Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leadership in the Social Media Age - WEC2009

On the last day of WEC2009, Dr. Amy Vanderbilt gave a great talk on Management and Leadership in the Social Media Age. She presented a good percentage of the content from a three-day workshop in about 90 minutes, so I'll just touch on the highlights for me.

Dr. V is a trend watcher. The two trends that she sees converging on the leadership space are the shift from the Communication Age to the Social Media Age, and the shift from Baby Boomers running the workplace to a workplace filled with Boomer, Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and (soon) Millenials. Each of these generations brings a different set of valuable skills and attitudes. Boomers bring experience. Gen Y believe that anything is possible (so they'll try it, and sometimes it works!), and Gen X is now old enough to know better, but still young enough to try.

The major shift that needs to take place in the mentality of management is away from the myth of control. The command and control attitude is a holdover from 1950's management philosophy, when there was very slow change and very little information flow. Control is a personal craving for power and authority. Managers with a control mindset tend to believe that they are the sole source of information for their subordinates, and they sometimes demonstrate "Self-Tending Mushroom" behaviors -- they hide themselves in the dark of their own office and they feed themselves their own.... well... you know.

The Social Media Age makes the control mindset very dangerous for businesses. SM creates a pervasive awareness both inside and outside the company -- there are no secrets, and the manager is no longer the gatekeeper of information. If you as a manager aren't honest and forthcoming, Gens X and Y will get as far away from you as possible. They will leave the company and take their skills with them. SM has also accelerated the expected response time for your organization -- there is no longer time for a formal approval process. This means that those crazy Gen X and Yers on the front lines are making critical decisions every day that impact your customers and your brand. You do not have control.

Managers need to become leaders. Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. What tasks am I responsible for?
  2. Do I enjoy those tasks?
  3. Can a subordinate do it?
  4. Is this task uniquely my responsibility?
As a leader, you must do only the things that only you can do. Delegate the rest. There are still times were autocracy is a valid leadership style -- only in emergencies, and then be sure to THANK the team for responding so well. In this age, leadership must be participatory.

Dr. V presented a great model for the "Cycle of Command". Leadership positions are not forever, and you should go into each position preparing to leave it. She presented four stages of leadership in a team, from establishing leadership to mentoring your successor. At each stage, different styles and tactics are appropriate.

A couple of other notes that I thought were interesting.
  • Set Thresholds for both Rewards and Punishments
    Write those standards down, make them fair and consistent, act quickly when someone meets those thresholds, and be open about the entire process.
  • The Right Way to Do Layoffs, if they become necessary
    Be up-front - explain that layoffs are coming and why
    Explain the criteria for who gets cut and be fair about it
    Act swiftly after the announcement to minimize dread
Dr. V presented a ton of other great content. Her trend-watching reports look pretty fascinating. Check out her website for more.

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