Insights on SXSW15: Digital Leadership
SXSW Interactive 2015 featured many sessions on leadership including one on leadership in the digital age. Charlene Li, the Founder and CEO of Altimeter Group, wrote a book on the topic called The Engaged Leader. Her focus is on encouraging leaders to utilize digital channels to establish and maintain connections with their customers and their employees.
Li says that “In order to be truly effective today, leaders in business and society must change how they engage, and in particular how they establish and maintain relationships with their followers via digital channels.”
She says that leaders must have two-way constant, authentic, purpose-driven personal communication. A few notable examples featuring the three steps of engaging leaders:
- Listen at Scale – Try to break down the power distance between you and your customers and/or employees. Red Robin lets its employees listen to customers with an enterprise listening tool. This information is then filtered back to management. In one specific instance, sales were low on a new item and the management asked the wait staff what the customers were saying about the product. They were able to get immediate responses and changed the recipe based on the feedback, getting the item back into the market within 30 days to strong success.
- Share – Bill Marriott, who has never used a computer, writes a daily blog that his staff puts out. He tells stories about the brand to keep customers and employees engaged with the mission. Similarly, a GE CEO crowdsourced a speech to his employees by asking them what he should talk about then used their feedback as the basis for his speech.
- Engage – A Telstra telecom CEO uses an enterprise social network to get employee feedback. He regularly acknowledges and empathizes with employees. They also launched a program that enables employees to log customer service tickets so they could get credit for personally helping people and resolving issues.
Li says that trust is most important listening tool and that sharing helps turn trust into truth. But it requires confidence and the ability to move out of your comfort zone.
Data from Gallup shows that 13% of people worldwide are engaged at work, meaning emotionally invested in creating value for their organizations. In other research, she found that engagement occurs when people feel appreciated for a job well done.
Ultimately, she believes that digital transformation is not a technology problem; it’s a culture problem; if you create a culture of sharing, then integrity moves trust forward to be transparent.
She suggests that we tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot. Relationships are not measurable, but they are more valuable than anything else.
At Blue Water, we are all leaders, leading with ideas that are helping to improve our culture each and every day.