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Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
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1 June 2009

Now *that* is leadership

Clark @ 4:53 am

In my recent workshop, an attendee shared a story that I have to pass along.  He works for a company that serves a sector of the marketplace that has been core to US business, and is now in tough times.  Naturally, the employees are concerned about the prospects.

The CEO is sharing, via a blog, his ongoing thoughts on dealing with the issue. Rather than puff pieces for external readers, written by a PR hack, he’s writing authentically for internal consumption about where his thinking is going and what he and the executive team are doing.  He’s not making false promises, and the employee was very clear that there are no clear answers yet, but they’ve insight into how deep the thought processes have been about the situation, and how earnestly (and cleverly) they’re working on solving the issue. He’s even sharing the questions he’s considering.  While all the comments aren’t visible, anyone can provide input and the CEO can react.  This is powerful.

I’ve mentioned before that providing a ‘leading out loud’ record for people to follow is a great mechanism to foster virtual mentorship and share directions, and this is a really valuable way for organizations to communicate.  As Rae Tanner discussed with me yesterday as we walked around DC before the start of the ASTD main conference, imagine an organization where everyone was onboarded with a real understanding of the business (we thought a game would be appropriate), and then were able to follow the ongoing thinking.  Do you think they’d be better equipped to execute, and, better yet, contribute to organizational success? Certainly if it was coupled with a learning culture and rewards aligned with the desired behaviors.

The worskhop attendees easily ‘got’ the value of this scenario; that CEO knows what leadership is about, and is manifesting it in a visionary way.  This is what technology can facilitate. Technology is a tool, but one that provides new affordances for communication and collaboration. The opportunities to improve things individual, organizationally, and societally are awe-inspiring. Now we need to seize the initiative and make really worthwhile things happen. Are you game?

6 Comments »

  1. During my time with a small component of GE, we had 3 or 4 CEOs. The last, Harvey Seegars, was by far the best communicating goals, making strategy clear (via webcasts, in-person meetings that were simulcast, etc.). He strived to help employees understand the link between their job, their tasks, and the organization’s overall success.

    We had a lot of long-time folks who were shocked when he decided to no longer manage our own vast IT network (we invented timesharing) but rather outsource it.

    it wasn’t all airy vision stuff; he also explained the metrics by which Big GE assessed its components.

    All of this could have fit into the kind of scenario you envision. The point to me is having a big picture to convey, and then finding ways to convey it (and keep it updated). I think a game / immersive experience could go beyond the usual, brochure-type video.

    Comment by Dave Ferguson — 1 June 2009 @ 5:12 am

  2. Clark, this is a great example of how technology can ASSIST you. You’ve still got to use the brains.
    Sharing problems being faced and how the management is trying to solve them is the best way to keep your people on your side – in thoughts and actions.

    Comment by Amit — 1 June 2009 @ 5:21 am

  3. Why is this a technology solution?

    Couldn’t the CEO have just sent emails? Or postcards? Or mimeographed sheets?

    –Will

    Comment by Will Thalheimer — 1 June 2009 @ 6:14 am

  4. Dave, great example, yes it’s the message and getting it out there.
    Amit, yes, tech can be used for bad or good (powerpoint doesn’t kill people…:)
    Will, it’s the easy affordance that’s unique, in my mind. Yes, as Dave said you could produce videos, (or postcards, discussion forums as you suggest) but blogging is low overhead to produce, easy to distribute, easy to respond. And control comments, which may or may not be a good idea, I can see situations that would argue for either. It’s also a thoughtful medium.

    Thanks for the thought/feedback!

    Comment by Clark — 1 June 2009 @ 6:50 am

  5. My father was the President of a small speciality steel company. I have no doubt that were he alive, he would be bloggingabout the company. However, he was also one just to take a stroll through the plant, chatting with workers, getting an idea of what was going on out on the floor.

    I hope that CEO’s don’t take blogging as an opportunity to stop the face to face contact but rather use it as just one more tool.. I know my own students would prefer to blog as then they wouldn’t have to see the reaction when they say something someone doesn’t like.

    Comment by Virginia Yonkers — 1 June 2009 @ 9:20 am

  6. Virginia, absolutely, it’s just that walking around doesn’t scale well, whereas the reach of a blog is almost unlimited. Thanks for the feedback.

    Comment by Clark — 1 June 2009 @ 12:03 pm

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