The Bitch

My Mom was a bra-burning Women’s Libber back in the ’70 (well, not sure she ever ditched the bra, but she believed). She loves to tell the story about how at age 35, after launching four teens, she got a job on Capitol Hill as a Congressional receptionist. It was the beginning of a 35-year career where she reached the highest level of Government Service. She doesn’t brag about that accomplishment but she does tell a funny little story about how my Dad reacted. According to my Mom, after she started to really get into her work, my Dad said, “Well, I wanted you to get a job, not a career!”  I’m not really sure he ever said that but, said or unsaid, I am sure that’s what she felt and I’m sure that’s what he thought. They divorced not long after that and my beloved father remarried a wonderful woman who chose to be a housewife. For this, I am forever grateful; his wife made my Dad the happiest man in the world and as Alzheimer’s stole him away, she was there for him in ways I can never repay.  No matter what my Dad said, those words are the ones my Mom remembers. Words matter. Words heal and words hurt. My mom, the career woman, paved the way for me and in telling me that story, told me everything about the female struggle to belong in the traditional corporate world of work.

I am now in my 50s and until recently, a senior executive in a large, global consultancy. I feel successful, but I am frustrated.  There was a recent HRB blog about the challenges ambitious women face [http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/ambitious-women-face-more-obst/]. The blogger suggests that we should all forget about the “glass ceiling” and focus on the real problem, which he calls the “glass obstacle course.” He says women don’t just suddenly hit an impenetrable wall at the top, but that she faces many the obstacles, big and small along the way up and across. The authors believes that a woman must expend extra effort in order to dodge and defeat these many obstacles – whether they be being withheld from key roles, excluded from boy’s nights out or being labeled.  I believe this author speaks the truth.  It’s hard to be the minority and it’s hard for me to feel that I am not valued. It’s frustrating that I have to suppress the real me in order to avoid judgment, rejection and criticism. I am a passionate person. My passion has frightened (or turned off) many of my male counterparts over the years. It doesn’t scare me; it thrills me.  And those how know me, love that part of me.  Eh, I’ve just sort of endured the obstacles put in my way and have worked hard to overcome as many as I can. I can’t beat all of them but progress has been made.

This reminds of the story told by one of my best friends, Bea. She told me that, in a meeting today she heard a leader in a global role call one of her colleagues, mentors and friends, a bitch, in a very loud and disparaging tone in front of everyone. Bea told me that when she heard this, she didn’t stop and think and just reacted, saying, “I cannot believe you just said that! You cannot talk about a woman that way!” But then Bea stopped when she felt the emotion well up inside her. She felt her face burn and turned away, set her jaw and fought the tears.  Bea told me she sat frozen, staring at the screen, while her female HR director (the only other woman in the room out of 15) continued the meeting. It took her awhile to calm and settle back into the conversation. Then she told me that when they took a break, this man came up and the first thing he said to her was, “I guess I’ve been living in Europe for too long.” Bea just looked at him, cut him off and said, “I can’t talk to you about this right now.” On top of his assault on women, he had the gall to blame it on living in Europe.  Bea and her HR colleague went to the ladies room and talked about it and again she fought tears. Why did she want to cry? I’ll tell you why.

Bea shared with me the pain she felt when she realized that if a senior leader would say such a thing about another woman in public, what might they be saying about her? Do they call her a Bitch? Apparently, the woman who is the subject of this insult, this so-called Bitch, is tiny powerhouse of a lady. Every bit a lady, she’s always smiling, strong and fierce. A killer instinct in the market, she runs circles around everyone around her. Perhaps there was a day; in her earlier years when the frustration of feeling invisible, not valued or respected wore her down and just to be heard she made too much noise. She was direct, honest, sometimes a tad mean and she intimidated those around her. It was all she knew. But as the years went on, she mellowed, she changed she forgave and she channeled her power into being a mentor for other women and a productive force for commercial success. This is that woman that I know Bea so admires.

