Today’s leaders can learn a lot from a turtle. Yertle, that is.
If you’ve never read the Dr. Seuss story, here’s the gist: Yertle, a power hungry turtle king, orders all of his turtle constituents to pile on top of each other to lift him higher and higher so that he can be ruler of everything within his sight. Ignoring the repeated pleas of Mack, the poor, squashed turtle at the bottom of the stack, up Yertle rises until, fed up and hungry, Mack emits a tower-shaking belch that topples the tower and ends Yertle’s rule.
The demise of Yertle? He was a failure at social. By not using his channels to listen to and learn from those lower in the ranks, his empire ended up in the mud.
Ted Coiné, Chairman of Switch and Shift, and a Forbes Top 10 Social Influencer, offered CMSWire this analogy when we chatted with him about his eye-opening book, A World Gone Social, co-written with Mark Babbitt.
Coiné and Babbitt wrote the book to help people learn how to be leaders in the Social Age. And we’re not talking 1,000 Tweets per day or 5,000 Facebook Likes. It’s all about leveraging the way we work and communicate in a social world to show the human side of business and better connect with the people around us.
“Social allows us to go back to doing what we’ve always wanted to do for 100,000 years,” said Coiné. “Humans like to talk to each other.”
Frequently punctuated with the mantra “More social. Less media,” the book offers valuable insights, practical advice, tons of real-world examples and a bit of controversial thinking about how companies must adapt or “go the way of the dinosaur.”
Although there are many, following are just a few key takeaways from this quite comprehensive, and refreshingly humorous read.
Social is More than Marketing
With only one out of the book’s 15 chapters dedicated to marketing, Coiné and Babbitt make it clear that social is not a marketing tactic, but a way to connect with other people, both internally and externally.
So, instead of asking customers to like your Facebook page, ask them how they’re doing and how you can help them. Customers expect and demand this type of personalized experience, and companies that take advantage will be rewarded with loyal customers who are willing to advocate for their brands, will bring in new customers and, ultimately, add to the bottom line.
“That’s what social allows business to do,” said Coiné. “That’s invaluable.”
Internally, social helps to break down the silos that prevent employees from connecting and sharing innovative ideas with the C-suite, as well as helps uncover social-savvy employees that could mentor executives in becoming more effective leaders in the Social Age.
“The only person who isn’t held back by silos is the CEO,” said Coiné. “People at the bottom don’t talk to the top, and are separated by management. With collaborative technology, you can find out who is the top social talent in your company and make use of it.”
He added, “The ability for top executives to talk to employees at the bottom, in real time and unfiltered – it’s a magical thing.”
Companies Must Adapt or Die
According to the authors, social is creating “irresistible market pressure” that is compelling company leaders to change the way they do business. For organizations to compete for market share, customers, talent and innovation in the Social Age, they must have the following characteristics:
1. The ability to make quick decisions, or to be nimble
In today’s constantly changing marketplace, along with increasingly demanding customers, having the ability to make quick decisions is essential, and will give companies a substantial leg up on the slower-moving competition.
“Large companies that think about things, study things, collect more information and form committees – you just can’t do business like that,” said Coiné.
2. The capability to form and dissolve teams as necessary, or to be nano
Projects will be completed most efficiently by organizations with leaders that empower staff to come together to work on projects that motivate and interest them, and then disband and move on to the next group and challenge. The strategic use of outsourcing is an integral part of this equation.
“This model requires people to be really talented and mature in their work, and understand what is expected of them as team members,” said Coiné. “Learn what the tiny displaced companies are doing, and start acting like them.”
3. The wisdom to adopt the “flat imperative.”
Coiné is aware that suggesting to leaders of large enterprises that they “dismantle the costly and calcified hierarchy and bureaucracy” of management will not sit well with some, and frankly, won’t work for all companies.
However, those companies that do go flat (or at least, flat-ter) will not only see greater employee engagement, production and innovation from workers entrusted to and made accountable for making key decisions, but will also spend more time on “mission critical tasks” by reducing management overhead expenses.
Harness the Power of OPEN
For all the benefits of a flat organization, companies without managers are missing out on the industry knowledge, influence and personal contacts that the people in these roles contribute.
The solution? An intellectual crowdsourcing concept the authors call OPEN – Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network. The idea is that, in many ways, any one of us is ordinary, no matter what our expertise; however, by tapping the power of other experts within our network, we can come together in an extraordinary way to solve any problem.
“This is how individuals and companies can tap the genius in their network to find talent and fill deficits with other experts,” said Coiné. “It’s a great way for companies of all sizes to really excel and crush their competition by tapping the power of their extraordinary network.”
Everyone Will be Social
One final point that Coiné wants people to understand is that we’ll soon be living in a world where social is the norm.
“We’re talking about social media, social marketing, social business, social leadership. In the hopefully near future, we’re going to be back to just leadership, business and marketing,” he said.
“Right now it’s special and new and shiny. We really don’t have phone departments or email departments – everyone has a phone, everyone has an email address. We won’t, for very long, have a social media team. Everyone will be social. That’s the way business will be.”