A little more conversation ?

I know Elvis said “a little less conversation a little more action.. ” (Yes, I’m back with the song titles !!) but it seems that when it comes to leadership the reverse is true.

Now many of you will have seen me banging on about this in various presentations where I postulate that we should add “conversation” to the now ubiquitous cloud, consumerisation and collaboration triad. Most of the time I’ve been talking about the conversations we have with our customers and colleagues however in this post I’m going to focused the latter.

Companies are increasingly finding that the emergence of enterprise social tools, that enable “conversational collaboration”, create far more employee engagement than any of the traditional push / broadcast communications. Interestingly they are also allowing large companies to create the intimacy that was always seen as the benefit of smaller organisations. Large disparate and geographically dispersed companies can now seem intimate and inclusive rather than cold and fragmented.

But, just like the best traditional conversations, organisational conversations work best when there is more listening than speaking – particularly from those at the top of the tree. The old “two ears , one mouth” adage is sometimes lost when executives dive into the world of enterprise social. Equally, people who use these tools to simply pontificate or make self-centered pronouncements are reminiscent of the chap who walks into the pub or dinner party and shouts endlessly about me me me … and we all know how we view those folks.

Right up there with listening is authenticity. There’s been a lot of chatter recently about celebs who don’t do their own updates – shock horror !! Really !!! You thought it was all Justin’s own words (look up Bieber on Google or ask your kids). But seriously, if your CEO isn’t big on blogging or tweeting then he or she probably shouldnt be spoofed by your corporate communications folks as employees will quickly see through the charade. Better to have someone who is genuinely comfortable with the medium stimulating the conversations….. and that’s where trust comes in.

No one is going to enter into an open and honest exchange if they believe there’s a hidden agenda or worse still inappropriate behaviour. Trust is a hard-won commodity that is easily lost so organisations are naturally cautious but in reality most employees don’t come to work with the intent of spilling the company secrets or damaging its reputation so perhaps a more trusting approach (with some clear policies around “acceptable behaviour” – actually nothing more than you’d expect in a physical conversation) would be beneficial. The rewards can be great so its worth giving serious thought on how to cover subjects that in that past you might have considered off-limits.

So there you go, by no means exhaustive but if I had top pick 3 things to focus on it would be listening loads, being authentic, and creating a genuinely trusted and trusting environment.

I’m sure those of you reading this will have lots more to add and, as usual, this is just my humble opinion.

….. oh, and Elvis has left the building.

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