I didn’t want to aim this post specifically at senior executives, or older people in the workplace (a venn diagram of those two groups will have a large overlap.) But it will be, because they are the ones who have access to coaching, and they are the ones who make decisions about what happens for all of us online. So not only they, but all of us have an interest in improving this situation.
I know, everyone has so much to learn these days, technology moves faster than we can think, and don’t we have data to base our decisions on? And aren’t there social media agencies to do this online stuff for me so I can focus on my work?
This is 2016 and your social media agency has possibly just written a blog post ‘Should CEOs be Social?’. Of course the people blogging for a social media agency aren’t also the people you meet in the pitching arena, so they will not realise that this is not what they’ve been saying to you, the senior executive, all these years, when they offered to do this for you.
In any case. You want to get better at understanding digital stuff, better at using technology, develop your online presence, but how do you go about it?
Who have you been speaking to about social media? Of course, your social media agency/department. They are great at this, aren’t they? All these young, switched on people. They do it naturally. They will probably be able to help you.
But they aren’t teachers, and they have such distributed roles that they tend to be quite specialised. Hardly any agency has space for a generalist these days who is also good at transferring skills, because that’s not who they hire.
The other, deeper, problem is that if they think about social media as marketing and PR, that’s all they can show you. But you have already solved their biggest problem – you already know how to get eyeballs on messages, because people actually want to hear from you, you being in that successful, powerful position. So the process of ‘what do I say, and how do I say it, and how do I listen to what comes back’ is completely different from everything they know.
Then, also, being online as a person isn’t just about what you broadcast, about messaging, speaking to an audience.
It is just as much about listening and learning.
What you, as a senior executive, need, is to be able to use this technology confidently so that you can be with your peers and learn from them. The process is one of becoming confident in communicating through a different mouthpiece. Like learning to drive, and like growing your confidence, this is a process that lends itself very much to coaching.
Right, so marketers can’t help us. Who else knows about new technology? I know, young people!
Getting a 25 year old and spend time with them, trying to absorb everything, might not work so well either. When you stand next to a millenial who does all of this naturally, and you try to learn from them, you don’t just not learn much, but you also end up quite dispirited. A lot has been said about digital natives and digital immigrants, which might have already predisposed you to believing you could never learn this. (It’s not true. The best Twitter accounts are run by entirely grown-up people. You can learn with the right guidance.)
I have a member of generation Y in my household, and I try to learn from them as much as I can. But even with the many hours we spend together, the moments where I actually learn are few, and I tend to record them straight away in a blog post or a tweet.
So yes, you need to learn. I suggest getting a digital coach. Someone (hello!) who has been teaching people – by example, in courses, online, and one-to-one – since social media strategies became a business need. A generalist with knowledge about many things related to technology, but who, most importantly, has empathy for where you are, and can move you forward in your digital life.
Most importantly, I don’t aim to teach you everything, but instead I will aim to give you an online voice that will allow you to be with your peers, and to learn from them.
I argued in 2010 that a big part of social media budgets would be best placed in a systematic learning and coaching program for the C suite, even before any decisions would be taken – that was a utopian idea then.
But I am glad that finding a good digital coach is now a real business need.
I would be very happy to hear from you.