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You guys asked for me to re-post this piece, and your wish is my command. Share this with hiring managers, your CMO, and everyone looking into considering either creating or filling a position requiring Social Media management skills:

Tip #1: Social Media Directors should know how to do their jobs without having to ask for help every five minutes:

So I look down and the (twitter) DM reads: “Hey, can you help me out? Not sure how to do this. How do I use Twitter to gain traction for my company? Thanks!” I stare at it for a while and decide to blow it off for now, not because I have better things to do (which I do) and not because I don’t really have time to build a Twitter business plan for this person right this second (which I don’t), but because that DM comes from a newly minted Social Media Director at a fairly visible company who basically just asked me to help them hold on to a job they obviously didn’t deserve to be hired for.

I slide my Blackberry Storm into my back pocket and find myself flashbacking to 11th grade: It’s final exams time and I am in hour two of IB Biology. The essay section. One of the kids in my class is behind me, gently kicking my chair, whispering, begging me to move my scrap/notes where they can read them.

And I am almost tempted to do it.

That same conversation starts taking place in my head. I’m in a position to help someone in need. But wait… cheating is cheating. Don’t do it. But still, I feel that I should help. Arrrgh…

I reach for the blackberry, launch Twitterberry (which is not my favorite app, by the way), and respond: “Wait… You got the job, right? Don’t you know how to do this? Isn’t that why you were hired?”

For hours, no response. And then it comes. “Yeah, but I’m in a little over my head. I’ve never worked with Social Media in a business context before. ;)”

Again. This from a Director-level individual now working for a pretty well known company.

Not cool.

I suffer through similar exchanges weekly now, and I am not happy about it. What does this trend say about what types of people are going after Social Media management jobs – and landing them with alarming frequency these days? At the very least, I am worried about how this is going to end up hurting Social Media’s legitimacy in the business world. (Watch the video for my reasoning on this specific point.)

If the video doesn’t launch, you can go watch it here. Thanks, Viddler).

Tip #2: There are three types of people currently vying for Social Media Management jobs. Be very careful whom you consider for this key position:

With this disturbing development weighing on me more and more these past few months, I’ve been thinking long and hard about what is going on in the Social Media “management” world, and I’ve basically come down to two conclusions: The first (which we’ll get back to in a few minutes) is that the qualifications of Social Media Directors may not be entirely clear to the folks interviewing and hiring applicants for those positions. The second is that as a result of this, confusion, we are now looking at three distinct types of Social Media Directors/Managers scampering about in the corporate world, some good, some okay, and some really bad.

The first type is the best type: These folks are super smart, talented, experienced in a broad range of disciplines, have an established footprint in the Social Media space (through blogs, Twitter, Ning, various communities), are recognized as thought leaders (or as emerging thought leaders), and are unquestionably passionate about what they do. Folks like Chris Brogan, Frank Eliason, Amber Naslund, Mack Collier, Beth Harte, Valeria Maltoni, etc. These are folks who are truly writing the book on how to build social media practices and smoothly integrate them in the organizations they work with.

The second type isn’t quite as savvy, but it isn’t lacking in talent, smarts and enthusiasm. These are people who basically don’t know how to be Social Media directors yet, but are learning fast. And most importantly, they are completely open about the fact that they are still in that learning stage, which means that their employers are okay with it. In spite of the fact that they are still very junior, the companies they work for saw in them a lot of potential and decided to hire them toward that end. (I dig people like this a lot.)

The third type is what I would call the bad type. Not bad as in cool, but rather… bad as in unethical, inept and unprofessional. These are the con artists. The shams. The hacks. The folks whose egos and selfishness led them to a moment in their lives when they unapologetically took a job they knew they weren’t qualified for. And now here they are: Social Media Director for Company ABC, soon to move over to Company XYZ, and so on. One position validating the next, one impressive brand on their resume justifying consideration by the next, and so it goes: A perpetual daisy chain of high profile Social Media management job built on unadulterated douchebaggery and thinly-disguised mediocrity.

(Ironically, this third group tends to be the same one that perpetuates the notion that Social Media ROI either doesn’t exist or is “unwise” to try and measure. Yeah. Convenient, isn’t it?)

Note: Having been a Social Media manager for a major brand doesn’t mean jackaloo. Don’t fall for the old name-dropping trick. Even if the applicant was indeed “Social Media VP” for superbrand XYZ, what did they accomplish while in the position? What did they actually do? Hint: You don’t want to be some idiot’s next unfortunate employer. Don’t let someone’s previous job title dazzle you. We’ve already established that any idiot  with a little game can be a Social Media Director these days. Be careful.

