Announcing My New Book “The Engaged Leader”


My work with CEOs and other leaders has proven time after time that the wisdom and experience a great leader brings to the table are the keys to making his or her digital transformation stick. Any one of the tens or hundreds of digital natives within your organization can teach you to use Twitter, but only you know how to use it (and other digital tools and platforms) to make your business stronger. As a leader, you are better than anyone at separating the signals from the noise and analyzing the emerging big picture.

I’m pleased to announce that my next book The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Your Digital Transformation will be published by Wharton Digital Press on March 17, 2015, and is available now for preorder. The book was inspired by the many leaders I meet who confess that, while they grasp the need for a personal digital strategy that is as powerful as the one they have in place for their organizations, they are personally at a loss as to where to begin.

This means that while organizations are embracing digital channels to engage with empowered customers, leaders sit on the sidelines, hoping that nobody notices. I’ve heard a litany of excuses from leaders about their absence from digital and social channels, both internally and externally:

  • “I don’t have the time.”
  • “There’s no clear ROI.”
  • “It’s my marketing team’s job.”
  • “There’s no replacement for face to face engagement.”
  • “I can’t get too familiar to my employees—they won’t respect me.”
  • “Who cares what I have for lunch?”
  • “I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said.”
  • “I don’t want to get my company in trouble.”

These statements may sound familiar, either because you have uttered them yourself or have heard your leaders say them. Now, I am not advocating that all leaders have Twitter accounts. In fact, I have no problem if a leader is not active digitally—but only if it’s a conscious, strategic choice. For example, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has a Twitter account but has never posted to it. While Ginni and her team use the account to listen to the conversation on Twitter, she prefers to focus on engaging employees internally on several platforms. She’s constantly reading employee posts, sharing content, and engaging in discussions. From the start of her tenure, she strategically used digital channels to engage with employees in her efforts to push IBM in new directions.

Examples in the book include leaders from the following companies: Aetna, ANZ Banking Group, Cisco, Edelman, General Electric, Humana, IBM, Marriott, Save the Children, Telstra, and UPS. There are also guest appearances from Pope Francis and Barack Obama.

The framework at the heart of The Engaged Leader—listen, share, engage—serves as a template for leaders as they undergo their transformation. It grants permission to practice this new form of leadership and offers a roadmap for connecting directly with those we lead.

I Need Your Help

I’m always struck by the enormous generosity of those around me, and I humbly ask for your help to spread the word about The Engaged Leader. Here’s how you can help:

  • Preorder The Engaged Leader. There’s nothing like being able to say you are among the first to receive a copy of a new book—except when you can say you also received an additional bonus for purchase that book before it publishes. If you order by March 16, 2015, you will receive the opportunity to join my “Ask Me Anything” webinar on March 31, 2015.
  • Consider using The Engaged Leader for leadership training. Need to train your executives and managers on how to lead digitally? Order by March 16, 2015 to take advantage of a special offer.
  • Share The Engaged Leader. Here are a set of tweets, resources, and images that you can use to talk about the book. There’s also information on that page to request a review copy. I’m happy to do an interview for an article or podcast as well.

For more information about the book, including these special opportunities, please visit

Creating a Culture of Content — Empowering Your Employees

Content marketing is hot, but it is not solely created by, inspired by, or used by marketing. Rather, content needs exist throughout multiple facets of an organization – think sales, customer services, thought leadership, recruiting, etc. The result: more and more organizations are focused on creating what Altimeter calls a “Culture of Content” (CoC) to nurture a content circulatory system that supports content creation throughout the entire organization.

This can be incredibly daunting for organizations that aren’t used to letting employees “speak” internally, let alone externally. But companies like Nestlé have executed significant and massive deployment of internal social networks to evangelize, share assets, and motivate employees to share content, not just internally but increasingly externally as well.

A new report by my colleagues Rebecca Lieb and Jessica Groopman lays out the four components needed to create a culture of content: Inspiration, People, Process, and Content.


Rebecca and Jessica found that there was no consistent framework used by organizations to bring individual employees into a content culture. But they did uncover some best practices when empower employees, namely:

  • Encourage and empower employees to identify content needs or stories worth spreading. For example, if they are in customer support and see people frequently struggling with a device setting or if sales sees a knowledge gap that interrupts the buying process, they can flag a content need.
  • Operationalize with internal enterprise social networks that highlight content best practices, provide case studies, and solicit ongoing feedback.
  • One of the most interesting predictions in the report is that companies with a strong culture of content will make content a part of the hiring process. This is less about aptitude (e.g. a talent for writing) and more about attitude — an enthusiasm to for participation, storytelling, sharing, or otherwise contributing to the content process.

It can be hard to create this culture of content — especially if your organization is “old school” in its approach to content today. The report lays out seven success criteria that organizations need to have in place to successful create this culture of content.