But, when Bea told me this story, it seemed so clear that this point was lost on this man and many others in the room. This man, in his need to fit in and be admired by his male competitors, took this chance to bond with the boys by tearing her down, in the most public of ways. He called her a Bitch. No, sorry he called her a “tough Bitch” Why couldn’t he just stop at tough? Tough is good in a performance culture But Bitch? That’s not good. Why did he have to call her a Bitch? The word Bitch is so nasty and demeaning.  She is not a Bitch. She is an endearing, charming, powerful, effective and respected female executive, despite the misogynistic forces at play against her.

I don’t know, when I heard this story it all sort of clicked. It’s made me realize that I no longer wanted to accept this “inconvenient truth.” This truth that the workplace is not equal and that we have a long way to go. So, as we celebrate Gloria Steinam’s 80th,  I have decided to post Bea’s story to give a voice to the continued struggle. I will be an agent of change. It is NOT OK for men to call women Bitches, bossy, pushy, shrill or any of those words that are designed to keep us down, to keep us doubting ourselves, to make us feel inadequate.

In my twenty-seven years of corporate life, I’ve been fighting this fight. Well, that’s it. I’m done. I will seek change. All the women behind me and next to me deserve better.  I raise this to stimulate action; to make it known that this behavior is not to be tolerated. I will not tolerate it. Sexism is mostly covert; we know it’s there but is often shrouded in attempts by guys to let us in as one of the boys. But that never really happens. They still have their secret handshake, language and norms.  I can’t fight that but I can call to light bad behavior when I see it.  So, let’s continue to make progress. To forgive, be kind and open-minded to the differences that surround us.

Employee Experience Matters More

On a recent a flight home from London I settled into my bulkhead seat (I was upgraded to first) and was literally choked by the lavatory stench. I asked the Pursor if I could move and he offered me a seat just one row back, which did not solve my problem. I noticed several empty seats behind me and asked to move again and was abruptly told, “No, those seats are held for crew” (yep, they need to do that but four of them in a half full cabin?). Things went downhill from there including threats, taunts and abuse. I sat rigid in my seat for a full 8 hours and upon landing, the taunting continued during de-boarding, immigration and baggage claim, culminating in an attack in the taxi line. There was something wrong with this employee and clearly I picked the wrong day to expect the level of service I was accustomed to. When my formal complaint ended with Customer Service siding with the employee, I decided to share this experience on Facebook, simply asking someone to read my complaint. Within an hour, I got a phone call and was offered sincere apologies and four extra VIP upgrades. This employee, clearly empowered to do the right thing, kept me from dumping American Airlines as my preferred carrier, while the jaded, angry, slightly crazed employee nearly caused the loss of a profitable customer (I’ve purchased 3 million miles worth of air travel). This incident highlights the power employees have to either make or break the customer experience. I’m happy to say that since that incident, I continue to experience outstanding service, which improves every day.

Words

An employee won’t delight a customer if his or her own experience at work is no good, an online business will not thrive if the people behind it don’t throw the full force of their energy and creativity into it and innovation doesn’t happen without the full engagement of minds and hearts.  I could go on, but this isn’t new news. Some businesses get it, but most still cling to that tired, annual ritual called the employee opinion survey as the sole method for addressing this problem. Often these tools are, at best a lagging indicator and at worst, a flawed instrument that creates a false sense of confidence that all is well.

One way to think about the ‘Employee Experience’ is to first consider what customers want. They want to be treated nicely and they want things to work smoothly, easily and efficiently. Of course they want value for money and love being rewarded for their loyalty. Customers want to be associated with a leader who is trustworthy and they want a brand so attractive that others flock to it. Employees want the exact same thing. They want to be well treated, they want processes and technologies that work and make things easy so that the mind is freed for more creative endeavors. They want to be paid a fair wage for a hard day’s work, they want leaders who are trustworthy and they want a brand that attracts outstanding colleagues to work by their sides.

Customers and employees are the essential “left hand” and “right hand” of any high performing business. Functioning without one is more than difficult – unhappy employees, unhappy customers, no customers, and no employees. It costs money to build a great customer experience and it costs money to build the same for employees, but the spending is almost always lopsided.  Why don’t companies invest to hire leaders who themselves are engaged, why not give employees the tools they need to perform and why not invest in an environment (physical, cultural, emotional) that stirs creativity, collaboration and innovation? Companies need to offer a new promise to employees in this post-lifer age, which is no longer about loyalty and predictability.

