Social Media for CEOs

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Nary a week passes where I don’t hear from a CEO who’s grappling with this social media conundrum: should I, or shouldn’t I? The inquiry usually goes something like this: “I’m interested in learning more about social media, but my board thinks it’s a bad idea, I don’t have any additional bandwidth, and I’m not even sure where to start…is social media really effective for CEOs?”  The discussion about whether or not CEOs should become more digitally accessible  is certainly not a new one, but in my humble opinion, it’s a tired one that should have ended long, long ago. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on why it’s time to put a fork in the social media debate…

We have a social media practice at N2growth, I use social media, and all of the CEOs I coach are participating at some level in social media. That said, my feelings are not prejudiced, just biased- there is a difference. Experience matters in this debate, and frankly, most of those who opine in dissent don’t have much experience to draw from…In an effort to be balanced, I have nonetheless attempted to represent both affirmative and dissenting opinions below:   

The Dissenting Position:
The stance of the risk adverse is there is little to be gained, but the potential for much to be lost in social media initiatives involving C-level executives. The fear of exposing executives and the corporate brand to public criticism, along with disclosure concerns with regard to forward looking statements, and other confidential information have caused concern for boards and legal departments. They are risk managers who believe in protecting what was rather than embracing what is, and what will be.    

The Affirmative Position:
Proponents of C-level social media participation believe the digital universe provides the CEO with the ultimate platform to evangelize the corporate brand, and to effectively communicate across multiple constituencies. They are opportunity managers who believe engagement to be more valuable than silence, they believe in dialog not monologue, they believe in change and innovation – not in status quo.   

The Truth (as I see it)
A main point of consideration for CEOs is that social media transforms you from an enigma (the stereotype of the uncaring corporate executive) into a human being that people can relate to…social media personalizes you in a way that few other mediums can.  Whether you Tweet, Blog, Facebook, YouTube, etc.,  these communities allow you to be known for the whole of who you are as an individual, not just as a bio on the corporate website. The following list is comprised of  a few representative examples of reasons why all CEOs should be actively engaged in social media:

  1. Leadership Benefits: As CEO, you’re not supposed to be the relic, but the visionary. This may hit a little close to home for some, but the message needs to be heard. Great leaders lead by example. How can you ask members of your team to be innovative, engaged, proactive, creative, authentic, transparent, and communicative if you are none of those things? You cannot be an effective leader if you don’t model the behavior you seek in others. Be a leader or be a disingenuous hypocrite – the choice is yours.  
  2. Learning Benefits: Social media is not just a tool for pushing out corporate propaganda – use it as such and you’ll pay a steep price. What it is, is open access to people, relationships, communities, and constituencies. Put simply, it’s a chance to observe, listen, process and learn. A CEOs needs to understand that in addition to affording them with the benefit of directly engaging consumers of their goods and services, social media also provides a window into the insights or their employees and allows them to monitor the pulse of their culture. Social media also allows you access to business, market, and competitive intelligence in real time. 
  3. Business Benefits: Yes, I know, you’re the CEO and you have to pay attention to business. Well, social media does have significant ability to drive revenue, increase personal and corporate brand equity, open markets, create relationships, drive innovation, improve morale, build partnerships, attract & retain talent, and to generate communications leverage. Not only does social media work, but it works even better when the participant has a bit of cache. The truth is the farther up the org chart one resides, the more influence one possesses, the more leverage one creates, and the more one can accomplish via social media. You can do none of these things effectively by sticking your head in the sand and pretending social media doesn’t matter.
  4. Communications Benefits: I hesitate to mention this becasue it’s been so overused, but becuase it’s true, here goes: “The conversation is already taking place, so you might as well be a part of it.” Social media gives you the ability to be proactive in your communications, or if needed, provide a rapid response to crisis. Unfortunate things happen in business, and sadly, they’ll likely happen to you at some point. Having strong relationships, supporters, and fans created through social media is invaluable – so is having a channel to quickly and credibly communicate with those who are not.
  5. Legacy Benefits: I’ve often said the best legacy is one that can be lived before you’re gone. A legacy is shaped by the sum total of your personal and professional contributions, and most significantly by those contributions which have been the most beneficial to others. Social media takes your personal interests and your professional body of work and gives them access to a larger community. Social media can enhance the value of existing relationships and create new ones, it can help you evangelize your passions, recruit people to your causes, and to help others with their causes. Social media can help you and those you care about make significant contributions.     

