Monday, June 7, 2010

Open Leadership--and Why Associations Shouldn't Outsource Social Media

I was privileged to receive a review copy of Charlene Li's new book Open Leadership. With almost every page turn I couldn't help but think "every association leader needs to read this book." One line in particular jumped out at me:
"The first step is to understand the specific benefits of being open, which is especially important to put forward to an organization and leaders who may be beset with the inertia of precedence."
How great/applicable is that phrase "inertia of precedence" to associations, the hotbeds of "we've always done it this way"?

I love that the opening example in the book is of Wendy Harman at the American Red Cross, because--well, because she's awesome for one--but also because the anecdote about how she worked to indoctrinate first the executive team then over 700 local chapters illustrates the importance of the social media manager role. Plenty of people--including, ironically, Charlene Li herself--say that organizations shouldn't have a designated person "in charge of" social media; that it should be part of everyone's job. While that's a nice sentiment and something to strive for, the reality that Open Leadership addresses is that before that can happen, leaders need to learn to let go and embrace the concepts of openness and social technologies. I firmly believe that in order for that to happen, there needs to be a Wendy Harman-esque person on staff to help that happen.

What this means is that hiring an intern or outsourcing social media are, in my opinion, not viable alternatives if an organization wants to successfully implement a culture of openness and/or a social strategy. In the book Charlene says "No matter how compelling a technology or potential relationship might be, in the face of an immovable mass called company culture, and without the right organization and leadership in place, any digital strategy will fail." In my opinion, in order for the necessary cultural change to take place, there needs to be a person on staff whose job is helping bring about that change--and there are too many facets of that process to make outsourcing a viable option. There's nothing wrong with using consultants to educate or train staff, but the change to a more open culture needs to happen within the organization.

At any rate, the book is about much more than this one issue--I honestly think it is a must-read for any leader or wanna-be leader, especially those in the association world. Why specifically in the association world? Because while more and more associations are implementing social initiatives like white-label platforms, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, for the most part, corresponding cultural changes necessary for the success of those initiatives are not happening. Silos are still rampant. Poor or no communication between executives and staff is commonly the rule. The myth of control is still going strong.

Here's the thing: for some reason I received not only a review copy but another complimentary copy of the book. So guess what? One of you lucky readers can win it! All you have to do is leave a comment and on Friday (6/11) I'll pick a winner at random and send you the book. Don't stress about the comment part--you can either add a thought or two about how open (or not) the organization you work for is, how you're staffing for social media, etc. Or if that requires too much thought, just leave your name and email address or Twitter handle so I'll be able to contact you if you win.

Congrats Janet McNichol--you won the book! (convenient for me since she works at ASHA; and in case anyone's wondering how I picked the winner I used

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