Fixing the Employee Experience is not just a nice to do; we are sitting on a proverbial burning platform. Just take a look at Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report. It’s a terrifying read on the state of employee engagement and the cost of inaction. The report states that engagement drives greater productivity, lower turnover, and a better quality of work: “Organizations in the top decile of engagement outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share, and have 90% better growth trend than their competition.” But the bad news is that 7 of 10 workers are disengaged and uncommitted.

What is it that employees want that they’re not getting?  If we take away the obvious –more jobs and better job security – we see that the problem is more than a monetary one. What drives disengagement – outdated technology, depressing work environments, inadequate data and information, leaders who fail to inspire and opaque and often irrelevant communications? It’s probably all of these along with some new, unfilled expectations that center on purpose, personal brand, well-being and social responsibility. Consider this:

  • A recent HBR article, “Tours of Duty: The New Employer-Employee Compact” talked about the new employer-employee contract that offers an employment model built around free agency, entrepreneurialism and networking. The article argues that cycling the best people in and out is better than employing a regiment of unhappy, stagnant workers.
  • Richard Branson and a team of corporate powerhouses have launched the B Team, “…a not-for-profit initiative that has been formed by a group of global business leaders to create a future where the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit.” They are inviting anyone to submit an idea that will advance the mission (selected ideas will be supported) and they provide a kit for anyone (private citizen or corporate member) to conduct a kick off meeting and join in on a global brainstorm focused on solution and action.
  • On June 6th, 2013, Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post) and Mika Brzezinski (Morning Joe) hosted a conference in New York City called the “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power.”  Dealing mostly with issues such as mindful leadership and reworking work, they argue that money and power aren’t the only metrics that define success. Rather, they suggest, we need a third metric, one that measure the degree to which we feel a sense of meaning, well-being and health and that it’s time to chart a course to a new, more humane, more sustainable definition of success — for women and for men.

With these examples, it’s clear that change is needed and with visibility from leaders like Branson and others, maybe the naysayers won’t be able to hang on for too long. I think we’ve gotten twisted sideways on what it means to engage employees. A focus on the Employee Experience should radically alter how people join, perform, earn, learn and grow inside and outside the corporation. I offer four ideas that companies can use to build purpose and community to drive progress.

Purpose

  • Define the mutual value exchange between employer and employee often called the “psychological contract,” “employee value proposition,” or “employment brand.”  Companies need to spend as much time defining their internal promise as they do defining the external brand. The internal brand covers things like learning, money, advancement, and challenge. More and more employees (and not just the young) are interested in endeavors that contribute toward the betterment of the world and they want to work for a company that deliberately seeks to add social value through giving, greening and creating sustainability around the world.
  • Align people to the company’s purpose, but go beyond the posters, wallet cards and coffee mugs. We all know about what Google does to activate the brand inside – it’s not all just fun and games; it’s about providing tangible (see, touch, hear) signs that Google lives the brand. Invest in strategic communications and internal rewards and programs to make the purpose real.

Community

  • Create a connected organization; build communities for positive change and let a million flowers bloom. Communities must be enabled by a solid technology platform but this is just the table stakes. Too many social networking tools are thrown out into corporate cyberspace only to fail – difficulty of use (no single sign on), repelling and overly limiting rules or disillusionment because of absent leaders. An online community needs to be supported with the right tools that are safe enough to protect the company but flexible enough to be meaningful. They need the full support of enlightened digital leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and get down and dirty with the troops, while also striking the right balance between governance and freedom. With this foundation in place, the options are endless.

Progress

  • With people aligned to purpose and engaged in meaningful communities, progress toward a new employee experience accelerates. Change management, leader/manager development and talent management are all keys to this.  Companies should start to think about who gets hired, how rewards are allocated and most importantly how leaders and managers lead and manage.  Employee engagement can be tracked in a whole new way. So I say, throw away those old employee opinion surveys and put to use these new tools. I know this is slippery slope, but truth be told real-time listening via internal social media is an acceptable and valuable practice. Gather employee feedback via spot pulse surveys, use big data to track productivity (The New York Times addressed this topic recently), and get leaders actively engaged in the conversation and empower them to respond real-time with meaningful action (just like American Airlines did for me).

