Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, communities, forums, wikis, social marketing, social meetups, social blah, blah, blah. *Warning: my rant on the state of the Internet, and a mention of a new book by one of our authors.*
Are you totally overwhelmed with social media tools and activities? Seriously. How many communities do you (can you) belong to, before you start gritting your teeth every time you get an email updating you on your latest friends' activities?
I think I'm tapped out. I think I have to pull back. I think my communication level has reached its limits. So, knowing this, I wonder: leadership communication - has the Internet improved it, or not? As the "leader" of your company, be it a solopreneurship or a small business of 50; be it a small business of 100 or a mid-sized business of 500, do you feel your communication style and level of reaching out, has been improved by these interactive tools, or not?
I say - yes. I feel more connected and I've truly met some outstanding men and women, in and not in the marketing world. I enjoy even the acquaintances that have come my way. But, is it necessary to sign up for yet another community, in order to be a leader in my industry? Does opting out make me a bad communicator?
Dr. Lee Thayer, in his book Communication: A Radical Philosophy for Life's #1 Problem, just published by yours truly, btw, says in his "forewarnings" - which take place of the usual foreword, "Changing a deeply ingrained understanding to a new and sometimes contradictory understanding may be the most difficult thing that people ever do - no matter what the advantages." So, from that, are we to take away the knowledge that new and different is difficult, but has its advantages? Change is necessary, if you want to be a real leader?
Thayer, as aleadership author and coach, has had many a chance to experience the ups and downs of communication. Going back to his Forewarnings, he says,
- It is in communication that we create each other as sentient human beings;
- It is in communication that we create, maintain, or alter our minding of the world;
- It is in communication that we create and modify our minds - and the minds of all others with whom we have the intercourse we call "communication"...and
- It is in communication that we become who we are, and the world comes into the existence it has for us in the ways we talk about it.
"Communication is the creator and the infrastructure of every human mind, and thus of the worlds we create inour images and our other ways of representing them. In trivializing the process, we miss seeing the fundamental - nay, the inescapable - role we play in making ourselves, and in making the only world we can ever know."
As you can see, Dr. Thayer speaks in theory, and offers a philosophy, with insistence that communication is at the very core of everything we, as humans, do, with and for each other. There is no other way to interact but communication. There is no way to build or improve society, culture, knowledge, but through communication. Humans MUST communicate - we construct the very chairs we sit in and windows we look out of, not to mention the descriptions of what is beyond those windowpanes - in the language we use to describe them. Can you disagree? Dare you disagree?
If this is true (you must read the book to be exposed to Thayer's full philosopy), if we lead each other by our conversations - what does that mean when those conversations are happening on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the like? When conversations have become the thing of preschool - occuring in 140 characters, or in opinionated blog posts, or even in books about our conversations online?
I propose this: they told stories. They talked out loud in small groups, before a fire or around a fire or at a kitchen table, with food as a stimulant, not the chime of another email hitting your inbox. They gestured as they spoke. They paused for effect and leaned forward and acted out the story they were telling. They did not mince words.
We must ask ourselves this: Are our stories improved by our presences on Twitter, Facebook, and the like...even in the communities we visit? Or, are our stories improved, shared, understood, listened to and passed along, by storytelling the ability to look our audience in the eye?
Where is leadership communication today? Is it on Twitter- connecting to customers and clients to provide better customer service? Or is it on the company blog, the better to tell a real story? Or, is it at an unconference, where the structure is no structure and people act like people - human beings who care about one another? Can the story begin on these tools and be picked up...elsewhere?
Is technology taking us to a better place? Or, are our grandchildren going to wonder what all the summertime, outdoor, camping fuss is all about because they can't be without their iPod?