Social Media & Connectedness In Times of Crisis

This past week has been fairly brutal. On Monday Australia was on tenterhooks as an unknown amount of people were taken hostage by a lone gunman in what has now been called the #SydneySiege.

Tuesday morning we woke up to the news that two hostages and the hostage taker had been killed as police stormed the building.

While horrific events play out daily on a global scale (just today news reached us that a gut-wrenching 141 were killed in an attack on a Peshawar school), it is often the events closer to home that shock and devistate us the most. This is human nature, when people who have lives similar to own (however we may perceive that) are caught up in events that terrify us, our reactions are often much stronger than when it seems ‘far away’.

When the Sydney Siege news broke Monday morning I was at work. Computers switched to streaming coverage of the events unfolding, tablets and phones were constantly refreshing the big news sites. Loved ones were being contacted via text messaging and group messages were being shared on FaceBook.

#illridewithyou badges

I was on Twitter where the #SydneySiege and #MartinPlace hashtags were trending, and soon there was #illridewithyou which now, brings a tear to my eye as it reminded me of the generosity and goodness in people that we often forget as we are quick to anger in times of turmoil.

In hard times, we seek connectedness.

I’m lucky (ok, its not all luck, my workplaces awesome culture was a big reason I took on my current position,) that I work for an organisation that recognises the power of #SoMe. We have a work FaceBook closed group where the Chief Executive shared incredibly powerful words about how we decide to act going forward and how that will define us. (You can scroll down to Peter Burns’ post on the YMCA Victoria FaceBook page posted 3.37pm 16 December 2014).

We use social media to connect, to learn, to build our community, and in difficult times the connectedness we get from these forums means that we grow, learn and heal with each other.

If you’ve fostered the right culture you don’t need to be worried that your people are misusing these tools; because connected, engaged, productive people will exibit those behaviours online too.

I’m so grateful that I could check in on friends in Sydney on Monday. I’m glad that I got to witness #illridewithyou on Tuesday. And I’m a more connected member of my community because of it.

Personal brand

Hard Truth: I Would Judge You On Your Social Media Profile

Yup, let’s face it. We’ve all done it. Sussed out that new work contact on LinkedIn or Twitter (maybe Google Circles… or not) and judged them a little.

Unprofessional photo (Wearing tinsel in his hair? Really?!)

Mistakes in the description of the copywriter job she had… wouldn’t recommend her to anyone!

A bio written in overly formal wordy language that screams “I THINK I’M AWESOME!”

Yeah, I do it too.

So, like it or not, given that most people will make snap judgements of you, there are a few basic tenents that can translate into a more favourable initial impression online. My top four recommendations to get it right?

1. The profile picture

No, the one of you holding a glass of bubbly at your cousin’s wedding with your significant other chopped out will not do. Nor the picture from 15 years ago when you still got ID’d for alcohol.

Nothing flash is needed: just a semi-professional (or super-professional, depending on your industry) head shot.

The only people who shouldn’t follow this advice in my opinion are children’s party entertainers and spirit coaches (they can go for something a little kookier).

2. Proofread

It kills me how often I see LinkedIn bios with horrendous spelling errors. Just get a friend to read over it. Copy and paste into MS Word and see if anything is underlined red or green. And if it is, fix it.

3. Write in first person

Pop quiz: When someone describes their accomplishments to you at a party, do you sometimes think they come across as a bit of a blow-hard if they speak about themselves in the third person? I certainly do.

Same goes in your social media profiles. You are trying to connect with people, do that by speaking in your own voice, you will come across like a real person and I promise you that is a good thing.

4. Be authentic

Social media is an opportunity for you to make connections with people you might not ordinarily have the opportunity to connect with. It’s a way to tell people a little bit more about yourself and your world in an easily accessible environment.

Use it – but think about how you do it. Just as you are careful with your professional reputation, be careful with your online one. Be yourself, but don’t forget that these are professional mediums. While being true to yourself, your beliefs and your ethics, don’t sell yourself short by endorsing everyone you know for every skill they have listed (can you really endorse Jenny for Strategic Planning if you worked with her at McDonald’s on drive-through when you were teens?).

If you’re going to put your professional persona out online (and I think that is awesome – yay the internet!) just be wary of who is going to read it, and what message you’re sending. Will your future boss, co-worker or client see your online brand as an extension of real-life you? Or are you making choices that could lead to those relationships suffering?


To Ensure Your Facilitator Isn’t *@#^ Try Thinking About This

bad-speakerWe’ve all done it.