BOLDIt takes a village.  I’ll end this with a word of caution. No single function owns this new domain. We’ve seen how digital transformation of the customer experience has forced the IT and Marketing departments to find a new way of working together; and it’s not always been easy.  When it comes to the employee experience, HR, IT, Marketing and Legal all need to play together. Marketing and HR need to collaborate on the employee promise and its tie to Brand. IT needs to work with HR and Marketing to provide the right platform that links the customer and employee experiences and Legal needs to not only protect the company but also take a new look at the rules and challenge themselves to think differently. These four functions have to work together like never before but I would say, as the champion of the Employee Experience, HR needs to lead the way. And of course, none of this will happen without leaders who not only embrace the notion that employee engagement equates to business performance but also willing to fund meaningful action. Let’s just call that ‘walking the talk and putting your money where your mouth is’.

A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.  Richard Branson

Confessions of an Online Leader

Person 1.jpgI am a leader in Capgemini Consulting’s people consulting practice and work with a global team to define how digital transformation helps create a more connected organization. Some may think the idea is simple, just use digital tools to connect employees to other employees, to the outside world and to the organization and its leaders. But it’s not simple at all; there are more than enough tools out there and there is more than enough dabbling (Capgemini calls companies who dabble Digital Fashonistas). The problem lies in poor adoption, primarily caused by a lack of meaningful leadership support. In today’s digital age, simply espousing something no longer makes it so. Living it and living it out loud works much better.

Too few leaders have a meaningful and compelling online presence. If you’re like me, you have a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube account and you may spend lots of time (or not) on Facebook with your “friends” but you haven’t yet built a broad-based online presence and following.  When I took an honest look at myself I had to admit that I certainly wasn’t walking my own talk. I am working to rectify this with this blog, a greatly improved LinkedIn profile, a renewed love of Twitter and an active use of Yammer inside my company.  No one asked me to do this and frankly it’s still a little lonely out there. Any leader who touts the digital prowess of his or her company but who has never tweeted, blogged or You Tubed an idea, simply won’t succeed.  So, let’s get going, because you make it real!

An early riser, I used to spend the hours of 5:00am – 8:00am reading and writing email or catching up with colleagues in Europe. Now, I spend that time reading, tweeting and polishing my blog posts.  I watch a lot less TV at nights and on weekends.  I still do what I’ve always done during work hours but I actually am having a hell of a lot more fun, energized by access to a vast universe of information, wisdom and people.  Digital transformation will forever change the social and psychological climate inside businesses which are fast becoming more hospitable to human life. And an unforeseen upside to all of this is that my email traffic has slowed considerably.

I admit to having a few fears as I chart this new territory:

Am I interesting? What could I possibly have to share? Is my contribution funny, insightful and valuable?

person2Does anyone care? Who will listen, who will follow me? It’s actually funny wanting to be followed because being followed used to result in a desperate duck into a well-lit store. Now, I am happy to be followed by perfect strangers.

Am I vulnerable? Am I breaking any social or corporate rules? Am I just SPAM? Will I scare my co-workers if it’s too personal? Maybe I will annoy a few along the way, but really who cares. Isn’t it the opportunity to debate and discuss ideas that enriches corporate life? Last I checked, no one wants to be just another generic cog in the wheel.

Do I have the time?  In response to my last blog one of my friends commented, “just another thing to do.”  Yeah, it is but isn’t it necessary to stay relevant? I think this new digital era will change how we grow old in this world. The days of old-age obsolescence could become a thing of the past as we easily access and absorb the same information available to all.

Even if you do or don’t share these same concerns, I offer five easy steps to becoming a powerful digital leader:

1.  Identify your Digital Persona. What do you want to accomplish? Contribute? Influence? Network? Based on this, decide which tools will work best for you. If you want to contribute, then blog. If you want to network become a serious LinkedIn user (not just a dabbler). If you want to Influence, join sites on issue you care about and engage in that community.

2. Find your passion. What matters to you? Think beyond just work and include family, fun, hobbies or causes. How do these experiences shape your views, opinions or stories? I am passionate about making organizations more hospitable to human life. But I also love humor and try to laugh as often as possible. If  you follow me on Twitter you would see that I practically idolize the raunchy yet real, Sarah Silverman and the politically incorrect Bill Maher.

