Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When it comes to the social enterprise, don't ask "why?", ask "why not?"

In a recent research survey, consulting firms Gagan MacDonald and APCO Worldwide found that 51% of companies of 500 employees or more have already implemented some time of Internal Social Media (ISM) tool. Perhaps more importantly, their research found that 58% of employees would prefer to work for a company that uses ISM.

This quantified information comes in handy for me as I continue to find myself working to justify the value of ISM to business leaders.

As I've blogged here before in previous posts, many leaders are still not ready to be as honest (read: vulnerable) as ISM requires if they are to attain the level of authenticity that employees clearly crave. (In fairness to these leaders, employees apparently have similar apprehensions as documented in this post by Jacob Morgan.)

Too often leaders are accustomed to keeping the decisions they face, and their reasons for their ultimate choice on those decisions, behind closed doors. I understand why they would, since these decisions are often difficult because they will lead someone to be unhappy, no matter what choice they make.

But when it comes to business decisions, employees and the public are increasingly expecting more and more transparency.

Therefore when discussing the implications of ISM with business leaders, one thing I always prepare them for is the necessary shift in mindset from "why should we share this?" to "why should we NOT share it?".

Make no mistake, this shift is not insignificant.

The best leaders understand that they never had "control" of communications, and instead see the benefit of ISM because it gives them to opportunity to "direct" communications by engaging in ISM conversations. Leaders who participate in the discussions have an incredible impact in the effectiveness of internal communications, as demonstrated by the Gagan MacDonald and APCO findings that executive leadership accounts for 75% of an employee's perception of internal communications.

So the lesson here is, when it comes to ISM and leadership transparency, don't ask "why?", ask "why not?".

Have you had a similar conversation with one of your business leaders? Are you struggling to convey this message to your own clients? Or are you perhaps a business leader with a different perspective? I'd love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comments below.

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