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Employees Want Authentic and Transparent Leaders: How Social Media Tools Can Help

February 21, 2011 - 2 Comments

I recently spoke on a panel on social media and the enterprise in DC this Fall.  I met some interesting people and one asked me to talk to his CEO and share my perspective on social media.  While I was in Toronto last week, our calendars finally meshed and it was an inspiring conversation.  No agenda.  No slides.  Just a conversation between two people.  It made my day.

It was refreshing to sit across a CEO who recognizes the importance of having his employees being brand ambassadors and feeling an obligation to make sure they have the information they need to be effective in their jobs.  His approach of not using PowerPoint got me thinking about the importance of storytelling in organizations.  I remember reading an article in the Harvard Business Review about the importance of storytelling and in the past few years, I have seen the culture of  slides having a negative impact on the workplace.  It was no longer about messaging but about having cool slides.

As Robert McKee, the world’s best-known screenwriting lecturer, argued in this article that

Executives can engage people in a much deeper–and ultimately more convincing–way if they toss out their PowerPoint slides … and learn to tell good stories

And here I was with a CEO who truly believed in inspiring his employees with messages they remember and can walk away and do something with the information.  I will share with my sales team that the worst way to engage him is with PowerPoint.

DR also shared with me that as a CEO he  blogs but feels  that he does not blog enough and finds it to be cumbersome at times.  After asking him a few questions, I realized that he is used to white papers and takes a similar approach to blogging.  My advice was to think about it as writing an email, which is where he spends a lot of his time, and take a topic he is passionate about and write 2-3 paragraphs … and then he would have a blog post and more of them.  And more connections with his employees rather than waiting for the perfect white paper.  Video is also a great solution where he could tape a few minutes of his thoughts and post it immediately on his blog.  No need for scripts, makeup and an expensive shoot.  Of course, being with Cisco, I suggested a Flip camera 🙂

What employees want from their leaders today is transparency and authenticity.  Social media tools can help facilitate it if the leaders do the heavy lifting and do not delegate their communication to a function.   Blogging means not just writing the post but also encouraging conversations with comments.  It is not enough to post a blog and focus on one way communication.  The real advantage of blogging is the ability to listen and respond to comments.  What can have more transparency than knowing that there is someone listening and acting on your feedback?  The resulting actions can be delegated to a function to be addressed but the conversation should remain authentic.  Leaders need to think about how to incorporate these tools into their communication style.

What advice would you give both your CEO and Communication function to drive more conversations?

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  1. CEOs who feel comfortable with these tools can do a lot of good. It’s not for everyone. But to put yourself out there demonstrates leadership. Something we are sorely lacking these days. At the end of the day, it is all about leadership by example – it is making sure your words match your actions.

    Satoshi, for those who can keep it to 140 words it is a gift!

  2. This is great Ayelet!

    Seth Godin talks about having the discipline to continue to be transparent (I call it ‘being believable’) and communicate whether people read the blog or not.

    To continuously communicate and engage with the community, creates an element of authenticity in and of itself. The rest is in the message and delivery.

    For executives I’ve worked with on how to use social platforms, I advise to keep updates to 140 characters. It’s simple and to the point, just like how they want them. 🙂