Tip #3: Before we go on, here are some red flags to help you identify deadbeat Social Media Directors:

A) Every time you see a major global consumer brand engaging with less than 5% of its active (vocal) customers on a popular Social Media platform like Twitter after 8-10 months of activity, you can bet that their Social Media Director belongs to that third category.

B) If every time you walk into your monthly status meeting with your new Social Media Director and ask them for the latest, they either talk to you about Google analytics, confuse you with endless spreadsheets or launch into a “Social Media takes time” monologue, chances are that they belong to that third category.

C) If you ask your Social Media Director why their efforts aren’t scaling very fast or producing the numbers you expected and they give you a story about engagement not being a numbers game, chances are that they belong in that third category.*

D) If when you ask them for real business metrics, impact analysis and (god forbid) ROI and they either give you a blank stare or explain that these things don’t apply to Social Media, they probably belong to that third category.

E) If they measure Social Media effectiveness mostly in terms of “engagement metrics” and after six months, you still don’t understand what or how they are measuring “engagement” (most likely through some arcane equation that magically merges followers, the media value of a tweet and number of blog comments), guess what: Third category.

F) And when you ask them how they plan to integrate Social Media into customer service, Human Resources, Public Relations, Marketing, Business Development or any other silo in your organization and they schedule a later meeting to address that instead of answering on the spot, guess what category they probably belong to.

The thing about that third category is that they’ll never admit that they don’t know something. Because they get by every day by producing massive amounts of bulls**t, they will automatically default to making something up on the spot or deflecting questions with well crafted excuses. That’s their most damning trait, and what gives them away every time: They always know, and they’re never wrong (except… they don’t, and they are, and now you’re wise to it).

* Simple test to prove or disprove a “depth before breadth” response:

First – On Twitter, look at the number of brand mentions vs. the number of your brand’s account mentions. Big difference? Ask why. Then ask your Social Media Director what they are doing to raise awareness for your presence in the space. Breadth matters, no matter what your overpaid hack of a Social Media honcho tells you.

Second – Look at the number of comments directly aimed at your account. 20 per day? 50 per day? Now look at how many of these requests for attention were acknowledged with some sort of reply. 100%? 80%? Less than 25%? If your Social Media Director claims that they are focusing on depth of engagement instead of breadth, yet they only respond to less than half of the handshakes thrown at them daily, maybe it’s time you found out what he/she actually does with his/her time.

Tip #4: What should you be looking for in an applicant interested in becoming your next Social Media Director ? (The only Social Media Director requisition primer you’ll ever need)

I could go on with my indictment of poser Social Media Directors all day long, but I would rather put this post to a more productive use: Since so many of these hacks are getting through the recruiting filter, why don’t we focus on helping interviewers distinguish good applicants from bad ones, starting with some traits and skills they want and need in a Social Media Director. Think of this as a checklist for would-be Social Media Directors, and please feel free to add your own suggestions by leaving a comment.