3. Just write it.  Start writing. I usually start with an ugly mess of words. As Ernest Hemmingway said, “The first draft of everything is shit.”  Like exercise time, I now carve out writing time; both are sacred. Use a mix of media: photos, videos, data. Iterate, ask friends or family to take a look but whatever you do, don’t get stuck. Set goals and meet them.

4. Hit the publish button.  Put it out there — Your own site (if you have one yet), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and your company’s social networking site. Monitor it and keep putting it out there. Learn how to use hash tags – create your own (I’ve started #connectedorganization). I found a very talented guy named Tyler Moore on YouTube who taught me how to get started.

5. Do better next time. So you only got 1 re-tweet, zero comments and few visitors to your site. Try again. If you stick to a topic that you are passionate about and your passion shines through, you will be noticed. You will be on your way to becoming a digital leader. I was on the phone with a few people last week who wanted to talk about my last blog — now that’s what I’m talking about.

Peroson 2My advice is “be yourself.” I can finish this quote with Oscar Wilde’s take, “…because everyone else is taken.” But I  prefer Bob Dylan who said, “…whoever that is.”  Dylan has it right, embarking on this journey will be one of self-discovery as long as you free yourself to be yourself. Many leaders are  sheltered, scripted and distant, and they’ve lost touch with that which inspires them. They then lose their ability to engage and enroll others in their passions, ignoring the perfect platform that the Internet offers. If you are a leader get online, discover who you are and discover the power of connecting with your employees on a whole new and authentic level.

 

 

I Write Like I Make Bread

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In most professions staying relevant in the digital age requires a lot more writing than ever before. Whether a 140-character tweet, LinkedIn post, blog or old-fashioned book, ideas must be shared and a following created. Even as video or other media replace writing, the professional must still be able to tell a good story. This weekend, as I prepared for yet another attempt at baking artisan Country Bread, I felt the hint of anxiety normally experienced when I sit down to write. I’m a fine business writer but am learning that digital-age writing requires greater frequency, originality, authenticity and visibility. Connecting with this anxiety helped me see that, like bread making, writing is a time-consuming process of trial and error that can neither be rushed nor prolonged. I never know if my bread making effort has paid off until I cut that first slice but I’ve learned that even if not perfect, it always satisfies. I can say the same for writing.

Healthy food is one of my passions. The dangers of our over processed, over engineered food supply are pretty clear so I’ve added my own bread to my diet.  I first learned how to make bread in Peter Berley’s North Fork Kitchen which is a lovely place to spend a weekend learning from this great master.  I practice at home using Chad Robertson’s book, “Tartine Bread” as my guide. I strive for that perfect combination of flavor, texture and rise.  And, when I write, I work hard to find the perfect blend of topic, style and structure.

I embrace these sister challenges for a few simple reasons:

  • Feed my soul. Chad Roberts writes that bread was once the foundation of a meal and at the center of daily life.  I’d argue that so is the written word, especially in today’s hyper-connected world.
  • Protect my health. Writing keeps the mind sharp and forces active knowledge gathering and synthesis. Home made bread with its absence of artificial ingredients is a tasty, nutritious and easily digestible food.
  • Keep me grounded. Making bread is a beautiful and simple act that forces me out of the work realm and when I write I connect with others in ways that shape my view of the world.

So come along with me as I describe the parallels of making bread and writing.

The Starter:  An idea is to writing is as starter is to artisan bread making.  A writer’s ability to dream up a great idea and feed that idea is often the difference between an OK and a great piece of work. The bread maker’s ability to manage fermentation is the difference between a brick hard loaf and one that’s soft and airy in the middle and encased in a crunchy, golden brown crust. The starter, fermented flour and water, requires daily feeding, a watchful eye and an intuitive knowing when it’s ready. The writer needs an idea and then must feed it by jotting notes, thinking and researching until the idea is mature enough to structure the outline.

