remembered?

After listening to several eulogies this week I thought…how do I want to be remembered? It’s probably a good exercise for everyone to write their own memorial, now, regardless of age or medical condition. That way, you’ll think about how you want to be remembered and what you want to accomplish in the rest of your life. So with this in mind:

How I want to Be Remembered by God:
I participated in the ministry of a good church. The bible was read in my home by me. I learned my theology and pastored my family. I prayed and repented of sin. I honored Him with my actions.

How I Want to Be Remembered by My Family:
I want my wife to remember how I loved her, protected her, served her, and helped her accomplish her dreams. I want her to remember specific times that we shared together—times we laughed, times we cried, times we spent discussing things that were important to both of us, and times we just held one another and watched the sunset. I want my children to remember how I loved them, understood them and helped them accomplish their dreams. I want them to remember specific times we shared together.

How I Want to Be Remembered by My Colleagues and Community:
I want my colleagues to remember my servant-leadership, my integrity, my humility, and my commitment to having fun. I want them to remember how much they learned and grew as a result of knowing me. Most of all, I want them to remember how I stood for the greatness in them and empowered them to accomplish far more than they ever thought possible. I want my friends and neighbors to remember my love of life and desire to improve the quality of life for everyone.

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The Pain of Lives Lost Too Soon

This past weekend was particularly difficult as two young boys from my community succumbed to illness and passed away. Mourning the loss of a loved one is never easy, regardless of age or cause of death. While our sense of faith may assure us that this person is in a better place, we can’t help but selfishly wish that he or she were still here with us. Losing a young friend or family member is an even more challenging and disturbing reality to face. Upon receiving the grim news that a young person in our lives has sadly passed away, the first response is typically disbelief. It is very common to envision this person the last time you were with them and simply fail to compute that this lively and animated individual in your memory is the same that has so recently been taken away.

While the shock of such horrible news never quite wears off, fortunately for the process of acceptance and personal healing, the denial phase does. It is so very difficult to process the fact that we will never see this person again in this life time. Thinking of the many things in life that this person will never be able to experience, such as marriage, parenthood, career development, and so on, is perfectly natural.

This is the time when we must embrace our faith and not just ask why such an incredible person was taken away at a young age. Hug your loved ones today and be thankful for each day you have to live, love and appreciate God’s wonders.

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Identifying the Beliefs that Generate the Right Actions

During times of change, managers and leaders often focus their efforts exclusively on Results and Actions. However, you can greatly enhance your success at accelerating a change in culture when you expand your focus to work with the seemingly less tangible Beliefs area. There is a simple yet powerful relationship between the beliefs people within the organization hold and the actions they take. Their beliefs about how work should get done directly affects what they do. If you change people’s beliefs about how they should do their daily work and help them adopt the new beliefs you want them to hold, you will produce the actions you want them to take. When leaders work with this deeper, more lasting aspect of behavior, they tap into the most fundamental accelerator of effective culture change.

The need to change culture often arises whether we are ready for it or not. Consider the profound change that occurred in the wireless communications industry when the business model changed almost overnight with the introduction of the innovative iPhone by Apple. Apple founder Steve Jobs had tasked 200 top Apple engineers to create the iPhone. Stressful deadlines resulted in screaming matches between co-workers and among exhausted engineers, who, according to a Wired magazine article, “frazzled from all-night coding sessions, quit, only to rejoin days later after catching up on their sleep.” In one case, “a product manager slammed the door to her office so hard that the handle bent and locked her in; it took colleagues more than an hour and some well-placed whacks with an aluminum bat to free her.”

The new product required a monumental effort, but a little over a year after its introduction, the iPhone accounted for 39 percent of Apple’s revenues and was the single largest contributor to Apple’s bottom line. Steve Jobs changed the game by getting the big players in the staid wireless industry to agree to a new business model, one that shifted beliefs about handsets. Until then, the industry had defined them as “cheap, disposable lures, massively subsidized to snare subscribers and lock them into using the carriers’ proprietary services,” as Wired put it. After making this strategic shift in beliefs, major players began using smart phones to differentiate their offerings and win customers. As this new business model moves forward and continues to morph, wireless providers will need to help the people in their organizations make corresponding shifts in their beliefs about how they conduct their daily business. Those who make these operational shifts happen quickly and effectively will create competitive advantage.

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The Steps to Accountability

In this age of increased accountability whether in business, education or governance, mastering the ability to accelerate culture change is an essential core competency for every leader who wants to keep his or her organization competitive and focused. The key to developing a culture of accountability is efficiently and effectively changing the way people think and act throughout an organization to ensure that they achieve their desired results.

Building a Culture of Accountability begins at the top. That’s why the first step involves clearly stating the results you want to achieve. Frankly, it makes no sense to initiate any culture building activity or process unless you intend to increase the capability of the organization to deliver results. What is the most compelling reason to work on your culture? Culture produces results.

A Culture of Accountability exists when people in every corner of the organization make the personal choice to take the Steps to Accountability:
• See It. When you See It, you relentlessly obtain the perspectives of others, communicate openly and candidly, ask for and offer feedback and hear the hard things that allow you to see reality.
• Own It. When you Own It, you align yourself with the mission and priorities of the organization and accept them as your own.
• Solve It. When you take this step, you constantly ask the question “What else can I do?” to achieve results, overcome obstacles and make progress.
• Do It. This means doing what you say you will do, focusing on top priorities, staying Above the Line by not blaming others and sustaining an environment of trust.

