Ken Blanchard, the 73-year-old co-author of the One Minute Manager may need his grandchildren’s help with the technology; but this hasn’t stopped his lifetime commitment to building relationships through embracing social media.
This was among many illuminating lessons in Altimeter Group’s excellent webinar, “The Power of Relationships in the Facebook Era” yesterday.
“Leadership today is not about you, it’s about the people you are serving; it’s about treating your employees as business partners, working side-by-side with them and sharing information, ” said Blanchard. To emphasise the point, Li added that adding social media tools to the mix means encouraging people within businesses who may be more familiar with the technical tools to communicate and develop relationships.
Where young people and their use of digital technology, Blanchard claims, are “all about relationships”, he points out the perceived threat to those further up the food chain, and particularly those managers who are “ego-driven”: “They are afraid of the feedback and what they might learn!” Feedback, he says (a number of times, in what must be one of his favourite motivational catch phrases) is “the breakfast of champions”.
Clearly, there is no place for ego in building relationships and making social media interaction work. Li describes it as having the “humility and confidence to give up the need to control” while Blanchard asserts how top managers should be “empowerment” rather than “control” freaks, freeing up their teams to develop client relationships and treating profit as the by-product, not the reverse.
However, he qualifies, the traditional management hierarchy still has its value in terms of setting strategic direction, goals and plotting the journey.
But how can the business case be made for the focus on relationships, via social media or otherwise? Blanchard is in no doubt that companies “blow people away by responding to them”. He added, “the customer is NOT always right, but it does need dialogue”. Problems tend to arise when companies try to cover up their mistakes, where admitting to them is the first step towards customer service recovery.
And so, as leaders may finally be realising they can no longer control the spread of information as previously, they can certainly – as Li suggests – “get in on the act”. She says: “As a leader, think what you can share today – then figure out the channel.”
Not unexpectedly, both Blanchard and Li acknowledge the vital role of the CEO in the move to social media/relationship building. He says: “The CEO needs to see the value to really make it work and has so much to do with whether it goes viral or not” while Li adds: “The CEO needs to be the arbiter of how social should be owned across organisations.”
If there was ever an excuse that social media as a tool for relationship building should belong only to a younger generation, Ken Blanchard heartily disproves it!