Announcing My New Book “The Engaged Leader”

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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 charleneli.com/the-engaged-leader.

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?

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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.

My TED Talk: Leading in the Digital Era

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I crossed an item off my bucket list when I gave a TED Talk at TED@IBM on Sept. 23rd. The event was part of the new TED Institute, which partners with companies to create TED-curated events.

The title of my talk was “Giving Up Control: Leading in the Digital Era”. One key data point from Gallup that continues to astound me is that worldwide only 13% of people are engaged in their work. It’s higher in the US, standing at 30% but that’s still terrible!

I believe that a big reason for this is that we don’t give enough autonomy to, and respect the growing agency of our employees, especially for the Millennials who crave purpose and meaning in their work. The hierarchies that exist in our organizations were designed for a bygone era where efficiency and scale were paramount. But today, speed, innovation, and creativity are the sources of competitive advantage.

Companies have been responding, deploying collaboration platforms and enterprise social networks to connect people throughout the organization. Shrinking the distance between previously siloed departments, or between executives and the front lines sounds great — unless you’re a middle manager.

The biggest problem leaders face in the digital era is that power and influence are being decoupled from titles and organizational structure. So how can you be an effective leader? Here are the three things that organizations can do:

  1. Create a Culture of Sharing. Instead of hoarding information to be powerful, leaders have to become facilitators who accelerate the sharing of information across a networked organization.
  2. Encourage the Practice of “Followership”. The size and quality of your network, not your title, determines how much power and influence you have, and thus, how much you can get done. If employees could build their “followership” across the organization and even outside the organization, then even if their titles or jobs changed, they could still be highly effective. This creates tremendous security that allows these managers to make tough decisions that might otherwise jeopardize their livelihood.
  3. Ensure Networks are being used to Make Meaningful Decisions. People are smart — they won’t devote time to engaging unless they know it’s going to make a difference. The biggest mistake I’ve seen organizations do when trying to transition into the digital era is to use these new tools to create the equivalent of a digital water cooler — talking rather than getting work done. No wonder they don’t last! Get leaders to pay attention, make key decisions on these networks and people will come.

What each of these has in common is the need to give up control. In the talk, I shared the journey I’m going through as the parent of teenagers, as they push for greater autonomy and trust to make their own decisions. In our work, if we truly want to have an engaged workforce, then we’re going to have to lead differently, and establish a new kind of relationship and trust that’s created and deepened with these digital tools.

I’ve embedded the slides and script of my talk below. In a few weeks, the video of my talk will be available and I’ll embed that here as well. I hope you find these materials helpful in your journey to become a leader in the digital era.

Blogging as a State of Mind: Reflections on 10 Years of Blogging

people in the information spaceTen years ago today, I wrote my first blog post, entitled “Blogging as a State of Mind”. I still vividly remember the moment — my palms were sweating as I pressed the “Publish” button on my Typepad blog for the first time. I was excited, but nervous about what was going to happen. What would people think? What if I made a mistake?

What happened was that I became completely transformed by the interactions and relationships of people I’ve met through my blogging and subsequently, social media activities. I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has encouraged, supported, and engaged with me — I have grown and learned so much. [Read more…]

Help with My New Report: Employee Engagement & Advocacy

Businessman holding paperI’m passionate about Open Leadership, and the imperative to be open, authentic and transparent in the way we lead. This is all the more important when looking at how to engage employees, and tapping them for the bright shiny object de jour “employee advocacy”.

To that end, my colleague Jon Cifuentes and I are working on a new Altimeter report on how companies create holistic strategies that increase internal employee engagement and external employee advocacy. The report looks at the fundamental disconnect between organizations wanting active and engaged employees and the actual execution of employee collaboration, engagement, and advocacy efforts. [Read more…]