Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Social media challenges for leaders

My experience working with many senior executives leading government departments, professional consultancies and banks tell me that as more and more communciation channels / social media emerge, the leaders face challenges on multilevel. First, they need to develop an awareness of what's new and figure out what it is. Then, they need to think strategically about the potential to introduce new communication channels in the organization context to add real value and achieve top line and bottom line outcomes. And once a decision is made to embrace these new channels, the implementation can be a challenge too for early adopters as you don't have examples to follow. New technologies open up new possibitilies and very often challenge existing leadership model, current business processes and resulting in greater organization change than one anticipate. Turning a concept from napkin paper to reality requires putting the righ team, having the strategic focus and persistence to get there. I know of many companies who are struggling to figure out how to use twitter-like or facebook-like applications within the enterprise setting. It is this part of innovation that excites me personally.
 
The leaders also face a number of dilemna when introducing new communication channels. Typical questions include: Should I open up more channels and encourage more conversation from all staff members versus should I focus on facilitating quality and purposeful conversation? Should I promote nice conversation to create a happy-clappy team cultue versus should I ritualize dissent, surface diverse voice, promote debate so that difficult and controversal ideas and topics emerge and can be dealt with earlier? How much can I (or should I) control and moderate the conversation? Bottomline, these new technologies are asking leaders to go back to the basic, and think deeper about what it means to have two-way genuine dialogue with your staff and with your clients.
 

4 comments:

CherylC said...

Thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Bonnie.

It's also of primary importannce that leaders do not fall into the "bandwagon syndrome" and think they have to adopt the latest social media tool just because it's being rapidly adopted elsewhere. The starting point should always be "what tool is most appropriate for us and will help us achieve our objectives ?"

Bonnie Cheuk said...

Well said, Cheryl, lovely to hear from you.

Will said...

I have linked to this in a blog post. I try to follow academic ideas about learning organisations and leadership. The web relates to this but usually the academics think events are some way off. I think something like Online Information Asia could be an occasion to consider what has already changed.

http://will789gb.posterous.com/online-information-asia-jogs-memory-of-previo

Bonnie Cheuk said...

Will, Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me and my blog readers. There are theories grounded in research which can inform practices in designing social media/online interaction. The challenge is that practitioners do not necessarily know they exist (or do not have time to do the research) and/or the researchers/academia publish papers that are too theoretical to inform practices. There is a need to bridge the gap....

As someone coming from a research background working as a practitioner in the industry/business setting, I am very conscious about this issue, and I try (and will continue to do so), and I know how hard it is for both sides to get it right as we all face our day-to-day demands.