  • Applicant has developed and managed marketing programs before. Not just campaigns but programs.
  • Applicant has had a continuous professional presence in the Social Media space (via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Ning or other platforms) for at least one year.
  • Applicant has managed a business blog and/or business community for a minimum of one year.
  • Applicant has built or managed a community for longer than one year.
  • Applicant has at least two years of experience managing projects and working across organizational silos.
  • Applicant has managed a brand or product line for more than one year.
  • Applicant has demonstrated a strong ability to forge lasting relationships across a variety of media platforms over the course of his/her career.
  • Applicant understand the difference between vertical and lateral action when it comes to customer/community engagement – and has working knowledge of how to leverage both.
  • Applicant demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the Social Media space, including usage and demographic statistics for the most popular/relevant platforms as well as a few niche platforms of his/her choice.
  • Applicant has managed national market research projects.
  • Applicant demonstrates a thorough understanding of the nuances between Social Media platforms and the communities they serve. (Example: MySpace vs. Facebook or YouTube vs. Seesmic)
  • Applicant understands the breadth of tools and methods at his/her disposal to set goals and measure success in the Social Media space. (Applicant’s toolkit is not limited to Google analytics.)
  • Applicant can cite examples of companies with successful social media programs and companies with ineffective social media programs. He/she can also argue comfortably why each was either successful or unsuccessful.
  • Applicant has been active on Twitter for more than 8 months.
  • Applicant knows who Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang and Peter Kim are.
  • Applicant is comfortable enough with business measurement methods to know the difference between financial impact (ROI) and non-financial impact. He/she also knows why the difference between the two is relevant.
  • Applicant demonstrates the ability to build and manage a Social Media practice that works seamlessly with PR, product marketing, event management and customer support teams within the organization.
  • Applicant has managed a work team for more than one year. He/she was responsible for the training and development of that team.
  • Applicant has spent at least one year in a project management role outside of an ad agency, PR or other Marketing firm.
  • Applicant can tell a personal story involving either Digg, Seesmic or both.
  • Applicant has been responsible for managing a budget/P&L.
  • Applicant demonstrates a high level of proficiency working with popular Social Media platforms and apps such as FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Ning, Seesmic, YouTube, FriendFeed, WordPress, FriendFeed and Tumblr.
  • Applicant is capable of mapping out a basic Social Media monitoring plan on a cocktail napkin.
  • Applicant is more excited about engagement, building an internal practice and finding out about your business’ pain points than he/she is about firebombing you with the full scope of their Social Media skills’ awesomeness.
  • Applicant already has the framework of a Social Media plan for your company before he/she even walks through the front door, and thankfully, it doesn’t involve setting up a fan page on FaceBook.
  • Applicant actually knows how to use Twitter to help your company build brand equity online and offline without having to DM people like me for newbie level help.

Your turn. What do you think is missing from this checklist?

Let me know if this is helpful. Please, please, please, for the love of puppies, STOP. Don’t hire “that guy” because his resume says he worked with Brand XYZ in Digital or Social. It isn’t enough. (Who hasn’t?) Dig deeper. Get knowledgeable about this space. Don’t get suckered into hiring an unscrupulous hack job looking for another free ride off an unsuspecting company.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

One last thing: Will this topic be covered in Red Chair executive trainings (the next one is in Portland, OR on March 11)? You bet. To register for the Portland event, click here. (The first 5 registrations get $100 off, so sign up fast!)

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keepmum

First, let me open this post by telling you that I am not going to bash the Marine Corps (USMC) or ESPN for their unfortunate and ill-advised decisions regarding social networks this week. But I will say this: Their respective decisions to temporarily (or permanently) impose restrictions and/or bans on their personnel with respect to social network access do not address the problems they hoped to correct.

We’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s flashback to what actually happened this week:

Exhibit A: On August 3, 2009, the United States Marine Corps released a document entitled IMMEDIATE BAN OF INTERNET SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES (SNS) ON MARINE CORPS ENTERPRISE NETWORK (MCEN) NIPRNE. The fully capitalized document essentially banned Marines from accessing social networks like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter from their network. (An issue for potentially tens of thousands of USMC families who currently use these platforms to stay in touch with their loved ones – deployed in active theaters or not.)

A few key elements of this ban:

1. PURPOSE. THIS MESSAGE ANNOUNCES AN IMMEDIATE BAN ON INTERNET SNS WITHIN THE MCEN UNCLASSIFIED NETWORK (NIPRNET).
2.  BACKGROUND. INTERNET SNS ARE DEFINED AS WEB-BASED SERVICES THAT ALLOW COMMUNITIES OF PEOPLE TO SHARE COMMON INTERESTS AND/OR EXPERIENCES (EXISTING OUTSIDE OF DOD NETWORKS) OR FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO EXPLORE INTERESTS AND BACKGROUND DIFFERENT FROM THEIR OWN.  THESE INTERNET SITES IN GENERAL ARE A PROVEN HAVEN FOR MALICIOUS ACTORS AND CONTENT AND ARE PARTICULARLY HIGH RISK DUE TO INFORMATION EXPOSURE, USER GENERATED CONTENT AND TARGETING BY ADVERSARIES.  THE VERY NATURE OF SNS CREATES A LARGER ATTACK AND EXPLOITATION WINDOW, EXPOSES UNNECESSARY INFORMATION TO ADVERSARIES AND PROVIDES AN EASY CONDUIT FOR INFORMATION LEAKAGE THAT PUTS OPSEC, COMSEC, PERSONNEL AND THE MCEN AT AN ELEVATED RISK OF COMPROMISE.  EXAMPLES OF INTERNET SNS SITES INCLUDE FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, AND TWITTER.

View the full document here.

