Paying it Forward with a Small Good

Earlier this year I got a chance to meet Chuck Hester when we presented together at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations 2008 Summit in San Francisco. Chuck’s story is about using LinkedIn for power networking, and he’s organized what he calls LinkedIn Live events to turn his local virtual network into a face-to-face networking opportunity.

I hope to see Chuck again this week at the Ragan Corporate Communications in a Web 2.0 World conference at the SAS headquarters in Cary, NC. I’m unfortunately going to be traveling during his presentation, but will plan to connect with him later in the conference.

Chuck is turning his experience with LinkedIn into a new book that will be released later this year. It’s called Linking In to Pay it Forward: Changing the Value Proposition in Social Media. You can read about it on Chuck’s Pay it Forward blog. So when Chuck asked me for the “Small Good” of giving his book a shout out, I was glad to help.

One of the things I appreciate about the social media world is the “pay it forward” philosophy. Much of what I’m doing with SMUG is experimenting publicly with different tools and techniques. Then, after I’ve worked out the kinks and gotten hands-on experience with the tools, I can confidently recommend the best ways to use them in my work environment. And I figure if I can help others by letting them learn from my experimentation, that’s a worthwhile service.

But I can’t experiment with everything; I personally haven’t used LinkedIn nearly as much as Facebook. So if Chuck would like to write a guest post with some highlights from his new book, I’d be happy to confer Associate Professor status and make him a SMUG faculty member.

Tim Keller at Google: The Reason for God

This post doesn’t exactly fit in the course of the basic SMUG curriculum, but I hope you’ll bear with me. And at the end I promise to tie it into social media.

Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, a flourishing congregation in the heart of New York City. I’ve heard him speak (not in person, but via mp3) and have appreciated and enjoyed his presentations, and today I heard both that he has written a book called The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, and that he had given a fascinating talk about it at Google’s headquarters, as part of the AtGoogleTalks. Here’s his Google presentation, which I understand had the biggest attendance of any for a visiting author in at least the last couple of years.


If you want a taste of the argument, check out his answer (starting at about the 20:30 mark in the video and going for about 3 minutes) where he counters the conception that like the blind men each touching a different part of the elephant, all religions have a portion of the truth.

I hope that will whet your appetite, and that you’ll check out his whole presentation. Lots of others have found it worthwhile; the crowd at Google was large, and while the video hasn’t achieved Obama Girl viral status, as of this writing it has been viewed more than 48,000 times on YouTube.

Interestingly, Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan has more than 5,000 members, but it hasn’t grown to that point through the marketing methods of many of the megachurches. Keller’s style is low-key and extremely thoughtful. Here’s what the New York Times has to say about him and Redeemer:

Unlike most suburban megachurches, much of Redeemer is remarkably traditional. What is not traditional is Dr. Keller’s skill in speaking the language of his urbane audience….Observing Dr. Keller’s professorial pose on stage, it is easy to understand his appeal.

So what’s the social media tie?

While Keller is using a Gutenberg-era medium to make his argument in full (I’m about 85 pages into it, and it’s quite good), you’re reading about it and watching this through social media tools (YouTube and blogs) that didn’t exist a decade ago.

Back then you wouldn’t have had an opportunity to hear and see his presentation unless he or his church bought airtime on your local TV station. And if you didn’t happen to tune in at that exact time, you’d miss it. You surely couldn’t skip to the 20:30 mark and hear the answer to the blind men and the elephants.

The ability to see and hear interesting talks when it’s convenient for you (and to easily share with your friends) is an amazing benefit of social media.

And instead of raising large amounts of money to buy airtime, the message can be communicated at no charge…which enables messengers to focus on the content instead of amassing the means to distribute it.

That’s a great thing. And I hope you find Keller as thought-provoking as I have.

Groundswell Review in Social Media Snippets

SMUGgle Scott Meis, an Associate Professor in SMUG’s Department of Political Science, has a couple of great posts reviewing Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies on his Social Media Snippets blog. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

I had heard one of the authors, Charlene Li, at a Web 2.0 Summit and posted my review of her presentation at that time. I had planned to write a full review after I listened to the audio book on the return flight, but got otherwise occupied.

Thanks for your review, Scott!

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: Book Review

Patrick Lencioni is now one of my favorite authors of business-related books. I previously reviewed his Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, and in the comments Val Sanford said The Five Dysfunctions of a Team had “transformed the leadership team in my previous company.” So I put it high on my Audible download list, for when my monthly credits became available.

