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.



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