Exhibit B: On August 4, 2009, US sports broadcaster ESPN also announced new Social Media guidelines regarding employee/talent usage of Twitter.

Some key elements of ESPN’s new guidelines (bold text for editorial purposes only):

“We expect to hold all talent who participate in social networking to the same standards we hold for interaction with our audiences across TV, radio and our digital platforms. This applies to all ESPN Talent, anchors, play by play, hosts, analysts, commentators, reporters and writers who participate in any form of personal social networking that contain sports related content.”

Specific Guidelines:

* Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted

* Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head

* ESPN.COM may choose to post sports related social media content

* If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms

* The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content

* Assume at all times you are representing ESPN

* If you wouldn’t say it on the air or write it in your column, don’t tweet it

* Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans

* Avoid discussing internal policies or detailing how a story or feature was reported, written, edited or produced and discussing stories or features in progress, those that haven’t been posted or produced, interviews you’ve conducted, or any future coverage plans.

* Steer clear of engaging in dialogue that defends your work against those who challenge it and do not engage in media criticism or disparage colleagues or competitors

* Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with ESPN’s employee policies and editorial guidelines

* Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, should not be shared

Any violation of these guidelines could result in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.

View the guidelines here (via Mashable).

Not everyone will agree with me on what I have to say about this and that’s okay. Just hear me out and feel free to tell me why I am right and/or why I am wrong.

First things first: The USMC’s ban.

wanted

Remember these posters from WWII? Seaborne convoys to Europe were under constant attack from German U-boats and it was believed (rightly so) that Nazi spies were listening in on conversations to help plan attacks on ships. The US government created an awareness campaign to remind people (military and not) to keep sensitive information (schedules, troop movements, ship departures, etc.) to themselves.

Smart move: Creating that awareness saved lives. People were introduced to a threat they had not considered, understood the stakes, and were asked to take responsibility for their actions. This was essentially a combination of awareness and training.

award

What the government didn’t do was ban military personnel and their families from using telephones, the US postal service or classified ads (the technologies of the time) out of fear that sensitive information might be leaked out via these mass communication devices.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Awareness, education and responsibility vs. outright bans. That’s the discussion we are really having today. What best practices can be put in place within an organization when it comes to social media usage?

In the case of the USMC, is an outright ban of SNS access on the NIPRNET truly the solution? Or is it possible that perhaps clear guidelines about what content is and isn’t acceptable (along with adequate monitoring) for Marines might yield better results without interrupting benign types of communications? Perhaps even create further layers of guidelines based on the role and location of these Marines. (Recon Marines in Iraq vs. a drill instructor on Parris Island, for example: Different threat. Different access to mission-sensitive info, etc.) This might sound complicated, but it isn’t.

closed

Look at it in a different way. Is it possible that Marines chatting about a mission within hearing range of an Iraqi vendor or contractor might be as damaging (if not more) as a Facebook update? An overheard phone call? An intercepted postcard while on leave? Isn’t it more likely that sensitive information would find its way into the hands of the enemy through conventional means than through a tweet or Facebook update?

The risk here is not the medium, it is the behavior. Ban access to the medium and you solve nothing: The behavior is still there, only now, you are blind to it. Double-fail.

Identify the threat, then address the specific threat. That’s how it works. If you identify the wrong threat and engage it instead of the real threat, you’re screwed. I fear that this is what has happened with the Marine Corps. In other words, not only will the move not save lives, but it will instead help further isolate soldiers from their families at a time when technology makes deployments a lot more manageable than they have ever been.

I kidded on Twitter earlier this week was that to avoid being outdone by the Marine Corps, the Army was planning to ban the use of telephones and the Air Force would look into banning the use of snail mail. Don’t take it too literally (I understand the different threat posed by the openness of social networks), but don’t dismiss the notion too quickly either. Twitter… telephones… not a huge difference when you step back and look at the full picture.

There is a reason why telephones and mail were not banned in WWII: Training and awareness worked. A ban of technology usage would not have worked at all. The lesson: Give people some credit. Give them the opportunity to do the right thing. Don’t treat them like stupid little children. Chances are, they’ll make you proud. (That’s what IBM did… but hang on. We’re not quite there yet.)

enemyears

In regards to ESPN’s Twitter guidelines:

Many of these guidelines are solid. Especially “Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, should not be shared”, “Assume at all times you are representing ESPN” and “Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans.” No problem there. These should actually be #1 #2 and #3 on that list.