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Changing to an Accountability Culture

When an organization makes a change at the top there is an inevitable opportunity to change the corporate culture for the better. Simply stated, organizational culture is the way people think and act. Every organization has a culture, which either works for you or against you — and it can make the difference between success and failure. Managing the organizational culture so that leaders, managers, team members and employees think and act in the manner necessary to achieve desired results has never mattered more. Doing it well is not an option; it’s a necessity.

Experienced leaders know that changing the culture can mean changing the game by growing faster than your rivals, beating a bad economy, revolutionizing the value proposition of your organization or a host of other competition-beating achievements. Managing the culture so that it produces the results you are looking for has become an essential role of leadership and a core management competency. Neglect it at your peril.

Creating an organizational culture where people embrace their accountability toward one another and toward the organization should occupy center stage in any effort to create successful organizational change. Without accountability, the change process breaks down quickly. When it does, people externalize the need to change, resist initiatives designed to move them forward and even sabotage efforts to transform the organization. With accountability, people at every level of the organization embrace their role in facilitating the change and demonstrate the ownership needed for making true progress, both for themselves and their organization. Accountability, done the right way, produces greater transparency and openness, enhanced teamwork and trust, effective communication and dialogue, thorough execution and follow-through, sharper clarity and a tighter focus on results.

Accountability should be the strongest thread that runs through the complex fabric of any organization. It is the single biggest issue confronting organizations today, particularly those engaged in enterprise-wide change efforts. At the end of the day, greater accountability produces greater results. And when you build a Culture of Accountability, you create an organization filled with people who can and will get game-changing results. Culture has an impact on results, and the right approach to culture change accelerates that impact in a way that brings game-changing results. When you base culture change on accountability and adopt a process designed to produce your desired results, you not only create a competitive advantage, you gain the tools you need to sustain that advantage far into the future. Let the journey begin!

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A Model of Performance

It’s easy to tell the difference between teams and organizations in which Faith, Fire and Focus are high and those in which they are low.

An organization with Faith has a clear, compelling sense of mission and purpose that is effectively communicated to and passionately believed in by people on every level of the organization. People have a strong “We can!” belief and a firm conviction in the organization’s resilience and ability to effectively learn and adapt in a changing environment. An organization without Faith is filled with fear, doubt or lack of clarity concerning its value proposition as well as the value of the organization’s purpose and/or its viability in changing circumstances.

An organization with Fire has a positive energy directed toward the accomplishment of the purpose of the organization. An organization without Fire is filled with apathy, lack of interest and resigned compliance (rather than enthused commitment). What energy exists is often turned into negative fire, which is manifest in politicking, backbiting and criticizing.

An organization with Focus has clearly articulated key priorities that lead to the accomplishment of the organization’s purpose, and those priorities are given robust attention on every level. An organization without Focus is filled with distraction, miscommunication, redundant effort, waste of resources and poor execution.

When teams and organizations move ahead with all four elements of high performance, Faith, Fire and Focus as well as Knowledge, the possibilities for breakthrough performance are truly amazing. The Faith, Fire and Focus inside you is something that is truly amazing, and your ability to release it in yourself and others will not only transform you and those you help; it will transform the world.

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The Nature of Performance

There are three elements at the very heart of high performance. And not only are these elements important in and of themselves; they are also important because they facilitate the use of knowledge. When these elements are blocked, performance suffers. When they were unleashed, performance soars. I’ve come to call these elements Faith, Fire and Focus.

Faith has to do with our beliefs about ourselves and our beliefs about others. Fire has to do with our energy, passion, motivation and commitment. Focus has to do with what we pay attention to and how we pay attention. Faith, Fire and Focus are what create engagement. They are how we get the 10X performance! Because the impact of these three elements is so significant, I have become increasingly convinced that what separates high performers from everyone else is their Faith, Fire and Focus. And because the impact of interference on these elements is so profound, I have also become convinced that reducing interference to Faith, Fire and Focus is probably the least recognized but most effective way to improve performance.

Together, Knowledge, Faith, Fire and Focus create the “K3F” model of human performance. If you think of this model as a wheel, Knowledge represents the rim. Faith, Fire and Focus are like spokes supporting the wheel. The rim without the spokes or the spokes without the rim would render the wheel useless — as would a weakness of any of the four basic parts. Therefore, all four parts are vital to performance success. Obviously, some basic Knowledge is essential. You’d find it hard to be a salesperson if you didn’t know anything about your product, your customers or the competition. You’d find it difficult to excel at tennis without knowing what a racket is, what a ball is and the object and rules of the game.

However, it is Faith, Fire and Focus that drive the quality of performance and performance improvement. It is what creates results in organizations where people:

• genuinely believe in the viability, competency and purpose of the organization;
• are enthused about and engaged in their work;
• know what to pay attention to and are focused on the key objectives that would make the organization successful; and
• are able to fully execute on the Knowledge they already have.

When Faith, Fire and Focus are released, extraordinary things happen. This is when possibility opens up.

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