  1. Customer obsession drives content.
  2. Align content with brand.
  3. Drive content leadership from the top down and the bottom up.
  4. Culture requires constant evangelism
  5. Test and learn
  6. Global must enable local
  7. Integrate across all cultural components

How many of you work in organizations that recognize the need to create a culture of content? If you do, what is your company doing to make sure that this culture is nurtured and cared for, especially when it comes to empowering employees to create content? Please share your best practices!

How Good Is Your Social Business Governance?

Gavel GovernanceIn our research and client work at Altimeter, one of the most misunderstood issues we see is social business governance. I’ve seen it defined as everything from social media policies and risk management to organizational structures. My colleague Ed Terpening and I just published a report on how to think about governance – and in particular, the crucial role it plays in supporting strategy (download here).  Strategy and governance are natural partners: Strategy lays the groundwork for new opportunities while governance ensures safe execution, managing the risk of change.

Yet our research found that only 16% of organizations feel that governance is well understood and deployed. Many organizations can’t answer crucial questions such as: Who owns social? How are key decisions made? How do we organize to execute social? How do we manage risk as we scale social across the organization? Left unanswered, organizations face significant risks, including threats to brand health as the result of inappropriate or disjoint social practices. More importantly, organizations can’t truly scale social into a business strategy unless governance is addressed.

Our definition of social business governance is:

An integrated system of people, policies, processes, and practices that defines organizational structure and decision process to ensure effective management of social business at scale.

How Does Your Social Business Governance Stack Up?

The report is filled with data, sample policies, checklists, and case studies. In the end, you need to ask yourself how your social business governance actively supports the execution of your strategy. The capstone of the report is a social business governance maturity map, which I’ve included below. Where does your organization fall on this chart?


We’d love to hear where you are in your social business governance – and to contact us if you have any questions or need help with your governance roadmap. My report co-author Ed Terpening is far too modest to toot his own horn so allow me. He led Wells Fargo’s social media efforts for 7 years from its inception in 2005 until he joined Altimeter two years ago. At Altimeter, he’s helped numerous organizations design governance systems along with their social business strategies. You’ll have a chance to talk with me and Ed in an upcoming webinar, on Tuesday, December 9th at 10am PT. Bring your questions as well as your best practices and war stories – we’re looking forward to learning together with you at the webinar, and in our continued mutual quest to master social business governance.

Lessons from the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Charlene Li chisels at the Berlin Wall, November 11, 1989
Charlene Li chiseling at the Berlin Wall, November 11, 1989

25 years ago, I was living in Amsterdam watching the events unfold in Berlin, as the Wall Fell. I saw history in the making on the TV and wanted to be there to witness it. I bought a ticket and took the night train to Berlin, arriving early Saturday morning. I found a youth hostel, deposited my luggage, and joined the throngs of people wandering around West Berlin. Many were from East Berlin, getting their first look of the other side of their city in decades.

The city was relatively quiet — except for the persistent ching ching ching ringing in the distance. It was the sound of hammer and chisel in the hands of hundreds of people, taking a chip of the wall, of history.

I joined them along one section of the wall, borrowed a set from someone and got a few hunks to take home. I have searched in boxes for years to find those pieces, last sighted when I moved to California 13 years ago. I’m resigned that they are gone.

Wandering around, I saw a troop of Santa Claus impersonators, standing on the wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate, belting out Christmas Carols. This was the same place where President Ronald Reagan issued the challenge, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” There were scenes like this all over the West Berlin, people walking around in a dazed, disbelieving state. Could this be real? Will it last? What will this mean for the future?

In the dwindling light of the day, I wandered over to Checkpoint Charlie and did the opposite of what everyone else was doing — I went into East Berlin. I wandered the streets and made my way to the other side of the Brandenburg Gate. It was there that I realized that they wall wasn’t being torn down. It was being “chinked” down and had been for years. It was the building force of refugees and dissenters in Eastern Europe that finally pushed open the Iron Curtain. It was a people’s revolution, and the realization by the East Berlin government and border guards that they could no longer contain it.

I’ve had the chance to visit Berlin several times since then, roughly about every five years or so. The physical transformation is startlingly — nothing is recognizable and the gleaming newness of East Berlin draws the tourists and crowds. All that remains of Checkpoint Charlie is the museum. And the Brandenburg Gate is a traffic thoroughfare.

As someone who watches and writes about the changes and transformations cause by technology, it’s a good reminder that behind every major transformation like the Fall of the Berlin Wall are people. Transformation do not happen on their own. Technology does not transform. People do. It’s up to the leaders of the organization to recognize that the transformation is happening, with or without them. And if they really are looking out for the best interests of their shareholders/stakeholders, they will tear down the walls that hold back digital transformation and find ways to be more open and transparent.

