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Adi is a social business blogger and community manager that writes for sites such as Social Business News and Social Media Today. Away from the computer he enjoys cycling, particularly in the Alpes. Adi is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 859 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Does your executive team need to tweet to create a social business

03.22.2013
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Do you think you need to be an expert at something to inspire others?  The methods of motivation and leadership are many and varied, but undoubtedly leading by doing is one of the more successful.  This especially seems to be the case in the technical world where we require our leaders to appreciate what we do, to talk our language and champion our cause to their peers.

So new research by social software company Harmon.ie should be cause for concern for anyone with an interest in creating social businesses.  The aim of the research was simple.  They wanted to find out how many Chief Information Officers (CIOs) were active on social media.  Now of course you could argue that social business does not, and should not, sit within the IT department, but that discussion is for another blog.

So do CIOs of the biggest companies share their thoughts on Twitter or hang out with their peers on LinkedIn?  The answer would appear to be a resounding no.  They scoured Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ et al for activity and found that just 10% of CIOs use social technologies.  Now that’s not good.

It seems reasonable to believe that executives cannot be expected to be experts in every domain under their remit, of course not.  Such a belief would run a major risk of not invented here syndrome where anything not coming from their mouth is deemed not a good idea.  Hubris is easily avoided if you hire people smarter than you.  But there’s a big difference between not being an expert and not participating at all.

Could it be that executives have privacy concerns and believe that the things they have to share with the world aren’t really the kind of things they should be sharing with the world.  Again, plausible, but it doesn’t really wash with me.  There are many examples of senior managers using social media very well without causing their legal team palpitations with every tap of the keyboard.

Maybe it’s a time issue.  Senior managers are busy people after all.  This is probably the worst excuse of them all.  No one ever spends every minute of every day productively.  We waste time and procrastinate in all manner of creative ways.  No one is expecting them to devote the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell believes we have to spend to become experts.  We can all find a few minutes in our day if we want to do something badly enough.  Lack of time really translates to lack of importance, and that’s not good.

Does it matter?

For me, yes, I think it does matter.  Successful social business implementation is, like many other change projects, essentially a human or cultural endeavor.  The project leaders need to understand how social business can change things for the better.  They need to understand how using social tools can foster greater collaboration with colleagues and customers, or how the organization can recruit and retain talent better if they employ talent communities.  The technology side of things is pretty easy, but the human side is far from it.

As humans we’re generally pretty good at sniffing out when someone is trying to BS us.  You see it all the time from politicians and their integrity, or lack of, is a major reason why they have such little respect.  If you’re asking people to change how they work, to change how they get information or how they interact with their peers then you better get that stuff yourself.

You can’t delegate this to people that do get it, because to achieve a truly social business you need the whole business getting involved.  They’re going to need you to sell this into the executive team to give them the resources they need to make this work.  Do you think you can sell something you don’t believe in yourself?

So for me, 10% is a pathetic figure and is severely undermining efforts by those of us here to make our organizations social.

What about you?  Does your senior team use social tools?  Do you think it matters if they do or not?