How to become a better manager by building trust?

One of the key success factors for implementing an enterprise social network, collaboration platform or social intranet is the support from the executive management.  Whilst you might have found a (financial) sponsor for your project, it does not always translate into actual use of the platform by the sponsor. However, if they don’t walk the talk, you face a long and painful uphill struggle culturally implementing the platform and ideas for new ways of working.

I hear too often from executives that the new enterprise network or social Intranet is for employees but not for them. Employees should use the platform to connect, communicate and collaborate for the better of the firm. The apparent ignorance stems from the fact that executives do not properly understand how they can make use of the tools themselves, even though these tools offer tremendous value to executives, too!

As for anyone, it comes down to the question: Why should I use it? By using an enterprise social network and working out loud employees can build their own brand and take control of their career path. Managers*, including executive managers, can use such tools to become a better manager. There are few people who will admit that they are not interested in their own career or to be a good manager. In both cases we are talking about intrinsic motivation, which is more powerful and sustainable than extrinsic motivation. Thus, in your communication you should stress the point about becoming a better manager. To drive home the point about the importance of being a good manager, you may remind them that employees usually don’t leave companies. They leave their leaders / managers. Besides, employee engagement is at its lowest point, poor managers being one of the root-causes. Edelman, a leading digital agency, called 2013 the Crisis of Leadership. I believe it’s far from over. In Edelamn’s latest Trust Barometer report CEOs are still one of the least trusted people.

What does it mean to be a good manager? If you want people to follow you, they need to trust you. The number one thing employees want from leaders is not a strategy but honesty. Much can be gained already by being more transparent and communicating directly (and not through the latest corporate newsletter or town-hall event once a year) with a true, pure and humble voice. If you want people to make more sales, be more productive or whatever, they need to trust you. No matter whether you are an employee or a middle/senior/executive manager, here are five elements that can help you build trust and strengthen your corporate network:

    1. Visible: It used to be the case that managers were able to walk the (factory) floor and talk to employees directly. These interactions and relationships built trust. Nowadays, a distributed workforce makes this a huge challenge for any executive. The higher up the hierarchy the less visible and accessible managers become. Using an enterprise social network allows managers and leaders to be visible to employees again due to the transparency and scalability these technical platforms offer. Executives can get an unfiltered (by middle managers) view on what is going on within the company. Being visible on the enterprise network usually doesn’t take more than 15 to 20 min a day.
    2. Authentic: It’s important that executives speak with his own voice. They must not let their assistants or Internal Communication managers do the talking on the platform. Otherwise, it is just another comms exercise. In that case, they executives might as well send a pre-written and approved email to employees.
    3. Human: People trust people, especially if they know each other. The higher up a manager sits though, the less he knows his employees on the ground. Managers need to be approachable even by lower ranked employees that don’t have constant contact with higher level managers. Sometimes sharing something personal, makes us human and thus approachable and likeable.
    4. Valuable: It’s important to provide value to people who might follow the executive’s updates on the enterprise social network or social intranet. Similar to Twitter, just sharing what you had for lunch and that you are going to the loo is probably less interesting to people. Be interesting!
    5. Compassionate: Showing that you care, makes you more human and again approachable and likeable. Besides being interesting, you should in first instance be interested! Listening to what employees are saying is crucial. Joining the conversation with short comments or ‚like‘ or ‚thank you‘ clicks is quick and easy to show interest and appreciation and will go a very long way.

A fellow Change Agent, Simon Terry, arrived at a very similar list of traits that managers need to adopt in a networked company.

In this post I discussed the WHY and HOW executive management could and should make use of the company’s enterprise social network or social intranet. In a follow-up post I will discuss WHAT the executives can do to get started.


*For simplicity’s sake I am using ‚manager‘ and ‚leader‘ synonymously in this blog post, as the content discussed here applies to them in almost equal weight. However, it is understood that there is a difference between the concepts of ‚manager‘ and ‚leader‘.

What to consider for a relaunch of your corporate website

There comes a time when every company needs to think about its corporate website. ‚STOP‘, I hear you say. ‚Isn’t this 2014 we live in? Corporate websites are so 90s!‘ I agree. Looking at corporate websites of many large companies you could easily get the feeling that we are still living in the 90s. They are brochure-like, static pages providing content with an authoritative but not authentic voice. Of course, many pages have changed in design and added new functionalities over time. But in many cases that is not enough to address the sea of change that we have seen through the advent of social media.

And thus, there were always rumours about the death of the corporate website in the past, but Coca-Cola made it official last year:

Like any winning campaign, we let the data guide us and inform our content decisions. Replacing a transactional corporate website with a digital magazine upended how we work. With KPIs focused on engagement, the new newsroom meant publishing content based on what readers want to read. […]

[…] Today’s anniversary and home page re-launch marks a final break with the corporate website. You read it here first: for consumers, the corporate website is dead and “press release PR” is on its way out.

Ashley Brown is Group Director of Digital Communications and Social Media at The Coca-Cola Company

Thing is though, Coca-Cola is not your average company. It is a marketing machine. It can and needs to employ an armada of internal and external copy writers to make its content marketing strategy successful.  But for many other large organisations this digital magazine style approach is not an option, because it either doesn’t fit the budget, the purpose, the audience or all of the above. Arik Hanson has also some good points on why the Coca-Cola strategy should be critically questioned.

In the last year thinknext helped a successful, DAX listed company with over 40.000 employees completely rethink its corporate website strategy. At the beginning of the project we conducted an extensive analysis including internal/external user research, desk research and technical research. As part of our desk research we looked at a large number of existing corporate websites and also delved into a variety of reports to understand trends in corporate websites. None of them were satisfying, as identified trends were more closely related to web design, usability and information architecture. Many also suggested to combine social media channels with the corporate website. This is all good and well, but we couldn’t find a comprehensive answer to our most daring question: WHY?

From traditional to social

WHY do companies need a corporate website? The most important reason is certainly that publicly listed companies need to publish results and other relevant information. But why should a company spend tens of thousands of EUR on a website just to publish results? Of course, the corporate website is usually also used to provide information about the company. But what good is it if readers don’t trust it? Today people get their information from other sources including social media. And so it happens that once loosely connected people can all of a sudden turn against a company – the so-called social media shitstorm. At that point it doesn’t even matter whether the company is right or wrong or what it publishes on its corporate website. People simply trust each other more than the company!

This begs the following question: If once loosely connected people can turn against a company, could these people also become advocates of the company?  Thus, in our project we expanded the traditional purpose of the corporate website to also help building a network of advocates.

HOW do you build such network without paying people? It all starts with trust. Trust is the ultimate currency in the networked world we live in today. Relationships are built on trust. The below diagram details the elements of trust.

Enablers of Trust

These elements helped us articulate the trends that we think are crucial and should be considered by every company when thinking about relaunching its corporate website. As we are moving from a traditional to a social (networked) business world, corporate websites are moving:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

After we had addressed the WHY and HOW, we were able to think about the WHAT. Functionality should always come at the very end. It is important to note that each trend depicts a continuum. Few companies will move from one extreme to the other within a short timeframe. As we brainstormed functionality together with the client and implementing agency we were able to come up with a concept and functionality to address some of the trends, but also plot a path towards the more progressive end of the continuum.

I firmly believe that the corporate website is not obsolete in a networked world. But its purpose and therefore content and functionality needs to change according to the trends outlined above.

In future blog posts I will expand on each trend and highlight some of the best practice from other companies that I have found during the research. 


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Changing one mind at a time: Influencing behaviour in legal KM projects

Together with co-author Shimrit Janes we published an article in the Ark Group’s latest publication called Legal Knowledge Management: Insights and Practice (link to the TOC and a sample). The article looks at crucial success factors of such change projects, but zooms in on the most daunting task: influencing people and their behaviour.

Examples of truly effective KM programmes in the legal sector can be difficult to find. Challenges such as securing budget, engaging leadership and employees in the necessary change process and influencing their behaviour can all stand in the way of a succesful project. The article looks at crucial success factors of such change projects, but ultimately zooms in on the most daunting task: influencing people and their behaviour.

Excerpt:

Changing behaviours

Change is hard. The ‘9x effect’ states that people tend to weigh the benefits of something new by a factor of three, and equally also overweigh the cost of what they have learned by a factor of three. Thus, something new needs to be nine times more appealing than the status quo. Whilst the ‘9x effect’ is more a rule of thumb than hard science, it is a useful story for illustrating why overseeing a change project can be so hard.

We should be under no illusion; implementing new social tools within a KM programme requires change. This is not just because of new interfaces and functionality. More importantly, they break with long-learned behaviour patterns in the enterprise. In order to be valuable to the firm and its people, these technologies require its users to share instead of hoard their knowledge; ‘work out loud’ instead of either alone or within their confined team; to trust and be open instead of control and being secretive; and to actively build their own reputation, instead of passively relying on their manager to choose them for promotion.

The Influencer Framework

There are two fundamental elements that impact the probability of someone changing their behaviour: motivation and ability. Simply having the motivation to change does not mean you have the ability to do so, and vice versa. Consequently, both elements need to be considered in equal amount when trying to influence people to change.

This logic lies at the heart of a framework developed by Patterson et al. called ‘The Influencer Framework’. It can be used in any situation and context in which encouraging change is necessary. It is not, however, a change management model in and of itself. Rather, the framework can be appliedto different elements of a wider change management programme, for example to communication promotion, education and coaching, and technology selection. The framework identifies six sources of influence as shown in Table 1.

[table id=1 /]

Table 1: An adapted version of The Influencer Framework