The Leaven.  The leaven gives the bread its character and can be likened to the writer’s outline.  The leaven needs about 8 hours to reach its peak, and is best when mixed before bed and left to ferment overnight. The leaven is only ready when a drop of it floats in water. I like to write my outline in a day and thIMG_0294en leave it overnight to ferment in my resting mind. This morning, I woke up early, did the float test and mixed the dough and when I finished, I worked on my first draft. Like the leaven, once an idea floats, it’s time to have a productive writing session.

The Dough: Creating the dough is the longest part of bread making and involves many iterations. I’ve found that, aside from self-inflicted distraction the first iteration is the quickest part.  It gets laborious as I move to the final version. In bread making this is also when the process gets more technical and intuitive. One must follow the process but also  know when the dough has risen just enough, strengthened to perfection and is ready to bake. The dough-making process has three critical repetitive activities: resting, fermenting and shaping.

  • Resting is about walking away and letting the dough, well, rest so that the glutens swell andIMG_0295 form the gas-trapping structure. By the time the writer is iterating through multiple drafts, the piece needs to start to form strength and cohesion.  Resting the dough sets up the process for maximum efficiency and walking away from the draft does the same.
  • Fermenting is the when the dough develops its strength, flavor and structure. It’s time consuming and critically important. Like a never-ending draft, dough left too long will be less forgiving and likely will be abandoned.  The main action here is to gently turn the dough to let air in and allow it to rise; a simple yet delicate process.  This is the part of writing where stuff that doesn’t contribute to the story is removed and the flow and style refined and simplified.  Like bread making it takes a trained eye to know when to keep going and when to stop.
  • Shaping is when the lump of dough starts to look like a loaf of bread and the baker makes decisions about how much to shape depending on the desired outcome. Shaping is about creating the right tension needed for the loaf to maintain its form through the long final rise and gives the top of the bread it’s beautiful crust.  Robertson says that the skill needed in this phase provides “the freIMG_0296edom to craft any bread you imagine.”   This is the point in writing when the finishing touches on flow, structure and form are done. I find leaving a near final draft overnight is the best way to bring the effort home.

 

Baking:  This is the fun part and is mostly a technical exercise with precise temperature, tbreadtiming and steps. This is also when the baker scores the top of the bread, to help the loaf expand and allow for a little personal branding. Once in the oven, the mass of flour, water and salt turns a beautiful golden brown with the edges of the score intensifying to a deep chocolate color.  The process of baking is the same as putting the final polish on a document. Checking research accuracy and references, fixing syntax and spelling and if publishing online making sure the links work. NOTE: my grammar is far from perfect and so, like my bread, my final document may be a little undercooked.

 

Eating:  Going live with an online article or blog is always a little scary. When I slice into a fresh loaf I can tell by how the knife moves through the crust whether the bread will merely satisfy or delight the senses.  It feIMG_0299els almost the same after I’ve shared the article and am waiting to see the reaction. I guess the main parallel here is that my bread improves with each repeated attempt and my following is growing.

 

My bread is just out of the oven  and is a beautiful golden brown. As I devour nearly a quarter of the fresh loaf, I hit the Publish button on this blog. Enjoy!!!

Has the Organization (Wo)Man’s Time Finally Come?

 

saviano continua... a lecce / salento / italia / italyWilliam H. White’s bestselling book, The Organization Man (1956) was very influential in its time. White debunked the commonly held belief that organizations made better decisions than individuals and that employees were more motivated by serving the company than they were by pursuing their own ideas and creations. White introduced the concept of commitment and tied it not to blind loyalty, but to an employee’s desire for individual freedom to pursue ideas and have a say. A premise that has yet to see its day because many companies are still hard-wired to suppress these desires and continue to reward executives for risk-averse behavior. White described the prevailing social ethic that conspired against individualism: a belief in the group as the source of creativity; a belief in “belongingness” as the ultimate need of the individual; and a belief in the application of science to achieve that belongingness.  What’s funny is that each one of these principles can be looked at through the prism of the digital age and actually be used to make an opposite argument. Digital tools such as Spigit are exploiting the power of the group by creating an open-source approach to innovation; social sites such as Yammer and Chatter are satisfying the need for belonging, and big data is the science that makes transparent that which used to be obscured by hierarchy.  Maybe the digital age will help strike the balance between collectivism and rugged individualism.

