Are You A Social HR Leader?

The Olympics provide us with a way to celebrate our great human triumphs. During the Olympics, eyes from across the world are glued to television screens featuring the best in human athletic achievement. In all of these sports, there are great athletes (“employees”). Behind every great athlete, however, is a great coach (“manager”). These coaches don’t deal with attributes, issues, or algorithms – they deal with people, and their people have reached the pinnacle of athletic achievement.

As companies become more driven by social communication and less by hierarchical interactions, HR becomes a center of risk rather than a risk manager. But this risk-management strategy has begun to fail. It is no longer possible to sort for risk using an if/then algorithm; to be successful, HR must go back to the Human part of its charter and evaluate risk (and opportunity) on a personal, one-to-one level.

What is the key to developing a ‘becoming more human’ strategy for HR?

I believe it’s all about being social and truly enjoying people. We humans are social creatures, but when we’re given the role of managing risk, we may devalue the importance of social interactions. If you do this you cannot be social. Don’t even bother if you cannot make the time to genuinely value other people.

There are five traits that most Social HR leaders embody, and each springs from (or is informed by) genuine social, human interactions.

Emotional Intelligence – Widely understood to be essential to an effective leader’s approach to managing, emotional intelligence relies on an individual’s ability to harmonize and employ emotional, cognitive and behavioral skills. Social HR leaders are emotionally literate, self-aware and responsible. Their communication skills – both verbal and non-verbal – are finely honed. Rather than seeing employees as falling on a continuum of risk, they approach employees – and the organization – as a social entity, with the interplay of people and actions occurring along the continuum of social interaction. They care about people – they really do!

Socially Brand Aware – Every company or organization is a brand. Employees are drawn to – or forced away from – your brand, so a Social HR manager must also be a brand manager via social channels. Brand is the intersection of workplace culture – the personality of the place; people – employees and managers of the organization, and the experience of being in the work environment. Social HR managers must commit to maintaining the value of the culture, which means defending and extending the value of the brand.

Constant Learners – Passionate, open, self-aware and curious, constant learners value context and creativity. For these HR leaders, social interaction is the linchpin: it creates context, spurs innovation and rewards creativity. Constant learners also manage risk by never stopping, never settling.

Social Community Focused – We may not live in tight communities any more, although that seems to be changing as more people move to cities. But a healthy workplace is a tight, social community. You could call it a community of interest, one in which people bond over a shared interest – the success of the organization. Social HR leaders must be acutely aware of the drivers motivating their workplace communities, tuning in to the social fabric of the workplace to sense, and correct, relationship dysfunction before it damages the workplace.

Committed to fostering engagement – Much has been written about the importance of employee engagement and the impact of engaged employees on the bottom line. Social HR leaders are engagement managers. They work to bring people of different talents, temperaments and motivations into engagement with organizational goals. I’d argue that being an engagement manager is second only to emotional intelligence in importance for a Social HR leader.

Strong leaders build strong, profitable, engaged organizations. Social HR leaders accept the power of human interaction; embrace social behaviors, and reward engagement. It turns out being more human and social is the simplest way to manage risk.

Is your company really ready for a Social HR Leader?

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on July 30, 2012.

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Social Leaders: The New Frontier for CEOs

Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln—all incredible social leaders who impacted the world in which they operated. Their success had nothing to do with being online, being on the right channels or knowing what time to post. It was about the ability to bring people together, facilitate agreements through communication, and collaborate to drive efforts towards one common direction. A social leader has the vision to bring about change and the ability to convince others that it can be done.

There are the traditional characteristics that make up a good leader. But to be a social leader, you need to have certain traits that make you enigmatic. These traits are what give some leaders an aura, a charm that makes other people want to work for them. They are the ability to:

  • Communicate
  • Collaborate
  • Be open-minded
  • Have confidence
  • Be proactive

If you’ve got the five characteristics above, then you can start focusing on the following actions to get things done:

Bring People Together

If you’ve ever worked with someone who’s great at disaster management, you know how powerful the ability to bring people together is. Bringing people together around a cause, be it to achieve a goal for the organization or to create a movement to drive a movement, is the most important action that social leaders can perform.

Action 1: Bring people together by following the ripple effect—reach out to your closest, most trusted network and have them do the same. The number of people you’re able to connect is directly proportional to the strength of your core group of people.

Facilitate Agreements

We all know that just because people are close-knit or are part of the same team doesn’t mean they have the same views. In fact, having a healthy amount of conflict is a defining factor of the strongest teams. As a social leader, you must be able to facilitate agreements as these differences arise.

Action 2: A social leader will never take sides. To get people to come to agreements, you must facilitate the communications and follow up on actions afterwards. Let people come to their decisions. You just have to make sure that they get there.

Communicate and Collaborate

Email, phone calls, meetings, just talking to someone while you get from point A to point B—it’s all part of the daily routine of a social leader. There’s usually no such thing as “it’s too late to talk now.” Social leaders will communicate and collaborate as the thought strikes when a personal drive is at the highest.

Action 3: Social leaders aren’t afraid of talking out half-baked ideas. In fact, they know that conversation and collaboration is one of the best ways to mold and grow a concept rather than thinking about it on their own. In short, many heads are better than one.

It takes a very special kind of personality to be a truly social leader. One who believes in the power of others, who knows they’re not always right, and who accepts that there is always something more to be learned. I think if you’re able to ascend to this type of leadership, you’ll probably have a lot more fun getting things done.

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