When it comes to being professional, representing your employer 24/7 and not sharing confidential information, thumbs-up. Good stuff. I’m right there with you, ESPN.

But wait… then things get a little out of hand.

Case in point: “Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted.” Seriously? So let me get this straight… if I am a triathlete working for ESPN and want to write a post on my own personal blog about the half Ironman I just competed in last weekend, I am not allowed to do so? Am I also prohibited from posting pictures of my son playing basketball on my Facebook page? Openly supporting a charity like Livestrong or Susan G. Komen is out of the question then? Let alone sharing with anyone that I am a fan of a particular team or athlete?

Another problematic policy here is this one: “The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content.” Not to get Clintonesque here, but can ESPN define “the”? Whose priority are we talking about, and in what context? Is ESPN implying that their employees use of social media platforms (FaceBook, Twitter, blogs, Skype, Friendfeed, IM) is exclusively limited to ESPN-sanctioned communications? So… Any use of social media outside of a ESPN-sanctioned context is in violation of company policy? Outside of work, ESPN employees are no longer allowed to connect with old high school friends on Facebook? They shouldn’t engage with friends, neighbors, golf buddies and family members on Twitter? They should immediately end their involvement with the dozens of hobby-related communities they belong to online, from sports clubs and antique car collector communities to foodie and health-minded forums?

Help me out here. I don’t see how this makes any sense from an HR or PR perspective (let alone a legal one). Though some elements of this policy are sound, others fall completely outside the realm of realistic, enforceable and effective guidelines for company-wide social media usage. Perhaps ESPN might want to consider other options (and probably better sources of advice) when it comes to framing policies for its social media program? Perhaps (again) incorporating training for employees as well might be a better solution?

Counterpoint: IBM’s fantastic internal social media policy – A template for all companies? (Maybe.)

Rosie_the_RiveterSm_4864

You might not expect a corporate juggernaut like IBM to lead the way when it comes to creating effective social media guidelines for its employees, yet here we are: IBM was one of the first enterprise-size companies to not only recognize the need for such a document, but also to deliver an adequate set of guidelines within it that made sense and allowed its culture to spread. IBM recognized that treating its employees like responsible adults rather than dangerous little children might yield pretty good results.

And they were right.

Check out IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines here.

I want to highlight a few specific elements of the document here so you can enjoy the radical contrast between ESPN’s less than savvy approach vs. IBM’s:

As outlined in the Business Conduct Guidelines, IBM fully respects the legal rights of our employees in all countries in which we operate. In general, what you do on your own time is your affair. However, activities in or outside of work that affect your IBM job performance, the performance of others, or IBM’s business interests are a proper focus for company policy.

IBM supports open dialogue and the exchange of ideas.
IBM regards blogs and other forms of online discourse as primarily a form of communication and relationship among individuals. When the company wishes to communicate publicly as a company—whether to the marketplace or to the general public—it has well established means to do so. Only those officially designated by IBM have the authorization to speak on behalf of the company.

However, IBM believes in dialogue among IBMers and with our partners, clients, members of the many communities in which we participate and the general public. Such dialogue is inherent in our business model of innovation, and in our commitment to the development of open standards. We believe that IBMers can both derive and provide important benefits from exchanges of perspective.

One of IBMers’ core values is “trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.” As a company, IBM trusts—and expects—IBMers to exercise personal responsibility whenever they participate in social media. This includes not violating the trust of those with whom they are engaging. IBMers should not use these media for covert marketing or public relations. If and when members of IBM’s Communications, Marketing, Sales or other functions engaged in advocacy for the company have the authorization to participate in social media, they should identify themselves as such.

Read the rest here.

Beautiful, isn’t it? IBM actually treats its employees like responsible adults. How about that.

By the way, check out when IBM started working on this: 2005!  Most companies today still don’t have adequate (or even specific guidelines when it comes to social media usage) and we’re just a few months away from 2010. Anyone feeling a little unprepared right now? Yeah. Some of you probably should be.

That is how it’s done, boys and girls: With calm, insightful knowledge and understanding. With respect for the medium, the process, your employees and your customers.

Okay, now come close. I have a secret to tell you: The best antidote to fear is knowledge.

That’s right: Companies whose staffers understand social media, community dynamics, organic brand management and new technologies will figure out how to do this right. (Like IBM.)

Conversely, companies with a lack of knowledge, understanding and practical experience in these areas are bound to let fear overcome logic and common sense. Fear, ignorance and paranoia aren’t exactly good foundations upon which to base a social media program – or anything else, for that matter. This is how companies can suddenly invalidate the entire potential of their social media efforts AND turn a knee-jerk reaction into a PR disaster all in one fell swoop. (And man, is it painful to watch.)

Incidentally, if you are a corporate executive who actually fears his own people… why are they your people? (Either hire better or train better. What are you doing? Hiring mean-spirited unprofessional idiots with no common sense? In this economy? When you could have your pick of the best talent out there?) If you have to impose bans and draconian restrictions on your staff to keep them in line, if the stick needs to be bigger than the carrot, your problem isn’t Twitter or Facebook. Your problem is you. (Something to think about.)

keepcalmred

One last bit of wisdom from IBM’s Social Web Guidelines to send you off on a good note:

Be who you are. Some bloggers work anonymously, using pseudonyms or false screen names. IBM discourages that in blogs, wikis or other forms of online participation that relate to IBM, our business or issues with which the company is engaged. We believe in transparency and honesty. If you are blogging about your work for IBM, we encourage you to use your real name, be clear who you are, and identify that you work for IBM. Nothing gains you more notice in the online social media environment than honesty—or dishonesty. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out. But also be smart about protecting yourself and your privacy. What you publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and also be judicious in disclosing personal details.

This is so evolved that it almost brings a tear of joy to my eye.

No need to panic. If IBM can pull it off, our company can too. (Yes, even you, ESPN.) To start with, all you really have to do is take this social media program building process seriously and maybe ask for a little bit of expert help to help you avoid these types of snafus.

Incidentally, if your company doesn’t currently have either a solid set of social media guidelines or employee awareness training in place, give me a call (or have your HR manager give me a call). I can help you with that. 😉

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I had a great conversation with someone about the topic of leaders vs. managers earlier this week, and was reminded of this post from about a year ago:

(Note – If you are an HR professional, you may not like what follows.)

“Managers make sure that work follows an established process. They don’t like change. Leaders, on the other hand, are restless creatures like gamblers who get excited about doing things a new way.”Now, here’s the problem: There’s a great need for talent and a glut of unqualified candidates. It’s going to take a leader to figure out how to move forward. And Recruiting is full of managers.

“One solution: take recruiting away from HR and give it to marketing people who know how to sell. Another: give it to the operational leaders who have the knowledge needed to assess the candidates technical skills.”

Per Kevin Wheeler, via The Recruiting Animal blog.

Whether you think that’s genius or complete bunk, read Kevin’s entire article here. Whatever side of the fence you happen to be on, it is well worth ten minutes.

By the way, I’m in the ATL today, so I will be slower than a slug when it comes to approving and responding to comments. 😉

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Firemen

The topic came up in conversation yesterday: What grouping of skills and experience should a company look for in a Social Media manager or director? I have to confess that my answer sounded more like a list than anything: Marketing communications, PR, community management, blogging, account planning, business development, reputation management, brand management, brand insights and market research, web savvy, etc. And while I was going through my little skill mapping exercise, I suddenly remembered that we had touched on this topic about a year ago – not in terms of social media, but more along the lines of new marketing. Let’s run through it again:

You probably remember Tim (IDEO) Brown’s Strategy By Design article in Fast Company back in June of 2005. (You know, the one that mentioned T-Shaped people.) The article shed some light of the fact that innovative companies – or rather, companies who have shown an ability to innovate regularly – tend to favor hiring T-shaped people and fostering the types of cultures that work best for them, over hiring and managing employees the way our grandfathers did, which essentially consists of assigning specific linear jobs to people who were trained to perform the specific functions of these jobs – no more, no less. (The good old nose to the grindstone mentality.)

It went a little like this:

“We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they’re willing to try to do what you do. We call them “T-shaped people.” They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T — they’re mechanical engineers or industrial designers. But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need. That’s what you’re after at this point — patterns that yield ideas.”


Good stuff. Since IDEO pretty much pioneered the innovation by design business model, Tim knows what he’s talking about. And having suffered the rigidity and lack of flexibility of forethought commonly found in many corporate environments, I have been a BIG fan of the T-Shaped thinking concept ever since I first read about it. It has been my experience that when putting a project team together, opting for one composed of people with diverse backgrounds yields much better results than one composed of specialists in a specific field. Especially if the project involves solving a problem or improving a design or process.

