As the community manager for a large enterprise social network (ESN) for a Fortune 100 company, it thrills me when leaders are interested in how they can use internal social networks better in their role as leaders. I am glad to report that 2013 has been the best year to date in our company for leader involvement in our internal network (called Buzz) since its debut in 2010 with more senior leaders and middle management becoming active in the platform every month. It makes a difference that our President/CEO is leading by example and is a very strong supporter of using such tools to accomplish the objectives of the business, helping to align the company’s nearly 50,000 employees toward a common goal, living common values.
When, therefore, I was invited to speak to a group of leaders yesterday about how they might better use Buzz, I boiled down my suggestions to a single page using the letters in the word “LEADER” to identify major ways in which leaders can use an ESN to more effectively lead. For each letter, I added three specific ideas or suggestions for guidance. The main categories assigned to each letter were:
L – listen
E – encourage
A – ask/answer questions
D – distribute info
E – engage
R – reward
Some of my suggestions to the leaders yesterday were specific to the Buzz platform we use, so I have modified them here where necessary to be more generic so as to fit any internal social platform. That said, here is how you can be a leader for your employees using an ESN:
- Browse groups of interest and relevant discussion streams to check the pulse of employees on various topics.
- Approach the platform as a place where you can learn from the wisdom of others.
- Create a group (private if necessary) just for your team for easy, ongoing conversation about topics of interest, both business-related and non-business.
An occasional genuine “attaboy” or “attagirl” goes a long way.
Use public mentions frequently to individuals and groups, properly tagging the individual’s name according to the method used in that platform so the person is notified of the mention.
Use private messages to individuals or groups as needed.
ASK & ANSWER QUESTIONS
- Use the question and answer capabilities as part of periodic leader town halls.
- Be transparent and honest in answering questions.
- Answer questions quickly – the day they are asked if at all possible.
Keep employees informed about things coming up.
Pass on information from higher up the org chart to keep everyone on same page.
Share documents for collaboration as well as links to helpful articles, books, etc.
Solicit ideas for innovation in support of the business’s values and objectives and to assist with your team’s goals.
Take part in specific groups that may exist for leaders as well as the most relevant groups for all associates.
Post opinion polls.
- Use the platform’s features to acknowledge, praise, thank, and recognize others.
Publicly recognize successes and accomplishments of individuals and teams.
Know what motivates others & vary how you recognize members of your team according to their preferences.
The above list isn’t intended to be exhaustive, but suggestive of ways to get started using an ESN successfully as a leader. ESNs provide companies with untold possibilities for sharing knowledge, sparking innovation, improving communications, mutual encouragement, developing relationships and so much more. Leader participation is a vital part of making sure the potential of the platform is met.
Be a leader and use your company’s ESN in all of the above ways. Gather your team together and figure out as a group how you can improve processes, communication, relationships and effectiveness via your internal social platform. And if your company doesn’t have one yet, be even more of a leader by starting the process of establishing one.