To those of you reading today’s post who still haven’t seen the light, and believe that social media is either insignificant, or that the window of opportunity has passed you by, I put forth the following demographics as proof of the power of the social media as a medium:

  • There are nearly 150 million social media users in the U.S. alone, which is more than 60% of the U.S. internet population.
  • According to eMarketer, the average time spent per user on social networks as of late 2010 exceeded 5 hours per month. Remember this is an average number, many users eclipse this number by a significant amount. As an example, according to clickZ, Blog readers average 23 hours online each week. 
  • Nielsen data  shows a 2x lift in brand metrics around social ads vs. non-social ads. 
  • GroupM’s research reports a significant lift in search behavior from users exposed to a brand on social networks. 
  • Over 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog.
  • I have clients who have tens of thousands of Facebook Fans, oodles and oodles of Twitter followers, popular blogs, have driven huge increases in revenue, and have quite literally changed the dynamics of their businesses, brands and cultures via social media. 

If I haven’t convinced you yet, let’s look at what some other CEOs said just in reference to Blogging in a recent issue of Inc. Magazine:

  • “More effective than any marketing budget for getting our name out there.”
  • “Within 60 days of launching our blog, it is our top referral source.”
  • “Results have been great – we had more than 100,000 visits in May alone.”
  • “Our clients love it, and lots of people in our industry pay attention to it.”
  • “The blogs are 50 percent of website traffic. Great participation.”

So, do I think CEOs should be actively engaged in social media? In a word; YES. If you’re a CEO who hasn’t taken that first step, or if you’re struggling with strategy or execution, give me a call and I’ll help. If I can’t help I’ll refer you to someone who can… 


CEO Success…It’s not Random

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Success is not random…CEO Success...It's not RandomCEOs need to realize that neither their success, nor their failure is a random act. CEOs also can rarely lay blame for their victories and losses on anyone other than themselves. Top CEOs have a knack for consistently exhibiting the right combination of skill sets, competencies, leadership aptitude, and decisioning ability. Failed CEOs simply do not. Having success as a CEO is little more than a matter of understanding where and when to apply leverage to highest and best use activities. In today’s post we’re going back to “CEO 101” to get a bit of a refresher course on things you should already know, but that you most probably fail to apply correctly on a day-to-day basis… 

So, what does it take to become a top CEO? Much more than it did even 5 years ago to be sure. The rapidly changing global landscape, and the evolving complexity of business, makes the job of CEO something that is only well suited for a rare few. For these reasons sustainable success at the C-suite level has become a very elusive thing. With the average tenure of a CEO being less than 4 years, it is critical for executives to understand what it takes to beat the odds. In the review that follows, I’ll examine the characteristics necessary to both achieve and sustain success as a CEO…

The job of CEO is all about managing expectations. Put simply, a CEO’s shelf life will be equal to their ability to align values, vision, and passion with execution. A CEO must be able to focus on deploying the necessary resources, at the right time, to achieve to desired results. By exhibiting strong leadership skills, top CEOs manage talent, performance, change, innovation, influence, rapport, and messaging to consistently drive an enterprise forward regardless of circumstances. If you want to insure longevity as a CEO, work towards developing a high degree of competency in the following areas: 

  1. Integrity: Always do the right thing regardless of peer pressure and/or public sentiment, and above all, never compromise your core values. If you cannot build trust and engender confidence with your stakeholders you cannot succeed. No amount of talent can overcome illegal, immoral, or otherwise ill-advised actions. A leader void of integrity will not survive over the long-haul. (see “Character Matters“)

  2. Excellent Decision Making Skills: As a CEO you will live or die by the quality of the decisions you make. When you’re the CEO good decisioning is expected, poor decisioning won’t be tolerated and great decisioning will set you apart from the masses. (see “Executive Decisioning“)

  3. Ability to Focus: If you cannot focus you cannot perform at the level necessary to remain in the C-suite for very long. The ability to do nothing more than understand and lock-onto priorities will place you in the top 10% of all executives. (see “The Power of Focus“)

  4. Leveraging Experience: Inexperience, a lack of maturity, needing to be the center of attention, not recognizing limitations, a lack of judgment, an inferior knowledge base or any number of other common mistakes made by rookie CEOs can cause your house of cards to fall. If you don’t have the experience personally, hire it, contract it, but by all means acquire it. Great CEOs surround themselves with tier-one talent and the best advisers money can buy. They don’t make uniformed or ill-advised decisions in a vacuum. (see “Young CEOs“)

  5. Command Presence: Great CEOs possess a strong presence and bearing. They are unflappable individuals that never let you see them sweat (unless of course it serves a purpose). Everything from how they carry themselves to how they speak and dress messages that they are in charge. (see “Never Let Them See You Sweat“)

  6. Embracing Change: Great CEOs have a strong bias to action. They don’t rest upon past accomplishments and are always seeking to improve through change and innovation. In today’s fast paced and competitive environment those CEOs who don’t openly embrace change will often be shown the door prior to the expiration of their initial employment contract. (see “Catalyzing Change“)

  7. Brand Champions: Great CEOs understand branding at every level. They seek to build not only a dominant corporate brand, but also a strong personal brand. CEOs that are not well branded on a personal basis or who let their corporate brand fall into decline will not survive. (see “Branding Demystified“)

  8. Boundless Energy: Great CEOs have a boundless amount of energy. They are positive in their outlook, and their attitude is contagious. A low energy CEO is not motivating, convincing, or credible. (Since I don’t yet have a dedicated post on this topic, I guess I’ll need to expand my thinking in the days ahead…)

  9. Business Acumen: Great CEOs have a deep understanding of the business and a strong orientation toward profit. Great CEOs possess what often appears to be a sixth sense or an almost instinctive feel for what the company needs to do to make money and remain competitive. (see “Leadership DNA“)

  10. People Acumen: Great CEOs have a nose for talent…They understand how to recruit, develop and deploy talent focusing on applying the best talent to the best opportunities. They also know when it’s time to make changes and cut losses as needed. (see “Employee Engagement“)

  11. Organizational Acumen: Great CEOs know how to engendering trust, when and how to share information, and are expert listeners. They develop strong and positive corporate cultures driven to performance by aligned motivations. They can quickly diagnose whether the organization is performing at full potential, delivering on commitments, and whether the company is changing and growing versus just operating. (see “Making The Most of Talent“)

  12. Curiosity: Great CEOs possess a powerful motivation to increase their knowledge base and to convert their learning into actionable initiatives. They question, challenge, confront, and are never accepting of the status quo. (see “The Downside of Best Practices“)

  13. Intellectual Capacity: Great CEOs are also great thinkers both at the strategic and tactical levels. They are quick on their feet and know how to get to the root of an issue faster than anyone else. I’ve never met a great CEO who wasn’t extremely discerning. (see “Critical Thinking“)

  14. Global Mindset: Regardless of the geographical boundaries of the current business model great CEOs think globally. Limited thinking results in limited results. Whether global thinking is applied to capital formation, supply-chain issues, business development, strategic partnering, distribution or any number of other areas those CEOs who don’t grasp the importance of thinking globally will not endure. Great CEOs are externally oriented, hungry for knowledge of the world and adept at connecting developments and spotting patterns. (see “The Impact of Globalization“)

  15. Never Quit: Great CEOs refuse to lose…They have an insatiable appetite for accomplishment and results and while they may reengineer or change direction they will never lose sight of the end game. (see “Play To Win“)

Managing Outlook

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Email...your best friend or your worst nightmareManaging Outlook is nothing short of a pain in the *** if you don’t pay attention to it. In coaching top CEOs and entrepreneurs I find that one thing they all have in common is an over abundance of e-mail. When e-mail was originally labeled as the “Killer App” it was because e-mail was thought to be the ultimate productivity enhancement tool. Regrettably, I believe e-mail has become the “Killer App” for most executives because it actually kills their productivity. The truth of the matter is that e-mail in-and-of-itself is not the problem, rather it is how you utilize it that determines whether or not e-mail is an asset or a liability. In today’s post I’ll share the same tips and techniques that I use myself to handle the constant deluge of e-mail…

By the time you have reached the C-suite level it is very likely that you receive between 100 and 300 e-mails per day (some of us receive multiples of that number). Even at the low end of the aforementioned range, if you assume it takes 2 minutes per e-mail for response, that means you can expect to spend a minimum of 3 plus hours each day dealing with e-mail (assuming you choose to deal with it). The worst part is that without a methodology for processing e-mail, it is likely that the time you spend on e-mail will be spent in a reactive, unfocused, and undisciplined manner which will only further dilute your efforts. If you implement the five techniques mentioned below I guarantee you’ll be able to recover some much needed time for your day while boosting your overall productivity:

  1. Learning to use Outlook to its full potential: I find that most executives only use Outlook to about 10% of its potential. By learning to not only use native Outlook features, but also to use third party add-ons, Outlook’s functionality can be massively improved. My favorite add-on is PlanPlus for Outlook by Franklin Covey. PlanPlus not only allows you to see all Outlook features (folders, multiple calendar views, tasks, and your inbasket) in one window without having to toggle back and forth between applications, but it also adds key features such as project management, goal setting, and a great note taking tool. It only takes about 30 minutes to master and will take your productivity to a new level.
  2. The Basics: Whether or not you choose to install PlanPlus, the first step to take with Outlook is to whitelist anyone who you wish to receive e-mail from. Go to your Outlook toolbar and click on Actions > Junk e-mail > add sender to safe senders list. You can either add the sender and/or their domain to your safe senders list making sure that they don’t get filtered out. Next create a folder structure for your messages. You should set up folders and sub-folders that mirror how you do business by creating separate folders for events, categories, by names of key individuals, departments, functions, clients, etc. Once you have set-up your folders create rules which will send messages directly into the folders by-passing your inbox altogether. Go to Tools > Rules and Alerts > E-mail Rules and route as many e-mails as possible to destination folders striving to keep your inbox volume minimized. You can now check these folders at times convenient to you or to staff designated to monitor said folders. You can also write specialized macros to program special events within Outlook.
  3. Spam and Junkmail: Set your junkmail folder to auto-delete junkmail on arrival. I never waste anytime checking junkmail because there is no junkmail to be checked. Sure from time-to-time a piece of important e-mail will find its way to my junk email folder and will be deleted, but if it is important enough, the sender will figure out how to get in touch with me. There is no full proof system and I simply choose to play the odds which are substantially in my favor if I’ve done a good job of whitelisting. Additionally, you may choose to use a third party spam filter which you can use to screen incoming mail by designated keywords. This is worth investing in as for a nominal investment you can easily get rid of the most frivolous forms of spam.
  4. Leverage Staff: I only receive e-mail directly from a few designated individuals, or after the e-mail has bubbled-up through staff who has screened or filtered it according to instructions that I’ve provided. The reality is that most people’s needs can be met by staff in my organization which prevents me from having to respond to correspondence that shouldn’t have been addressed by me in the first place. You’ll find that only about 10% of the e-mail you receive is “important” but most executives treat e-mail as if it is all “urgent”. By limiting the amount of e-mail that you actually see to mission critical e-mails you insure that you’re working of the right items while being brutally efficient with your time.
  5. Rules to Follow:  1.) Educate your staff and external contacts how you wish to be communicated with. Make it a point of telling them when and why to e-mail you and not to e-mail you. Set reasonable expectations by letting them know how long it will take you to respond. Severely chastise anyone who sends you a chain e-mail regardless of the topic. 2.) Only respond to e-mail twice a day; once in the morning, and once in the evening. 3.) Only handle e-mail one time…once you open an e-mail, read it, understand it, and take action on it by replying to it immediately, deleting it, archiving it, or forwarding it to a staff member for response. Resist the temptation to defer a response to a later time unless absolutely necessary. 4.) Turn-off your auto-notification settings to avoid the Pavlovian response instilled by audio or visual prompts notifying you of a new message.

You can either choose to manage your e-mail or have it manage you. I hope the tips mentioned above will add some time back to your day, and help you be more productive.