But last year, Dave Armano, from the Logic & Emotion blog, gave us this, which proposed an exciting next step in T-shaped thinking evolution:

“Lately I’ve been wondering—is there another way to look at this? What if we took a more basic human truth. Most of us have some kind of passion in a specific area. For some—it’s a hobby or interest. For others, it’s directly related to their work. I fall into the latter category. If you were to ask me what my “passion is”—I would probably say that at the core, it’s creative problem solving. This is pretty broad and incorporates a lot of disciplines that can relate to it. But that’s the point. What if we start with our passions regardless of discipline, and look at the skills which radiate out from it the same way we think about how rays from the sun radiate warmth?”


Excellent point. The radial pattern is definitely an improvement on the theme of the T-shaped individual. We’re adding new dimensions here and painting a more realistic, accurate picture of the breadth and depth of talent required in today’s much more complex workplace.

Assuming of course, that the said workplace a) recognizes the value of this type of individual, b) is able to foster an environment which takes full advantage of this potential pool of talent and innovation, and c) incites these types of people to want to keep working there.

Sadly, this still seems to be the rub in far too many offices across the US… Which is where smart marketing firms, think tanks, ad agencies and professional services firms can gain a definite edge over just about everyone else.

Here’s more from Dave:

“The majority of those reaching out to embrace this trend have their roots in the UI industry rather than industrial design. While traditional product and graphic design practitioners enter the field with a foundation based on design history, emphasis on form, method and process, those in the UI field come from myriad backgrounds such as software engineering, marketing, and brand strategy. Without a common heritage and education, these designers are more comfortable working with disparate client groups and in interdisciplinary teams.”

Food for thought.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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Seattle, by Olivier Blanchard - 2008

Check out these great bits of advice from Dave Lorenzo’s Career Intensity blog:

“Deciding: ‘Familiarize yourself with common decision-making errors—such as going along with a group choice to maintain cohesion. Watch for tendencies within yourself to commit such errors.’

Leaders make bold decisions. They see them through, and if they aren’t working out, they make new decisions. The worst thing you can do for your career is make no choices or let your choices be made for you. Taking a passive approach to your goals is unlikely to result in success. Even if you make a bad decision, it’s better to mess up and learn from it than to remain stagnant. Failures are great opportunities to learn more about yourself and the world. Move ahead by choosing wisely and boldly.”

(If you’re asking yourself… yeah, cool career advice, but… what does this have to do with branding, hold on. I’m getting to it.)

“It takes someone who believes in herself and her ideas to challenge the status quo. These are the people who shake things up and change them for the better. You don’t have to be contentious to challenge. The best way to suggest changes is not to bash the old ways, but to offer new and positive ideas.

If you are part of a team working on a project that you believe could be going more smoothly, step up and present your ideas. Most likely, everyone will be excited to approach the work from a new angle. And you will begin to earn a reputation for innovation.”

Still not catching on? Okay… Let’s try one more:

“In the famous words of Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.

What separates the dazzling winners from everyone else is that they are able to envision a grand future. What turns them into winners is that they are able to leap into that future and do the hard work necessary to make it great.

Particularly for die-hard realists and people who have been trained (by parents, friends, or spouse) to be ‘responsible’ and ‘stable’, indulging in imagination can be difficult. For every idea that’s even mildly revolutionary, a little voice chimes in, ‘Impossible. You can’t do that. That’s stupid. It’ll never work.’ Quiet that voice and spend some time ruminating on your wild, far-out, fanciful ideas. Great leader do things that no one before them has done.”

Still no? Tsssk… Okay. I’ll give you a hint: Substitute “brand” for “career”. Everything that Dave so brilliantly recommends is exactly the kind of advice that you can put to good use in building strong brands – from ‘brand you’ to the next retail darling, iconic consumer good or dazzling web application.

Brands aren’t built in a vacuum. They aren’t built by functionaries. They do not thrive in stagnant bureaucracies. Brands are built by empowered visionaries. Brands are built on enthusiasm, conviction, and courage… Or they are doomed from the start.

You are the heart and soul of the brand you represent and serve. If you want your brand to be a market leader, you must be a leader in your job as well. Your qualities are your brand’s attributes. Your weaknesses are its flaws. Everything you are, everything you do, affects its success and future.

So… don’t ever let anyone turn you into a tool. Challenge everything. Question every assumption. Wage war on routine and bureaucracy. Accept no compromise…

… and read Dave’s blog. It’s a good one.

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