Attended a training session, a workshop or a conference and the person running the show is *@#^. You try to be nice and think that maybe they’re using a style that doesn’t sit well with you, or there’s some point to all this that you’re not yet seeing, but as time goes on you realise they they’re just a bit lame.

A facilitator who is too ‘ME ME ME!’, too reticent to take the reigns or is trying to be too quirky… these are all traits that have blown otherwise well-planned sessions out of the water, leaving the organisers (and participants) crying into their bamboo coffee cups at the conference. “Why didn’t we just go with Sarah, she’s so reliable” they moan, regretting the decision to employ the zany Jarred, who promised an exciting and engaging session – later realising that the dodgy Marvin the Martian tie should have given him away.

So how do you walk the line between engaging and nail-biting?

If you’re considering using a new facilitator – reference check them as you would any new hire. Make sure you ask probing questions of the referees; “In retrospect, was there anything about X’s style that may have made participants uncomfortable/unengaged?”. Think about what you’re employing them to do – a motivating talk to senior managers requires a very different person than a facilitated session for a specialist team discussing poor engagement survey responses. Talk to people who have used the facilitator for a purpose similar to yours.

My best piece of advice? When you’re at conferences and networking events take the cards of people who you find engaging, you never know when knowing a person with a particular passion for a topic of choice will come in handy.




Ethics, Values & Mission – Oh My!

lions tigers & bearsHow inconsistent messaging can be costing you more than you realise

I’ve had some really interesting conversations with people, both online and in the flesh (shock horror!) after last week’s post on ethics. To me, it seems like there is a clear consensus among individuals that if an organisation, public or private, uses its mission, values or ethics in its brand (whether that is internally or externally) then it needs to live and breathe them.

But, both employees and leaders of those organisations consistently lament that there seems to be a breakdown between the promoted brand and the hypocrisy of what actually happens within the workplace. (If this is an area you’re interested in, check out some of Steve Simpson’s work on ‘Unwritten Ground Rules‘ – very interesting.)

So how does an organisation that has committed itself to values, a mission or a message ensure that the statement is lived and breathed internally on a day to day basis?

Long answer short? Never rest on your laurels.

Yes, you might be a private company with an excellent brand and you are seen as a desirable place to work. Yes, you might be a highly respected NFP who has to turn highly skilled volunteers away at the door.

But… (there’s always a but isn’t there?) It’s not one thing that will trip you up. It’s 100 small things, instances if viewed in isolation are all 100% reasonable decisions. Things like;

  • Not advertising a position when you have the perfect 2ic ready to take the reigns*
  • Employees/stakeholders witnessing behaviour seeming to be at odds with the mission/values by those who publicly tout those values (perceived or otherwise)
  • The use of mission/values messaging in justifying something that the average employee/stakeholder sees as a convenient excuse by management.

Some of these examples are simply poor communications management and others come down to organisational processes seeming to be too cumbersome for the average manager who doesn’t see the value and reasoning behind why they’re so important.

Simple fact = no matter how good you are at what you do, how much cash you throw at external marketing and branding, or how amazing you are as an employer, if you don’t get your comms on message (whatever your messages are) and follow them consistently then you are doomed.

* Note: I worked ‘reigns’ in to the article to really capitalise on the season of St. Nick 😉


Ethics in the Workplace & Unintended Consequences

Recently I read a really powerful article by HRTC founder Vanessa Wiltshire about difficulties she has had in her career, particularly in regard to ethical practices in the workplace and the huge emotional toll that can take on staff.

We can all generally agree that;
Ethical behaviour = good
Making profit = good
Ethical behaviour + making profit = better.

But when one has to be sacrificed in times of trouble (of which there are a lot, in the private, public and NFP sector) it is so often the ethical behaviour that goes. It doesn’t happen like a switch, usually a series of decisions are made that cumulatively end up with people doing things in the workplace where their personal moral and ethical judgement is compromised.

And so often, the result of this is the creation of workplaces where borderline practices become commonplace, bullying becomes the norm, and the bottom line is championed above all else.

Don’t get me wrong, the bottom line (or if you’re progressive, the triple bottom line) is crucial. But the culture that you instil in the workplace through the unintended consequences of series of decisions can be mammoth.

For an organisation to engage its people, learn and build for the future, a great culture is a requirement. As a business leader said to me the other day, some businesses have an excellent money-making model, but if the people aren’t happy and the culture is a bit *^#$ then future growth and success are finite. Because the good people will leave. And its those people who are your greatest asset, no matter your business.