Okay, it’s time to come clean: Besides HR and Talent Management – I’m obsessed with social media, community, leadership and continuous learning. And I have been for years. I feel like the world is catching up with what for three years I’ve (obsessively, publicly, passionately) and many others who are champions of social community and learning have been saying – this innovation is a game changer for the world of work.
The full implications and scope of social media and community learning are still unfolding, but let’s look at 7 ways leaders can use it to build a cohesive, charged-up, firing-on-all-gigabytes culture.
1) Communicate. Social media is one of the most effective communication tools in recent history. It turns your entire organization (and beyond) into the town square – also known as an online social community. And even though it’s all enabled through technology, there’s an intimacy to online communication; everyone is participating on their own device so there’s a sense of being spoken to, and speaking, directly. Change initiatives can be broadcast (and monitored) with ease; glitches and roadblocks are spotted and correctly far more quickly. And not only leaders can communicate more effectively. Employees are given a voice and often feel more engaged when this tool is used effectively. You do not have to be an extrovert – all personalities are invited. You just have to be willing to take the leap.
2) Collaborate. This one is off the charts. By now many of us have been involved in social media chats, blogging riffs, G+ Hangouts and webcasts where things just take off. Somebody posts an idea, a video, a photographs, an article – and people start commenting, one thought bouncing off the next, people are riffing, free associating, inspiration and creativity is unleashed and then – pow! – something innovative, amazing, and actionable is right there in front of us. Leaders that encourage and enable this kind of employee engagement and cross-pollination in every nook and cranny of their organizations win points in the social enterprise.
3) Educate. Social media is an awesome learning and community building tool. It turns an organization and social enterprise into a global classroom. Everything from a prosaic process change that has to be learned by rote, to a guest lecture from one of the world’s most brilliant minds, can be broadcast to the desktop and mobile devices of every employee. It’s also an unparalleled arena for questions to be asked and answered delivered. Remember the best college course you ever took, the one that left you high with inspiration, juice and fire in your belly? You can now recreate that in your organization and your community.
4) Engage. With social media every employee (and leader) can engage on a new, highly personalized level. This is an amazing morale builder. Just to know that you can voice your concerns, seek and offer help, and be part of a community, effects a deep change in attitude. When people are engaged, they feel respected and valued. And when that happens, they dig deeper, give more, and are just plain happier. And that’s a beautiful thing, both because it’s the right way to live, and because happy employees deliver amazing results.
5) Monitor. Social media allows leaders to keep in touch of what’s happening in close to real time. Successes are revealed more quickly, and resources can be added to parlay or sustain the gains. Setbacks are easier to spot, and losses can be cut, adjustments made, or reinforcements sent in. Social media creates a central nervous system that is sensitive, responsive and revealing. Social media has a rhythm and a pulse, and leaders must learn how to respond to the rhythm and check the pulse. When they do, they discover they have a whole new set of eyes and ears.
6) Maximize. Social media usage is evolving at a rapid pace. And so is the definition of social media itself. Both are growing evermore exciting, varied and sophisticated. YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, G+ are handing leaders and employees new tools that take the value of social media to new levels. Think employee-generated tutorials and videos. And who says Brandon in shipping’s amazing attitude won’t inspire Christine in the boardroom? Brainstorm with your smartest and savviest and most-plugged in employees on ways to ride this cresting wave.
7) Enjoy. I’ve said it before (and I’ll probably be shouting it until my final days on earth the way things look now): Great leaders and great employees love what they do. Coming to work is coming to play. Of course, there are days (weeks, months) that are stress fests, tension conventions, hell’s bells, but the more you enjoy what you do, the better you will be at. And social media is a wicked (that’s Boston slang that I rarely use) blast. It connects us, gives us a chance to be our best selves in a public forum, is a stage to express our individuality and sense of humor, and is just a flat-out fabulous work tool if you take a chance on it.
It’s been very gratifying and exciting for me to watch millions of people plug into the electricity of social media and community building. Organizations large and small, profit and non-profit, are utilizing this evolutionary leap in new and exciting ways. How can social media take you to the next level? What are you feeling challenged by? I realize often it’s not easy to know where to begin. Let me know please. I’m always here for a listen.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes.