Leadership 101 – Respect the Skills of Staff

When I was still at university, I learned a most valuable lesson in managing and leadership: the value of respecting the skills of staff, and the merit of letting staff employ these skills unimpeded by delusions that the manager can improve things by intervening.

Leadership 101 - Management

Image courtesy of philmckinney.com

My Experience

One summer I worked on board a hydrographic ship which was charting the ocean bottom off Newfoundland, Canada. The area of interest was a high point known as the Virgin Shoals. The method of surveying this area was to capture water depths at regular intervals, in a star pattern with the centre point of the star being Virgin Shoals. Every 4-hour shift, the hydrographer in charge (my job) would plot the latitude, longitude and depth at 5 minute intervals. We’d survey a line, and at the end of a line the helmsman would be instructed to turn the ship and start a different line heading back towards the centre of the star at a slightly different angle. If the plotting of the points indicated the ship was not on a straight line, the hydrographer would direct the helmsman to adjust the heading a little bit so the points would all be along a straight line. The other people doing this work on other shifts were seasoned hydrographers, not university students, and not university trained. They were a little contemptuous of a university type presuming to be able to do this kind of work.

Valuing Expertise

Leadership 101 Mary Ogilvie

Mary Ogilvie

When I worked my shift, the helmsman was an older chap, and had spent his life steering ships. I took over from a fellow who obviously couldn’t wait to see what kind of a mess I would make of the night’s work. Every 5 minutes I plotted the readings, and they looked great to me. When the line was over I said to the helmsman, looks like we should turn around now, and we started plotting another line. He kept the ship straight, and on the right angles, and at the end of my shift our lines were the straightest, neatest of anyone’s. Instead of saying “starboard 200 degrees” or whatever, I just let the helmsman do what he already knew how to do. Instead of directing minor course changes as the line progressed, I just let him make the decisions about how to keep the ship straight. The next day my colleagues spent all their spare time replotting our path to try to prove I had fudged it. All that I had done to get these great sounding lines was to let the helmsman do his job – one he knew a whole lot more about that I did. For me I learned quickly that leadership didn’t mean knowing it all, but rather knowing when your team knew what to do and to let them do it. It was a lesson the other hydrographers had yet to learn.

There are of course times when a manager must coach, or direct, or even discipline. And there are lots of articles and courses to help you do these things well. But skilled trained staff can often be more productive if they are afforded respect for their abilities, with words of encouragement rather than suggestions for improvement that may well be unfounded, and counterproductive. Valuing expertise and experience served me well over the course of my career and in every leadership role that I had. I am glad that I learned it early.

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About Mary Ogilvie:

Mary Ogilvie is a professional engineer, having graduated from UNB with a BSc (Survey) in 1972.  After a year with a private survey firm in British Columbia she returned to New Brunswick to work with the newly formed land registration and information service (LRIS) as a research analyst.  LRIS became the New Brunswick Geographic Information Corporation (NBGIC) and then Service New Brunswick (SNB).   During this time Mary oversaw leading edge innovations in digital mapping, creation of products from digital topographic data, and distribution of digital map data.

Mary retired from SNB in 2004 and at the time was the Vice President, Development.  In that capacity she oversaw the major development projects for SNB such as PLANET, Business Registry, Electronic Service Delivery.  She also oversaw the Information Technology unit, which provided desk top, networking  and other services for the organization, and looked after the unit responsible for business development – convincing departments and municipalities to have their service delivery work handled by SNB.  During this time she was also responsible with the arrangements with private sector firms for the marketing of SNB owned software such as PLANET, PPR and G-Biz.

After retirement Mary consulted on several projects, taking her to, Saskatchewan, Chile, South Africa  and Vermont.  She now spends her time travelling, looking after grandkids, and playing keyboard in Rock Revival, a local rock and roll band.

How to Get More out of Twitter in 9 Easy Steps

How to Get More out of Twitter in 9 Easy Steps

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Risk Mitigation: The #1 Reason To Have A Workplace Social Media Policy

Social networking sites are everywhere, including the workplace. The number of problems I see each week with respect to issues arising from social media are astounding. They range from employee’s use of Facebook to  managers who recommend employees on LinkedIn  or reveal too much on Facebook. So, if you want to mitigate risk, this is the #1 reason to have a workplace social media policy. 

Clarence Bennett Social Media Policy

Clarence Bennett

There have been some other famous incidents of social media wreaking havoc in the workplace:

  • Greg Smith’s resignation from Goldman Sachs last month generated Twitter frenzy within minutes of Mr. Smith’s public electronic resignation post in the New York Times along with unproven allegations against Goldman Sachs.  Comments about Goldman Sachs continue to filter back to the Twitter hashtag #goldmansachs.
  • A part-time employee assigned to assist in cleaning up at the scene of a suicide in Ontario used his phone to immediately post photos of the deceased to his personal Facebook page with a caption identifying the workplace.
  • A New Brunswick teacher suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome after several former students posted false and defamatory content on Facebook.
  • A US IT staffing firm has sued one of its former employees alleging that she has violated the terms of a non-compete agreement through her conduct on LinkedIn by soliciting her former employer’s employees and clients and by communicating and connecting with a number of them by using the LinkedIn professional network.

In short, these are simply new variations of old workplace themes (i.e., defamation, violation of confidentiality, workplace bullying, harassment, non-competition and non-solicitation) but now with a global social media twist.  And then there’s that other issue of lost productivity and brand damage.  Employees may spend an excessive amount of work time on social networking sites and may also make derogatory comments about an employer, client or customer that can come back to bite.  If a business hasn’t already, it should revisit its existing policies to ensure that misuse is addressed accordingly and updated to include social media misuse.

Social networking impacts the workplace: 

social media policy and heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com

Image courtesy of spinsucks.com

  • People spend 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook;
  • More than 250 million people access Facebook through their mobile devices;
  • More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook;
  • 30 billion pieces of content is shared on Facebook each month;
  • 190 million average Tweets per day occur on Twitter;
  • Twitter is handling 1.6 billion queries per day;
  • Twitter is adding nearly 500,000 users a day.

If there is a marketing or information exchange use for social networking, we recommend that your policies don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Instead, think about what limitations should apply to those individual employees who do use your social networking and maybe have a clear plan on how to develop social networking so that it is effective for you.

My advice is to update your policy so that you can encourage good social media use while enforcing some boundaries. Some aspects of a good policy include:

  • Whether an employee can use social media on company time or whether it is limited to personal time;
  • Define acceptable and unacceptable activities/use;
  • Social networking must not interfere with work;
  • Employees must make it clear that their personal views are theirs alone and do not represent the views of their employer.
  • Integrate with workplace harassment and bullying policies;
  • Ensure employees respect confidential and proprietary information including logos, copyright or registered trademarks;
  • Make discipline for violating the policy explicit and that termination may result;
  • A review process that ensures employees are given an opportunity to ask questions about the policy;
  • Well trained managers.

Develop a policy if you don’t already have one which embraces social media while creating boundaries that protect your business and your ability to manage your employees. Also, as the technology continues to evolve, keep up to date and routinely audit your policy to ensure that it continues to be relevant and protect your interests.

For more information on Risk Mitigation, check out : Mitigate Business Risks: Implement a Social Media Council

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About Clarence Bennett:

Clarence is also a member of the Labour and Employment with the Fredericton office of Stewart McKelvey

Clarence’s practice has focused on counselling employers over a wide spectrum of labour and employment law issues.  He has been a commentator on CBC radio and in The Lawyers Weekly on labour and employment issues and is the Editor of Atlantic Employers Counsel, a quarterly Labour and Employment journal published by Stewart McKelvey

Clarence is a member of the Law Society of New Brunswick and a member of the Canadian Association of Counsel to Employers.  He also has a Master of Laws from Osgoode Hall with a specialization in Labour and Employment Law.

Clarence has appeared before numerous administrative and arbitration tribunals, Labour and Employment Boards, and all levels of Court including the Supreme Court of Canada.


How You Tell Your Prospects, Customers Stakeholders You Don’t Care About Them

Whether you work for a small business owner, a start-up, a not-for-profit or even a college or university, building and sustaining relationships is very important to your bottom line.  With government agencies, there is an expectation that you regularly communicate with your tax payers and stakeholders to keep them informed.  So, why is it is that so many of you continue to tell your prospects, customers, tax payers, etc. that you don’t care about them?  

What Not to Do

With one simple gesture you say a lot in terms of what you think about the people who are the most important to you and your sustainability. The worse part is that it is totally avoidable.  That simple gesture?  Start unfollowing them on Twitter.Unfollowing = no relationship

Case Study

I was recently working with a client, we will call them “M” and I was doing some follow-up training and training some new staff.  As I was preparing to start the session, there was a conversation going on about what one of the new staffers was doing “to fix their Twitter” account.  I listened with a lot of interest as I had not only originally helped them develop their strategy for using Twitter, but was now there to train the new staffers on how to use various management tools to make their lives easier when communicating via their social channels.  The fix?  Well, the fix was one of the worst things, in my opinion, that you can do.  The staffer was unfollowing every single one of their Twitter followers.  It was his opinion that there was no value having their Tweets come up in the organizations stream and it was a complete waste space and time.

My jaw dropped.  This client had worked very hard to build relationships with its stakeholders and actually create a community.  They had actually done a really good job.  All that good work was just about to go up in smoke.  The new staffers didn’t understand the nature of social media for business.  The new staffers didn’t consult with anyone and decided to treat their organization’s social media like it was their own personal channel.  I quickly considered  how I was going to address this.  Because I had worked with this client from the beginning and helped them develop their social strategy, policy and tactics, I knew how important it was for them.  Additionally, and this is very important, because of the nature of their business they had now exposed themselves to a great deal of public criticism.  Their community would not take kindly to this public dismissal.

I had to act quickly.  I asked them to stop what they were doing immediately and enquired how many people/brands they had already unfollowed – the answer:  296.  I then said, o.k. we are going to do our training a little differently than what was planned.

They of course didn’t realize the ramifications of what they were doing.  They assumed that once you use social media, its all the same.  They thought that how they do things with their own personal profiles and channels was the same in the business environment.  It is not of course the same.

The Fix

So, what are the easy ways to avoid this?  What are the ways to fix the situation?  Here are some easy tips:

1. Train Employees BEFORE Allowing them to be the Voice of Your Brand

This could have been easily avoided with up front training.  Not only do people need to understand social media and how to use it, but more importantly they need to understand your business, your brand value and how your brand operates.

Unfollowing is an easy mistake to make.  We all make assumptions. In this case, a potentially serious mistake.  It actually didn’t take long for some of their stakeholders to Tweet “Well, M just unfollowed me.  I guess they don’t need my support after all.”  We fixed this right away, by refollowing everyone and apologizing for the error.Say Yes to Social Media Relationships

2.  Understanding the Social Nature of Social Media

Despite social media being more than a decade old now, many companies continue to treat it as just another traditional tool and/or tactic with the very focus of push communications.  They fail to understand that there is a relationship that you need to build.  It is about building trust, having interest in each other and communicating with each other.  It is about sharing each other’s information. It is about being social.

3.  Remember Your Prospects and Customers Are Human Beings

This seems like a no brainer, but it is a conversation that I have with some clients more often than not.  In the case of M, the staffers weren’t thinking about the people on the other side of the Twitter handle.  They thought of them just as a handle.  They didn’t think about the message that was being sent.

In the training I delivered that day, we looked at real examples of brands that they were connected with and how they would feel if suddenly they were unfollowed.  Between that conversation and the Tweets that started to come in from stakeholders, they quickly realized that they needed to better understand social media for business and just how easy it is to send the wrong message.

Thankfully we caught and fixed this one right away.

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