There’s no shame in being in a position of responsibility and not knowing how to tweet. Or perhaps you don’t really like social media, after, y’know, what happened with the bullies and your daughter when she was at school.
Your son builds websites in his bedroom, and The Sunday Times keeps running features about Code Being The New Maths in the schools, and the basis of survival for British industry.
At work; digital, social media, or whatever, keeps appearing on the senior management team agenda. So far, you’ve nodded along to the strategy – move customers online, attract millennials on social media – but fortunately your division hasn’t had to contribute any time or money.
Jane over in retail tweets a lot and talks a good game, but no-one can explain to you how this helps her meet her targets. Russ in operations always has a new gadget on the go, but the one time you read his blog, it came across as, well, a bit preachy.
The problem is, Tom who used to do your job was seen as a bit of a digital pioneer, and it’s only a matter of time before people start asking you when you’re going to pick up that baton. Plus, you’re really pleased with Nadine, Guy, James and Lucy – the latest recruits to your team – but you feel the pressure from them. They see opportunities to use the web, but you just don’t get what they’re saying.
Time is the big issue. You struggle to keep on top of an inbox and calendar, let alone have the phone bleeping away with yet more alerts. If that’s even what happens? You don’t really know.
You know digital is part of The Plan, and that it will have more of a bearing on your career in the years to come. But what is it, and how can I do it, usefully?
That’s the story of Amy. In the past six weeks I’ve met Amy, Jane and Russ in a variety of organisations. All of them successful, all of them in ‘leadership’ roles.
Sometimes they have opted to meet me, other times I’ve probably been an annoyingly vague entry in their diary. A blinking red light reminding them that they haven’t done much learning and development in the past year.
Ignore the technology. Focus on your audience
Either way, I’m asking them to each take a slightly different approach to digital. For Amy, we’re ignoring the tech, the language and the strategy. We’re focusing on what she needs to achieve in her role, and where her audience are online. We have been thinking about how the channels her audience use might help her understand the audience better, and how she can listen to these, little and often.
Most importantly, she’s going to talk to her team and find out what they already do online, and how these skills might help the team’s objectives.
Amy is also thinking about she can empower her team to work with a digital mindset. This involves interrogating the data that they gather and developing their work iteratively.
Work out loud. Don’t broadcast
Russ’s needs are different. He loves to use social media, but isn’t getting much feedback. Often he’s using it simply to share a status update, or show people where he’s been. Russ is worried about follower numbers and trying to layer digital on top of everything else. So we’re going back a few steps and thinking about how this might actually be useful for him.
This is beginning to look like some reflective thinking – blogging about the successes in his teams, as well as the, er, ‘learning points’. I think I have convinced him that this is proper, brave use of social media, and much more human.
Overcome personal fears. Look at data
Jane has a brilliant team, who she protects and encourages, and she seems confident. However I had a niggling doubt about the depth of her own knowledge and how confident she really is.
Jane’s situation is one of the trickiest to identify, but easiest to solve. We had an open conversation about her experience and feelings about digital – what she does online, how often she uses Google, her fears about security and reputation. Revealing these concerns and an apparent lack of confidence to get online was difficult for both of us, but cathartic.
The result is that she’s committing a little time to set up her tablet so that she feels more in control of the settings, and sharing her new-found knowledge. She has set herself some goals to look more carefully at data, and evaluate her team’s activity more carefully – getting beyond clicks and followers.