Social networking… at the office?

On-the-Internet-52In my final post for MSLOC 430, I’d like to bring my two previous posts & this new one full circle by introducing some content related to… the big, bad internet.  As more people get online, more information is shared across farther distances, more people are connecting that may never have met before and organizations are finding a whole host of new ways to get in touch with their clients.  However, not everything has been smooth sailing.  The internet has made it easier for people like stalkers, bullies and terrorists to communicate and/or terrify others.  It has also provided a cloak with which people can hide behind; communication doesn’t happen face-to-face and so now, people can create an entirely new identity online if they choose to do so.

All of this, however, begs some questions: how are we supposed to interact with others online?  How can we build trust when the interactions aren’t face-to-face?  Is the way I behave and communicate online different than the way I behave and communicate in person?  What about at work?  Should my behavior online be different there than it is at home?  And so on…

What’s most interesting about trust, leadership and being online is that so much of the literature and research on leadership says that in order for leaders to build trust, they must be physically present with their team members.  Physical presence is not something that goes hand-in-hand with the internet, so how can we, as leaders, build trust online?  Certainly organizations are starting to consider this question as they’re faced with an increasing pressure to be more mobile, global and/or open.  In my quest to understand more about building trust online, I stumbled upon a TEDTalk that made me recalibrate my own perception of trust and empowerment as it relates to the internet.  Rachel Botsman, an author and innovator on the power of collaboration, explores these concepts in her TEDTalk from Sept 2012:

There are two pieces from her TEDTalk that really stand out to me as it relates to trust, leadership and the internet:

  1. social networking sites, marketplaces and online collaborative spaces can empower people to make meaningful connections
  2. these places encourage people to develop personal relationships because that’s what they’re built on

Since these types of sites are built on personal relationship as opposed to “empty transactions,” as Rachel notes, organizations should consider how they can leverage this kind of community building in-house.  Companies are growing their footprint online with their customers, why not grow it with their employees too?  Organizations can empower their people to reach out to others by introducing an enterprise social network (ESN).  An ESN could encourage collaboration and increase connectedness within an organization – two things that companies will likely find advantageous in terms of increasing efficiency.

The bottom line: ESNs can be a powerful tool for organizations to adopt as technology continues to evolve.  However, they must not forget that without trust, people won’t be apt to really use the networking site to its full potential.  We know that it’s possible for trust to be developed online, but leaders must understand that it still requires effort to build genuine relationships with team members whether it’s online or not.  Only then can online networking at the office really pay off for an organization.

 

Do you trust me?

cubejpgLately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the concepts of trust and safety in an organizational environment.  Prior to joining MSLOC, I was a disengaged employee working in various teams in a large, hierarchical organization.  I spent nearly every hour of the work day behind a cubicle inside of an interior office with fairly minimal face-to-face human contact.  Team leaders would hound me via email, staff managers were more of a structural fixture than anything else, and the overarching understanding was that everyone kept their heads down and did their jobs.

 

One thing of particular interest when it comes to leadership and organizational culture is the concept of trust.  Do we trust our managers?  Do we trust our peers?  Do we trust our organization?  And if we don’t trust these people, will we engage in the work we’re meant to be doing?  Will we feel empowered to take action when something isn’t right?  I’ve been doing a lot of research on the importance of establishing trust and psychological safety in teams & organizations and it’s got me thinking… How can leaders foster a safe and trusting environment such that their team members, subordinates, and/or peers feel comfortable speaking up and sharing opinions?  Simon Sinek does a wonderful job of illustrating just how important trust and psychological safety can be for individuals working in teams or organizations:

As I reflect on Simon’s TED talk and the information I’ve gleaned from research on trust and psychological safety, I’ve come to understand that leaders who demonstrate the following behaviors are more likely to create trusting environments for their teams:

  • Being approachable & accessible
  • Being inclusive
  • Building genuine relationships with team members

There are many other ways to foster trust and safety on teams but I feel like these three get at the heart of what Simon Sinek and many others have pointed out over the years.  If organizations want to increase employee engagement, creativity, and innovation, they must create a culture where individuals feel safe and cared for.  Regardless of rank or position, good leaders are people who can foster trust and safety by including others in decision-making, being physically accessible for people to connect with face-to-face, and genuinely taking the time to get to know team members.  As Simon points out:

“Leadership is a choice; it is not a rank”

For me, the takeaway is this: You don’t have to be in the c-suite to be considered a leader in an organization.  All it takes is some thoughtful leadership behavior that works toward creating a sense of trust and safety in your own practice groups, teams, or departments.  We can all be good leaders if we choose to 🙂

Blindness is a social construction

This quarter I have the unique opportunity to use this site to explore the relationship between leadership and organizational culture & change.  I hope to introduce you to some interesting people, enlightening media content and maybe a few academic tidbits.

I’d like to kick the conversation off by introducing you to one of my favorite leaders, Daniel Kish.  I was first introduced to Daniel (we don’t actually know each other…) through Invisibilia, a too-short, too-cool podcast series about the invisible things in life that control our behavior.  It’s fitting that they would do a story on Daniel because well, Daniel is blind.  Daniel also loves riding bikes and hiking and does so frequently.  How you ask?  Echolocation.  And his mission?  To liberate blind children from the social constraints that a label like “blind” can have on a kid’s future.  Effectively, he’s trying to change the way we all “see” blindness.  To get an idea of what that means, I highly recommend watching Daniel in action in this TEDTalk:

Daniel’s story is important because it shows just how challenging it can be to change people’s perspectives.  However, as soon as I heard Daniel’s story, my perspective on blindness completely changed.  Now, it’s not always that easy but the simple fact that all it took for me to change my perspective was to just be introduced to Daniel’s story is indicative of something extremely important in organizational change: leadership.  If leadership is not fully committed to the change mission or if they aren’t communicating their commitment then how can a change initiative possibly get off the ground – let alone be sustainable in the long term?!

My advice?  We need to be using stories like Daniel’s to encourage leaders to be fearless in their convictions and encouraging of others to come along for the ride.  As the podcast notes, it’s possible to move outside of the system – and we don’t have to be able to see to do so.

If you want to listen to the podcast, check out part 1 here: Invisibilia|How To Become Batman Pt. 1 (things get really interesting around the 20min mark).

(quote in title from The Making of Blind Men, Robert Scott, 1981)

Introductions

Chicago_05122014-25Raised in the suburbs, educated in Ohio and now “adulting” in Chicago.

Full-time student, part-time yogi & runner and utterly in love with dogs & polar bears.

I live for slow-cook Sundays and extra hot tea.

 

 

“clear eyes.  full hearts.  can’t lose.”

 

Note: cover photography & Chicago photo are by my talented brother.  Check out his portfolio at http://www.mweidnerphoto.com/