In this leadership fable and the 40-minute theory discussion that follows, Lencioni outlines his model for what makes teams dysfunctional. In my next post, I will approach his five elements from a positive perspective, as they are exemplified by one of the best and truest teams I have every had the joy of observing.

  1. Absence of of Trust. “This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible. ” When team members are concerned that others will pounce on their weaknesses or mistakes, the trust needed for working together effectively is undermined.
  2. Fear of Conflict. “Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.”
  3. Lack of Commitment. “Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled.”
  4. Avoidance of Accountability. “When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.”
  5. Inattention to Results. “Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren’t held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.”

This book is part of the core curriculum for Social Media University, Global not because it directly deals with social media, but because SMUG is about making practical business use of social media, because teamwork is essential to business success and because social media tools can greatly enhance teamwork and collaboration.

The social media tools themselves aren’t magic, though, and they’re not able to fix dysfunctional interpersonal relationships.

So, SMUG students, get this book! It’s well worth buying, but in keeping with our “everything is free” policy, you can check it out from a local library. And if you’re not yet a SMUG student, enroll now.

Book Review: Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

 Silos Politics Turf Wars

This excellent book by Patrick Lencioni has an intriguing subtitle: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors. It’s a quick read (or a short listen, as I did via Audible, thanks to Michael Hyatt’s recommendation to try that service), but page-for-page or minute-for-minute I believe it’s one of the top business books available today.Scratch that. Who says bigger business books are better? The real value of a book is how it changes your outlook and, at least to some extent, what practical difference it makes in what you do. Based on that, I think Silos, Politics and Turf Wars is one of the top business books of any size or at any price.The first 85 percent or so of this book is the fable of Jude Cousins, a self-employed management consultant who eventually develops a practice that helps companies beat the silo problem. Spurred by the insight of his wife’s trip to the emergency room to deliver his twin daughters (where no one had the time to be “turfy” and everyone across various departments had a common goal of helping the trio of patients) and by a client whose company was silo-free after having survived a “near death” experience, Lencioni’s protagonist was able to apply key lessons to his other clients.Lencioni’s background is as a screenwriter, and his fable is quite engaging. It helps to bring to life the principles he has uncovered. In the last 40 minutes or so of the audiobook, Lencioni outlines his theory of how to create organizational alignment. Silo-free organizations have a compelling context for working together, created by four components:

  • A Thematic Goal: A single, qualitative focus or “rallying cry” that is shared by the entire leadership team and ultimately, by the entire organization-and that applies for only a specified period of time. This time can range from a few months to a year, based on the nature of an organization and the challenges it faces. You can only have one thematic goal. Something has to be most important.
  • Defining Objectives: The temporary, qualitative components that serve to clarify exactly what ismeant by the Thematic Goal; shared by all members of the team (and usually varying in number fromfour to six). What must be done to reach the Thematic Goal? Again, these are time-limited for the duration of the Thematic Goal.
  • Standard Operating Objectives: Other key objectives that an executive team must focus on andmonitor. These objectives do not go away from period to period and often include topics such as:revenue, expenses, customer satisfaction, quality etc. These aren’t “the rallying cry” because they are insufficiently motivational: they lack context, and they aren’t unique to a given period. But if you don’t acknowledge and monitor these indispensable essentials for long-term success,  you’re in trouble. I personally found this part of Lencioni’s model extremely helpful, because it helps to balance the short-term strategic priorities with the things you need to do to keep the organization running. Operational doesn’t mean unimportant.
  • Metrics: It is only after looking at the first three elements that you have enough context for meaningful measurement. Employees will be more motivated to “hit the numbers” if they understand how those numbers relate to the Thematic Goal, Defining Objectives and Standard Operating Objectives.

Lencioni has several helpful handouts available on his Web site as PDFs. His other books look interesting, too. Silos, Politics and Turf Wars is not officially part of the SMUG curriculum, but it is related. Sometimes social media tools are seen as ways to break down organizational silos. For instance, an intranet blog could theoretically be a great way to share knowledge across the company.  But if employees in different departments see each other as competitors instead of as  teammates, they’ll be likely to hoard information instead of sharing it. Social media tools are  just tools. Without a shared purpose, the collaboration made possible by social media won’t happen.What do you think? Have you experienced silos in a large organization? Do Lencioni’s lessons ring true from your perspective?