Look what happened to Berlin when it opened the gates — it became whole. My hope is that organizations and leaders will find the courage to open up as well.

Fun Foray: Electric Vehicle Test Drive

Occasionally, I’ll depart from my usual writing about business and technology and post about something more personal, which I call a Fun Foray. 

EV_SignI recently had the opportunity to test drive an electric vehicle (EV) over the weekend — a Chevy Spark — thanks to the Experience Electric #TheBetterRide program. Background: I’m an ardent hybrid owner and am on my second Prius, a 2010 standard model. I’m also the owner of an SUV and live in San Francisco where parking is a challenge. I am writing this post to share what I found out about owning an EV, and also my thoughts about buying one in the future.

Summary: It’s not much of a savings over a hybrid like the Prius, but I would be emitting less than a third of the CO2 emissions with the EV. I definitely see an EV as a second, run-around-the-city car. If range and charging station locations increase, I’d even consider it as my primary vehicle.

The Chevy Spark

I picked up my Chevy Spark and my first thought was that it was really small! I didn’t even realize that it had four doors (cleverly hidden up by the window) until my teenagers got into it. In terms of comfort and room, the front seats are great. My 6’ 3” friend felt that it would be fine for driving around the city but not for long trips. My teenage daughter reported however that the back seat headrest was uncomfortable, regardless of how she positioned it. My tall friend could barely get into the back — and there was no way for him to sit back there for even a short ride. Parking was a breeze — although not as small as a Smart car, I had a lot more choices than with my Prius.

The Driving Experience

My one previous experience driving an EV was a test drive of the Tesla S Model. The amazing thing about EVs is the responsive acceleration — there is no delay between pressing the pedal and the car shooting forward. The Spark was fun in this way like the Tesla S — on numerous drives around San Francisco, when I had a clear road ahead of me at a stop light, I was able to accelerate to 35 MPH in no time. If you’ve ever driven in San Francisco, it’s an endless series of stop signs at every corner. OK, it’s no Tesla, but the Spark was a thrill to drive, and I could indulge in jackrabbit starts with a lot less guilt.


With a range of about 85 miles when fully charged, I didn’t have to worry about running out of “gas” at any point over my two-day test drive. One of my trips took me to the Fifth and Mission Garage, which has charging stations. The rental key fob had a ChargePoint card on it, which I tapped on the station to activate. After that, it was pretty straightforward to charge the car. ChargePoint has a handy app that shows you where stations are located – they are plentiful all around San Francisco, and then centered mostly on campuses of school or enlightened employers.

Charging at home was very straightforward — simply plug the charger into a regular wall outlet. It takes about 20 hours to fully charge an empty battery from empty. The bigger issue is having to think about plugging in your car. It make take a few extra minutes each time I park, but the trade-off is that I won’t have to go to gas stations anymore. I estimate I’d likely plug in my car overnight maybe 1-2 times a week, max.


One of the best parts about driving an EV is the good karma I felt about not contributing as much to CO2 emissions. The amount of CO2 EVs generate have everything to do with the way electricity is generated for your location. The Sierra Club has a great calculator that does this hard work for you. Assuming I drove the Spark 15,000 a year, I would generate 3,632 pounds of CO2 a year. My current Prius Hybrid generates about 11,692 pounds of CO2 a year — that’s more than 3X more. Definitely good karma!

The Economics

In looking at the costs, I didn’t include the actual cost of the car — way too many permutations. I looked instead at the gas costs instead. (A helpful resource is PG&E’s PEV Calculator). Again, a key determinant is how many miles you drive a day, what kind of car are replacing, and also the type of rate plan you have. When I had solar in a previous home, I qualified for what is called the “EV-A” plan that has lower rates for off-peak electrical use, versus the “E-1″ plan that is flat metering. Doing, the calculations, here’s the cost savings, depending on plan and vehicle type being replaced. Overall, if I just replaced my current Prius with the Spark EV, I would save a grand total of $60 a year if I drove a day. But if I replaced my SUV with an EV (not really an option as the use cases are completely different) it starts looking a lot more attractive.


 An EV in My Future

When I’m next in the market for a car, I will definitely consider an EV, as most of my daily driving is well within range of today’s EV. If the range can be extended to 250 miles, I would replace my large SUV with an EV SUV (today, only the Toyota RAV4 is on the market). I’m grateful that CCSE is bringing EVs to people for test driving and education, and that I had an opportunity to drive one over an extended period of time. I would like to see them also push the parallel issue of putting more alternative energy production in place. San Francisco lives in one of the most solar energy rich regions of the world, even with our famous fog. I’d love to see the city promote not just the use of EVs, but also the installation of more green energy options on our rooftops.