I’ve dedicated my consulting career to helping organizations become places where people can learn, grow and be fulfilled. This is my passion, and for years I’ve been a close confidant to many senior business and HR executives. I know they know that their people are the number one key to business success.  But, the shareholder rules, and often these same executives are held back from acting on their convictions – sometimes the only place to cut or the easiest thing to ignore is people. It’s often a tough and painful choice to make, but, I’m feeling hopeful.  In the last year or so I’ve started to see a new path — something’s on fire, a tipping point is near. This path, I think, leads to radical change in the psychological contract employers have with their employees. A whole new level of connectedness, created out of the wave of digital transformation, is shifting those 1950’s views.

How are organizations responding?  The answers to this question lie in a muddy pool of water – there is no clear view or plan.  Some just let the grassroots take hold and some try to govern with positions, policies and rules.  I believe both are needed, but you can’t over-control things.  My brother, Rob Biesenbach recently tweeted a link to Gini Dietrich’s  blog where she wrote, “There is no such thing as a social media strategy. That’s akin to saying you have a telephone strategy or a typewriter strategy.”  I think she’s right. If these tools are good for business and good for people they will take hold; as long as the engineering is sound and the value is there.  Leaders need to lead the way, building their own online presence and engaging in and experiencing this alongside everyone else.

This blog is an attempt to organize my thinking on this subject, which right now is just a daily barrage of ideas flying through my head or out of my devices. Many, including myself, have written about the impact of digital on culture, leadership, employment, learning, talent, productivity, but like most things people-related, we constantly fail to see the patterns and unify around a set of organizing principles.  This blog will evolve my own framework and hopefully start to shape a useful dialogue.  In my opinion, the full value of the Connected Organization will be realized when:

  • Employees are connected to employees, opening up a world of once difficult to find people, expertise, information, and shared experiences, making it easier for employees to perform, connect and have some fun.
  • Employees are connected to the outside – customers, community leaders, researchers, academics, vendors, and politicians – allowing them to activate the company’s brand on an entirely new level. Handled right, employees will make the brand come to life better than any advertisement or traditional outreach campaign ever could.
  • Employees are connected to the business, its vision, mission and leaders. This connection allows people to better understand how they fit in and to see their leaders as authentic human beings. It allows leaders to experience the value of transparency and authenticity. It brings heart back into work.

 

My blurry framework includes five things:

  • Social. Creating a connected workforce adept at using digital tools to open up new ways of working, collaborating, sharing and socializing.
  • Psychological. Shaping a new employee experience and  understanding what workers of all generations want out of work and what businesses need in return. It’s about building loyalty and commitment and a competitive employment brand.
  • Engagement – I’ve been a life long change management consultant and am glad the days of big brown paper stakeholder mapping exercises are over.  These tools were fine back when, but they have no place in today’s environment. Rather, change management is now about creating an experience that allows people to hear, see, touch and live the change — using videos, blogs, games and other tools.
  • Analytics – Data about consumer behaviors and attitudes have truly transformed how companies attract and retain customers and drive them toward their product or service.  A New York Times article about “workforce science” laid out the benefits of tapping into employee data to drive productivity and success.   This is not a new idea, but the science of workforce planning is coming of age.
  • Human Resources. If any of my colleagues are reading this, I know I’d hear a faint groan. Let’s face it, Digital Transformation has forever impacted the role of the CMO and CIO, but not many are talking about the role of the CPO. Why is this? I think it’s because HR, while improving, still suffers from it’s own lack of investment in its core infrastructure, relegating most of its brain power toward mundane tasks.  If we buy into the notion that HR are the stewards of human capital then we need help shape a new role and elevate HR to a new level of performance.

 

Last but not least, it all begins and ends with Leadership. The Digital Age leader must be real, honest and willing to be vulnerable — or simply put, authentic. This isn’t a new idea, but what is new is that with an online presence a leader can practice being real in real-time – rather than sitting in some hotel ballroom with a quirky facilitator who forces excruciating exercises. I’ve never been a big fan of the “I’ll make you cry” style of leadership development and think the Connected Organization offers a new way to develop leaders – make them real.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll visit again. I will take each of these pieces one at a time and bring new thinking, research and practical ideas on how to realize a truly connected organization inside your own company.