A good executive Blog these days is hard to find

ExecutiveBlog“An old-fashioned manager sends a newsletter, a modern manager blogs”, I recently heard someone say.

Perhaps that goes for middle management, but to be honest I have not seen many successful internal executive blogs yet. Of course I have seen many enthusiastic attempts to start one, but I have also seen that they often died after a few months.

One executive that I have known started off fine, with very interesting subjects that nobody knew about and those posts received many responses, even if some were just “How interesting, thank you for sharing!” But the more standard posts about the quarterly earnings, or a “very inspiring visit to our R&D lab” generated less interest. The lack of response reduced his enthusiasm. So, when the publisher’s name changed into someone from internal communications, everybody knew the end was near.

I have also seen a couple of very nice blogs:

A project blog.
When we were optimizing our assortment, we did this in close cooperation with a large customer. Every week many documents with figures were produced and shared, and many presentations uploaded. It was quite hard to see the status or progress without crunching the numbers :-).
Until the project manager started a blog and shared her experiences from the meetings with the customer. How their eyes lit up when they saw the new packaging. How they kept bringing in new employees to the meetings to learn about a constructive collaboration project. How they did not like one of our proposals, and why not, but kept being positive about it. Suddenly the other team members realized that they were not only optimizing the assortment but also innovating our relationship with this customer, which made the project so much more than just a set of dry numbers.

A VP’s blog.
Every Sunday (!) he wrote a long post, starting with the things he had done in the past week. It could have been a meeting with analysts or with external peers, or the introduction of a new company initiative. He always added background and reasons, which helped every reader to understand why the company did this. Very often, he provided extra information that was not given in regular communication messages. |
He always ended with some information about his family and about sports. And when he skipped a Sunday, he apologized beforehand or afterwards. His blog was a hit with many employees and as far as I know, he has been writing for several years now.

From both examples it was also clear that they liked writing, and were quite willing to spend the time to share their experiences and write a nice story.

This leads me to some possible reasons why your executives are not exactly standing in line to get their own blog:

  • Too busy. Those of you who blog will know it takes time to come up with a nice blog, to rewrite, find a catchy title, a suitable picture, and rewrite again. Your executives are busy people, and may have no time to sit down and write. Didn’t  they hire a communications team to do their writing for them?
  • No writer. Your executive may not be a person of written text. He or she  may not like having to think carefully about their words, creating a good structure, or checking typos.  They may not want to run the risk of being exposed as a not-so-good writer, even if they know their employees would forgive any mistakes, as long as it shows that our executives are human.
  • No priority.  My former manager could write very well for purposes important to him or our team, but he could not be bothered to write a regular blog for all employees. (And that was a great opportunity for me! :-))
  • Can not write.  I do not mean that your executive can not read or write, but she or he  might be dyslexic. It often happens that people start a company because it allows them to focus on the things they are best at: networking, negotiating, selling etc. while it allows them to leave the reading and writing to others. I do not think this will be the case in large organizations, but I know of smaller companies where this is true.

For those executives, an audio blog may be a good solution. I have known an executive who recorded a message with his Blackberry every week and had it posted to the intranet.  They called it  “John’s weekly podcast” which made them all feel very modern. It was quick, easy and his employees liked it.
Video blogging is another option that I have seen used, although this will take more effort.

With my limited experience of succesful internal executive bloggers, I would conclude these are two success factors:

  • You have to add something new to the mix
  • You must enjoy writing and sharing your thoughts

But even if you are not an executive, you can start blogging and improve your career chances!

If you have any successful examples from your own experience or interesting articles, please share!

(Title inspired by the song “A good heart these days is hard to find” by Feargal Sharkey)

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Empathy or Business Sense – a key quality for intranet professionals

Once upon a time there was a Team Site Owner with an approval workflow in his site. It was an important process in his team, deciding if a customer will or will not receive a discount, depending on their ordering profile. The final decision was made in that workflow.
The process was not going very smoothly, and an email discussion followed between the Site Owner, the team accountant, and some of the approvers. At the end of the discussion an email was sent to the intranet team: “how can we add a column to the view, that shows the next approver?”
A colleague informed them helpfully how to add a column to a Library. Did they want a single-line-of-text, a drop-down, or another way to pick the next approver?
“No”, was the reply, “this field needs to be filled automatically”.

At that point the email was forwarded to me to ask if I knew how to make that column appear. Could we use a calculated field perhaps?
I first read the email exchange. My fellow experienced intranet managers will have guessed that the approval was not going fast enough and they never knew where the document was in the workflow. So their real question was: “How do we know the approval status for a document?”
A column was not possible in this case, but I could tell them how to check the status for each document. THAT was a good answer to their question.

Now, that colleague is a smart, knowledgeable and helpful person. But he did not ask “why?” 5 times in a row to find the real question. And asking that is essential if you want to make sure you give the best possible solution to a problem. We all have to have “business sense” or “empathy”. (Please do not hesitate to suggest a better word)

Let me give you some more examples:

  • Is it the time of the year when the deadline for next year’s financial planning is approaching? If yes, wait with those questions or surveys. Even the summer holiday period can be a better time!
  • Are your Site Owners always very busy, not allowing themselves time to think? In that case, make things simple; provide them with a low–maintenance setup of their Team Site and a short training. Do not give them a choice – make the decision for them. (e.g. “we will delete your Site which has not been updated for 12 months – unless you react within 5 business days”)
  • If they ask a question, what is their underlying need? You have to be able to read between the lines. The request for “Facebook functionality” was a similar case!

This post was triggered by a discussion in the “Intranet Career Path” group on LinkedIn, where the owner asked: “What is the key personal quality needed for online professionals?”  Please add your suggestion, because it is an interesting topic that could do with some more replies!

If you have a similar example to share, please add it to the comments here.