Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You Are Missing Out

Not for profit organisations are failing to take advantage of one of the most important sources of information and feedback available today. Increasing numbers of employees are engaged, overtly and covertly, in social media. They are blogging, Twittering and exchanging ideas and info on the likes of Facebook. These spaces contain an extraordinary amount of information.

To date the focus of many CEO's has been on how to prevent or limit the use of this technology, with some of the less enlightened ones seeking to use the information available to penalise employees. A more enlightened perspective would be to learn how to benefit from the technology. Those that do so will have a distinct advantage over those that do not.

Instead of trying to stop the flood by putting our fingers into the proverbial dyke, consider enabling your employees to use social media as a workplace tool; to communicate with each other, to share ideas and information, to communicate with stakeholders. They are doing it now, just not in a way that is of a benefit to your organisation.

By all means put some boundaries in place. Some online behaviour is unacceptable and can be harmful to the reputation of an organisation. Instead of trying (and failing) to impose a blanket ban instead be clear in your expectations and consequences. Be sensible. The greater the barriers you impose the less info you will have available and the less you will benefit. Encourage employees to share ideas and info on programs, benefits, customer needs, community needs, what other orgs are doing, what they see and what they hear, research, concepts, models, frameworks, other perspectives.

Why not encourage your employees to be active in the social media space, ask them to declare where they live online, and then gather together a couple of volunteers and charge them with the task of scanning social media. Identify some key themes and key words that are off interest. Be positive and pro active. Make it a collaborative activity between management and employees and volunteers and stakeholders. With experience I predict you will be amazed at the info, the linkages, the warnings, the new ideas that will emerge - not to mention an entirely new level of communication taking place in your organisation.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

John Coxon & Associates
Taking You from Frontline Manager to CEO
Email john@johncoxon.com.au
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Habits of Mind

Huh, its 5.46am. I should be asleep however I am not, I am awake, the brain is active, I've enjoyed my first cuppa and have been reviewing material from Costa's Habits of Mind in preparation for working with a client. As I read through this material I was reminded of how easy it is to become stuck in how we go about doing things.

As a management coach I spend a good part of each day in discussion with individuals, asking a lot of questions and I believe I'm reasonably good at it - at least feedback indicates I am - yet as I reviewed the Habits of Mind material I realised how we create our own habits. Some of them are good, some not so. I realised also how we have a tendency to complicate situations.

Take asking questions for example. Costa talks about Questioning with Intention. To engage with plurals, What are some of your goals? rather thanWhat goal have you set? To explore tentatively using words such as might, could and may. To invite further exploration with questions that include an invitation to envisage, evaluate and to probe.

As I think through this process I am reminded that our 'toolkit of questions' doesn't need to be extensive. A handful of well designed questions, asked when relevant, will be more productive than a list. I recall that when I first engaged in coaching, some 7-8 years ago, I would go into a meeting with a bullet point list of questions to ask. I soon learned that coaching conversations are a journey, without a preset destination. They are not an interview. I learned how to replace my fear that I would forget to ask something with the ability to ask just one or two relevant questions and then to focus upon listening to the response. Further questions would derive from how well I listened to what the other person was saying.

We create our own habits. The challenge we face is to recognise this and to put aside time to reflect, to review our practices and to ask ourselves how we could achieve the same outcome without making the process complicated? I didn't conciousely set out to review my habits as I read through this material. I was seeking to adapt it for the adult audience of my client. I discovered that though Habits of Mind material is aimed at the school market, it is relevant to all, young and old.

All this suggests the key to a good life may well be to never stop learning, to constantly be trying to connect the dots and rediscover new ways of looking at old problems. Now that is getting a little to philosophical and probably reflects the time of the day and lack of caffine.

To those reading this blog, I hope your day has started as well as mine has.