Social Business Leadership Framework

by Mark Smiciklas |
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From a leadership perspective, embedding social business ideas into an organization has less to do with embracing tools and technology than it does with learning how to facilitate and manage culture change. What set of skills do leaders need in their toolbox to effectively lead organizations through the process of adopting social business philosophy?

The following framework is inspired by James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s Five Practices Model, from their ground breaking book The Leadership Challenge . This post is designed to help leaders understand some of the unique considerations, competencies and behaviors related to leadership in the age of social media.

“Model the Way”

Develop your social media voice.

  • As a leader people want to hear what you have to say. Establish the purpose of your social media voice. Will it be used in a public facing manner or as an internal mechanism to inform stakeholders?
  • Find the medium that matches your personality. If you enjoy writing, a blog might make sense. Maybe you would prefer sharing your ideas via an audio podcast or video blog. Twitter might be your thing if you prefer sharing concise thoughts or are interested in connecting in real time.
  • Look to other leaders for inspiration. How are they using social media?

Lead by example.

  • Make sure your actions jive with the social business goals of the organization. For example, if one objective is to build a culture of open communication; lead the way by sharing the company’s social media goals across the whole organization and not just the management team.
  • Show interest in your teams’ social media strategy by asking questions and being “present”. Become part of the social media team.

“Inspire a Shared Vision”

Think about the social business possibilities.

  • Develop a vision statement that highlights what your social organization might look like in 5 years, 10 years. Publish that vision and share it with all your employees.
  • Create a list of things you want your organization to accomplish using social media. This could take the form of a one pager or a more formalize social media strategy document. Publish this list or plan and share it across the organization.

Engage those that share your goals.

  • Listen to internal audiences to learn how different stakeholders influence, or become influenced by, social media.
  • Distil the hopes employees have for social media and publish them in a format accessible by everyone. Do the same with social media fears. Sharing aspirations and concerns helps connect the organization and build a shared vision.

“Challenge the Process”

Create an environment that supports social business change.

  • Be open about challenging the status quo. Encourage employees to question legacy thinking, old business models, etc. and foster new ideas.
  • Chip away at silos by supporting systems that facilitate flatter, open communication channels. Lead the way by becoming more accessible yourself.

Experiment and take risks.

  • Encourage pilot projects.
  • Create a supportive environment that breeds social media trial and error. But be sure to communicate that learning from mistakes is the goal.
  • Seek an incremental series of small wins.

“Enable Others to Act”

Fuel buy-in.

  • Seek to establish employee driven social media goals across departments. Share each business units’ goals across the organization to build a support network.
  • Display trust in your teams and focus on social media wins not losses.

Empower employees.

  • Develop a learning culture where employees are encouraged to invest time to build their knowledge base. This could take the form of self guided learning, mentorship or a more structured social media approach to training.
  • Develop a social media governance system that addresses organizational objectives, guidelines/policies and clear ways to seek help if employees have questions, concerns, training needs, etc.
  • Support (qualified) employees that want to expand their sphere of social media influence. When it comes to social business, everyone can be in marketing and customer service.
  • Develop a culture of measurement and make people accountable.

“Encourage the Heart”

Recognize individual excellence.

  • Seek out social media heroes and publicly acknowledge their contributions.
  • Share stories of social media success across the organization.
  • Reward accomplishments that support social business initiatives.

Build community.

  • Host company events or activities that celebrate the achievement of social media objectives or milestones.
  • Be the social media champion, have fun and, whenever possible, connect face to face with employees charged with nurturing the organization’s social business mandate.

Make sense? Can you suggest other competencies leaders should learn in order to be more effective at managing social business change? What part of leading this type of change do you think is the most challenging? The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Mark Smiciklas

Mark Smiciklas is a Digital Strategist, author and President of Intersection Consulting; a Vancouver based digital marketing agency that teaches organizations how to leverage the dynamics of the web to achieve business goals. Mark is also the managing editor at Solopreneur.ca and is an established marketing and social media practitioner recognized for his visual thinking and practical strategic approach. You can connect with him on Google+.