What can happen in 60 seconds? Take a look at this graphic…it’s pretty astounding!
So how can we, as change leaders, use social media to our advantage?
Sure, we use social media to connect with others for personal reasons. But as soon as the discussion turns to using social media in a professional context, the conversation suddenly becomes dicey. Why is it that we are reluctant to use social media to be more effective change leaders? It is perhaps that we fear some risk of public embarrassment or conflict that comes with online communications when all the world can see what we are saying? Could it be that sometimes we harbor painful memories of previous tech problems we would rather not face again? Or, is it that when it comes down to it, many of us prefer to interact face-to-face than keyboard-to-keyboard? How about time? How can we add another task or set of relationships to an already full plate? While blogging, Twitter and Facebook have brought new opportunities for conversation, knowledge gathering, and relationship building, those opportunities certainly feel more daunting than fun to those of us in change leader roles.
I would challenge you that the solution is to stop looking at social media as another platform that must be learned—just another responsibility—and start seeing it for what it can be instead: a personal tool for improving one’s practice of leadership. Sure, each tool and activity requires a certain investment of time to set up. But once it’s part of the routine, it will repay many times over by providing insights into work and leadership. Even if you start with one tool/activity, you should be able to see the payoff – then, you can decide if and when you want to start adding more to your busy agenda. But the key is to start.
Here are a few ideas…
Create a Leadership Dashboard
Don’t just monitor the Web for information; mine it for ideas, news, and research that will help you develop as a leader. If you have ever used iGoogle, Google Reader or Flipboard (an iPad aggregator), then you know what it is like to subscribe to a range of blogs, columnists, and news searches that offer insights into new leadership models, profiles of high-functioning change leaders, academic research on leadership, and summaries of the latest relevant books. If you could set aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to read the articles that are of most interest to you, or make this your end-of-day reading for the homeward commute, that is time well spent. And with these types of applications, the searching and scouring of the world wide web has already been done for you; all you have to do is read! Even though Google Reader is being retired in July 2013 (click here to read about an alternative) and iGoogle is being retired in November 2013 (click here to read why), there are many apps and options available to you to, depending on your interface. For example, if you have an Android phone, here are some apps that may be of use.
Planning and visualization tools may help keep your focus sharp and creative juices flowing. Mind-mapping tools like those at MindMeister.com and http://www.thinkbuzan.com/us/ can help you get and stay organized by making a diagram of your priorities for the month, quarter, or year. If you are visual person, as I am, the diagram is extremely helpful in making areas of responsibility clear. It is a constant reminder of who needs to do what in order to reach the goals, both short- and long-term. And the mind map is easy to share with others, which helps keep everyone motivated and on the same page.
A diagram, such as a mind map, is a good starting point, but what if you need to collaborate with others as part of an on-going project? Collaboration tools like Google docs and Basecamp make it easy to track each team member’s tasks and progress. Are you the kind of person who gets overwhelmed by a packed to-do list? If you are, then I suggest trying a tool like OneTask, which shows you tasks one at a time.
It is very important that you don’t get so bogged down in details to where you lose sight of the vision. Creating an online vision board may be the best way to do keep this from happening. Pinterest gives users a way to create galleries of images that remind everyone, including the change leader, what they’re working to accomplish. Your gallery might include a picture of a crowded auditorium (representing the hoped-for size of your growing company) or headshots of Fortune 500 CEOs (the ones you’re trying to acquire as clients). If you are collaborating with others, it is important that everyone has the opportunity to add images. With it being a collaborative effort, creating a visual guide motivates everyone.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m away from my computer for more than a day, I find that it’s very difficult to spot the urgent communications amid the accumulating CCs, FYIs, ASAPs, and LOLs. One way to avoid this difficulty is to escape the inbox by switching to Twitter as your preferred channel for high-priority or time-sensitive communications. You can set a Twitter account to follow all your direct reports, key stakeholders, and trusted colleagues. If these key people know the best way to reach you is via Twitter Direct Message, and when you set your smartphone so that Twitter Direct Messages (but not other kinds of tweets) show up in real time, just like a text message, I think you’ll find that reading and replying will be a lot faster. This means you can leave the job of clearing your email inbox to the beginning and/or end of the day, which will save considerable time. Instead of Twitter adding to your communications burden, it’s now making the job easier.
Join a Professional Network
As a change leader, the demands of your work may require you to connect with a very large number of people on social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook—sometimes, it is by far too many to sustain meaningful connections with all of them. That’s why consciously building a network of 5 to 15 respected and trusted leaders and advisors whose knowledge, insight, and experiences will have a meaningful impact on your own professional capacity and performance. If you decide to join a network, you should make a point of following that highly select group on all the social networks you use; create a separate private Twitter list, Google+ circle, and/or Facebook friend list that contains only these people to cement your personal, professional, and intellectual relationships with each of these key colleagues. If you have a specific challenge, you’ll know who to reach out to, and you’ll be able to jump right into intense conversation because you are caught up on each other’s personal and professional lives.
Go to the Beach
If your mental regeneration requires a trip to the beach (as it does for me), then maybe it’s time to bring the beach to you. Find or build a social-media space that is purely relaxing and restorative—it should be something you enjoy, even if it’s for five minutes between classes or meetings. Not sure what to do? You could create a gallery of your own personal photographs—(think of it as a personal version of the Pinterest vision board); you could blog until your fingers hurt where you review the latest wines or movies. Your social-media escape (aka: mental beach trip) will be something you can do anywhere, anytime. All that matters is that it be genuine downtime and an energy restorer rather than an energy drain.
I would love to hear feedback from you – do you use any of these tools? How effective are they? Do you utilize something not mentioned here? Don’t be shy – let’s collaborate! Comment below…
For more information, here are some books to check out: