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’.

Corporate website trend: From channel to canvas

Summary: Moving ‘from text to active content’ is the third corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

When companies started to flock to the WWW things were simple. They set up their corporate website, digitialised their content and done. Back then the WWW felt like a channel. Today it has become a canvas. With the proliferation of social media, companies now need to think multi-channel. There is a plethora of services that organisations can use to expand their digital footprint. To make things even more complicated HR, Marketing, Customer Service, External Communication departments and others could all potentially leverage social media channels to address particular business needs creating their own channels. At times this can also lead to confusion for customers and inefficiencies for organisations.

What is clear is that social media channels cannot and must not replace the corporate website. In fact, they complement each other. In the beginning companies were driving their audience towards their social media channels to be able to engage with them in better ways. But soon companies were unnerved by the frequent changes made by behemoth like Facebook or services that came and went like Posterous that was used for content curation. A better way is to leverage the size of existing and successful social media channels and services to reach larger audiences but aggregate the content and to a certain extent activity on the corporate website to drive traffic back to a place that is owned by the company. 

In this series I normally try to highlight good examples of the corporate website trends that we see. In this case I rather start off with a poor example, simply because it’s an easy mistake to make and I have seen it quite often.

Poor integration of social media channels

Poor integration of social media channels on Boeing’s corporate website

Whilst linking to social media is easy, the integration often looks basic at best and irrelevant at worst. Boeing’s corporate website is a particular poor example. On the Media page we see a number of sharing options. It breaks the layout and looks cheap. But the real question is: Does anyone use the sharing functionality?

The ‘Connect with Us’ widget on Boeing’s corporate website is equally challenging. In this particular case the reader is confronted with two FB channels, three Twitter channels. There is no tool tip to understand which channel is what. Luckily, these widgets do not appear on every page of the website!

As mentioned before companies should identify relevant channels to leverage their network and scale. For example, many companies already rely heavily on YouTube to host and distribute content. Procter & Gamble use YouTube primarily for storytelling, Nestle has a separate Investor Relations channel, whilst Deutsche Telekom tries to represent the entire company on YouTube. Another distribution network is Flickr, a photo-sharing website. Deutsche Bank have had a presence on Flickr since 2009 to host its own photos but also link to photos from other Flickr users.  I am yet to find a company that has started hosting all their media assets (e.g. pictures of premises, board members, logos etc.) on Flickr. But maybe it will happen one day. Slideshare is potentially another interesting channel to host for example slides, webcasts of a company’s annual general meetings or other relevant content. BASF has been using Slideshare for the past three years now.

With this proliferation of external channels, the corporate website needs to become a platform to aggregate them. Some companies don’t dare to touch the traditional newsroom and instead create  a separate subsite to aggregate social media content. Here is an example from Lufthansa.

A separate Lufthansa Social Media Newsroom

A separate Lufthansa Social Media Newsroom

But some companies also try to extend the traditional media newsrooms to include the company’s social media channels. Integration efforts vary between simple linking and pulling in content either via API or widgets. SAP uses a hybrid approach and links to social media channels but also displays a Twitter feed. Also, have a look at Microsoft Germany and Pfizer as they try to break down the silo between traditional and social media newsrooms. However, their integrations look cheap and poor breaking the look & feel of the site. Scania Group have done a better job in this case, especially with pulling in photos from Flickr and videos from YouTube.

Incorporating social media channels in a corporate website is a good start to position the corporate website as a platform rather than single channel. But I believe we haven’t seen the most interesting use cases yet. For example, LinkedIn offers a plugin that allows career seekers and other users coming to a company’s website to see who in their LinkedIn network works at that company.

Commonwealth Bank - Using LinkedIn plugin to show who you already know at the bank

Commonwealth Bank – Using LinkedIn plugin to show who you already know at the bank

The Commonwealth Bank is the only organisation I have seen making use of the LinkedIn plugin. Even without checking LinkedIn the plugin already showed me that I have 56 people in my network that could introduce me to employees working at the bank.

Furthermore, I believe that companies should not only look at external social media channels to hook up with their website. Many companies have created communities, enterprise social networks, blogs etc. behind the firewall. Exposing some of that content with as little friction as possible on the corporate website would be a win for transparency for the company and readers.

Given the plethora of social media tools and the value they can potentially add for a company, companies will not get around them easily. If they do extend their digital footprint though, they will need a comprehensive strategy and how to tie them all together. The corporate website can serve as an excellent platform.

This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  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

© Picture Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg