Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why You Need to Have a Social Media Policy Even if You Don't Use Social Media

Fernando Nothisrealname owns a successful restaurant that draws customers from the local area mainly by word of mouth and popular restaurant guides.  He has never had the time or inclination to use social media so he never gave the subject any thought at all until recently. Like many people without social media he also had no social media policy. Most likely he never thought about it and even if he had he would probably have thought that since he doesn't use social media he doesn't need a social media policy. Turns out he was wrong.

His aha moment came when he learnt from a social media savvy friend that one of his waiters was mocking customers on his Twitter account. The comments were probably meant only for friends but unprotected tweets can be seen by anyone and with enough retweets could easily reach one of his customers. They also didn't mention any names, but customers could easily recognize the incidents.

Whether it is a good idea to ignore social media is debatable, Social media refuseniks tend to underestimate the impact and social media evangelists underestimate the costs, so in some cases the return is less certain than you might think. But you really don't have any choice about the social media policy if you are an employer because your employees are likely to be active even if you aren't, so you need to have rules or at least guidelines. These rules can help reduce the chance of any negative incidents and also make it easier to discipline employees who have caused issues.

Fernando probably doesn't need a full-size corporate social media policy because his needs are so specific they can probably fit in a few bullet points, but for any more complex business you need to have a more formal policy, communicate it and enforce it. If you don't already have one there is no point creating one from scratch because you can find may examples and templates just by googling "social media policy template" which will lead you to useful sources is the site

Just having the policy might please your legal department, but it is not going to solve any other problems unless you communicate the content to employees in some understandable way.  The ideal is to add this to a training program, but when there is no time or budget for that you should at least be presenting the rules in a simplified format that can be digested, understood and accepted. Most breaches of policy are unintentional and they can be stopped by a few bullet points, leaving the formal policy for those cases where you have to bring in the lawyers.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How Building a Team Culture Makes Global Teams More Effective

When you are going to visit a faraway land you can prepare by attending an in-depth culture workshop for that country so that you are at least able to understand what is happening, and maybe to adapt your behavior. But what happens when you are working in a team where members come from many different cultures? You can't simultaneously adapt to everyone so you need to find an alternative solution.

In my experience the most effective solution to this very common problem is to define a new team culture that is not the culture of any single member, but is something everyone can live with.  This means that before the team starts to work together you should discuss how cultural differences will impact the way you work, agree some shared "team" rules that everyone can live with and then manage the communication with people outside the team.

For example, people in hierarchical cultures like to copy their boss in emails while people from less hierarchical cultures tend to copy people less often. Once both sides understand the problem what often happens is that the team members carry on doing what they have always been doing but at least it doesn't cause misunderstandings in the team. Or if some team members are used to strict schedules and others are used to flexibility it is quite common for everyone to agree to follow strict schedules, since this is an adaptation many people are used to anyway.

There are many culture factors that can affect the performance of a team, and some of these are explained in the related posts listed below, but the most common issues you will encounter all concern three key concepts:

SCHEDULES AND DEADLINES. Some people like to follow very strictly any schedule or deadline. They also tend to be more comfortable with step-by-step processes. Others are used to a much greater degree of flexibility and are more comfortable when they can adapt quickly to changes, modifying plans. This will impact the team first when then they try to meet at H hour only to find that at H+15' half the people are not on the call. It also impacts the way people consider deadlines. Better delivered on time or better late but better?  You should agree these rules at the start.

COMMUNICATIONS PRACTICE. Many people copy bosses in all their emails, others don't. Some people send a quick preliminary reply; others say nothing until they have all the answers.  Some send thank you notes while others consider them a waste of time. Some people like personal phone calls; some prefer impersonal messages. To avoid unnecessary conflicts it is safer to agree what will be the team norms.

ROLE OF MEETINGS. Perhaps most surprisingly, teams can generate conflicts simply because they have not understood that different cultures have different ideas about the function of a meeting. To some it is the place to air new ideas, brainstorm, critique mistakes and so on. In others it is just a place to make formal presentations of points already agreed by consensus. To some it might also have the power to decide while to others the conclusions are merely recommendations and the decision is taken elsewhere.

Most teams usually do end up creating some sort of new culture simply because this is the way humans deal with this kind of problem automatically, but by applying some intercultural knowhow you can make this process much faster and much less painful. Some organizations even deliberately set out to build a team spirit, often through shared training and experiences -- a corporate version of the military bootcamp -- but even if your organization is not managing this process you can easily make it happen yourself. Among the many skills needed to lead project teams effectively this is perhaps one of the most underutilized and a great opportunity for people to bring a visible improvement in performance with a minimal investment in time and effort.

More about networking.

There's more about networking in my book Payforward Networking. The Kindle edition is already available from Amazon and a paperback version is coming soon.

Related posts about intercultural issues:

Culture and Technology. How Cultural Factors Impact Engineering Decisions
Why the Office Weasel Can Play a Useful Role in Hierarchical Organizations
Managing Across Cultures Three Non-obvious Issues to Watch For
Three Non-Obvious Ways Culture Affects Email 
Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings  
Culture, Innovation and the Curious Case of Pandora Radio.  

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing
For lectures, workshops, personal coaching and writing on this topic visit, email or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Look Better in Video: Eight Easy Tips

Whatever you do these days there is a good chance that one day you are going to appear in video, either at a live streamed event or in a recorded interview. Even if you are usually behind the camera it's useful to know how to explain to someone how they can look better when they are facing a camera.

Like in everything else, practice makes you better, but you can save time by using these tested techniques.

CHECK CLOTHES, HAIR BEFORE START. Use a mirror or anything that reflects to make sure your hair is not sticking out, your collar is not out and so on.

MAINTAIN A SLIGHT SMILE so that you have a neutral expression on screen. TV makes a neutral expression look like a frown.

MOVE YOUR HEAD NOT EYES to change the direction of sight. Moving just your eyes to one side makes you look dishonest.

LEAN FORWARD SLIGHTLY in your seat because it looks much better than leaning back or sitting upright.

USE HAND GESTURES but limit the space you move them in to keep them in the frame.

KEEP YOUR TONGUE IN YOUR MOUTH because it does not look good if you lick your lips.

NEVER SCRATCH, FIDGET OR LOOK BORED when you are not talking. You might still be in the frame even if someone else is talking.

AT END WAIT BEFORE MOVING. It's looks bad if you just jump up and walk away as soon as your host says thank you. Sit where you are with your "face" on and wait ten seconds.

Specifically for interviews, it's also a good idea to answer questions so that the answer is not needed. This is very convenient when you need just a short clip and a standalone answer is much better than a question and response. It will also make editing much easier if you are careful to leave a pause between the question and the answer. When interviewer and interviewee overlap editing becomes much more difficult and your answer might not be used in the final edit just for that reason. That also explains why interviewers nod rather than saying "yes".

Related Posts on Video, Audio, Photos
Three Simple Ways to Make Video Event Streaming More Effective
You Don't Like the Way You Look in Photos? Here Are Five Things to Try
I Hate the Way I Sound on Radio Practical Tips for Politicians, Entrepeneurs
Recording Audio Podcasts: Five Best Practices for Fast, Professional Results
So You Hate the Way You Look Sound in Video? Here's What You Can Do About it
Recording Video Interviews Three Non Obvious Practical Tips

Coaching, Lectures, Workshops
For personal coaching in speaking to a live audience or a camera and related lectures/workshops visit or email or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81

Monday, February 20, 2012

Influencing: Three Reasons Why You Should be Talking with Adversaries

One of the most underused and underrated influencing techniques is to maintain a dialog with your "adversaries" -- the people that you believe are your enemies or opponents or in some way on the "other" side. Yet able politicians, business leaders and other strategic thinkers have shown over the years that this is often the best way to achieve results. You will never succeed in achieving your goals without the support of other people, or at least their non-opposition, and most organizations are not democracies, so even if the majority of people like your idea it takes just one determined opponent to derail your plan. That's why it is often the opponents who decide if you are influential or not, so to maintain a conversation with them is critical to your success.

There are many ways in which the conversation with adversaries can help you, but there are probably three that are deal makers:

YOU LEARN MORE ABOUT THEIR VIEWS. It's easy to avoid people who appear to have goals different from your own and to avoid listening to their messages, but this hurts you more than it hurts them. By communicating with them -- or at least listening to them -- you will learn much more about their ideas, what they object to, the arguments they plan to use and so on. By knowing what kind of arguments they are going to use you can prepare a response that addresses their concerns or presents your ideas from a new perspective that they find acceptable or at least blunts their arguments.

YOU CAN FIND AREAS OF AGREEMENT. Very often your opponent really only has a problem with one part of your proposal, or maybe even just the way it is presented. Through conversation you can often learn what exactly is the problem and then adapt your proposal so that you at least neutralize their opposition or even get their support. Getting this buy in is critically important even if you have some way to impose your ideas because opponents can still sabotage the implementation later, or kill it with indifference.

YOU CAN CREATE "BIGGER PIE" SOLUTIONS: Sometimes by working with people who are apparently adversaries you can create solutions that are actually better for everybody. For example, airlines and high-speed rail operators often compete against each other, but by working together to build combined terminals they can provide a service that benefits both by allowing travelers to get quickly from a train to a plane. In this way your opponents can actually become valued partners.

An effective influencing campaign begins not with the writing of a speech, or even with the definition of the messages; it usually begins with the identification of all the players in the landscape, both friend and foe. Once you have identified all the players you can decide the appropriate communication for each, but taking great care that you have not missed anyone who could come back later to obstruct you. You will never win over people using just logic and technical superiority; the most successful people are always able to exploit their understanding of human nature and effectively manage its impact on your influencing tactics.

Related Posts on Speaking and Influencing
Selling Your Ideas Influencing Your Way To Success
Three Simple Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Speaking 
Writing and Speaking Lessons from a Primatologist 
Nine and a Half Tips for Presenting to C.Suite Executives 
Seven and a Half Things to do When Someone Asks You to Present Their Slides 

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing
For lectures, workshops and personal coaching in speaking and influencing techniques visit, email me at or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Recruiters Not Only Check Social Media, They Use Them to Identify People

In the workshops I teach about social media and networking in universities I always stress that people need to take care of their online reputation because companies can and do google candidates to see what comes up. Many times I have been asked if they really do that. Well, yes they do. In fact they do more than that because some recruiters actively search social media to identify suitable candidates for positions.

I am reminded of this by a new job ad posted by Bombardier Transportation in Sweden, where they are looking for someone who will both search their existing candidate database and also mine social media looking for people who are a good fit for open positions.  Bombardier is certainly not the only company to think of this and mining social networking sites looking for candidates is normal practice for recruiters. They do not limit themselves to the people who apply for jobs but look for good matches even among people who have not applied and even some who are not looking for a job right now.

What you should be learning from this is that it is even more important today to manage your inbound marketing -- the way that you are visible in social networking sites -- whether or not you are actively seeking a job.  It is important to be there, it is important to highlight your positive qualities and it is important to hide or remove anything that might scare a potential employer. You should still be doing this even if you are not yourself an active social media user. Even if you never plan to participate in group discussion in Linkedin, chat with friends on Facebook, or organize hangouts in Google+ you should still have a profile there so that you will be found. You can still find jobs and be found without doing this, but it is much more difficult.

I have already written several how-to notes about online reputation. A good place to start would be Five Simple Steps to Manage Your Online Reputation.  After that you should try also Five Networking Sites You Should be Using.  These posts describe the basics, but there are also many other sites that might be appropriate depending on the kind of work you do. Coders, for example,.are usually found on sites Github and Geeklist. The best way to identify sites that work in your field is to ask other people who ae successful in that area of to try googling them. You will see most of the sites they are using just by looking at the search results.

Once you have a strong basic presence on the key social sites you will also need to watch for new developments that might be important. Once Myspace was the place to be until it was ousted by Facebook. Perhaps there is also a LinkedIn killer just around the corner. There are more than 500 social networking sites so it would take too much of your time to check them all, but if you watch this space I will post details of important new sites, methods and practices as I discover them.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing
For lectures, workshops, coaching and writing about this topic visit, email me at or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Related Posts on Reputation Management
Five Simple Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation
Why Having Accounts on Photo Sharing Sites Is Good for Your Image
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Brand, Reputation

Why Googling Baby Names May Be a Waste of Time
How to Separate Work and Private Networking
Professional Networking Five Network Sites You Should be Using

Friday, February 10, 2012

Three Reasons Why Allowing Employees Access to Social Media Benefits an Organization

Most of the articles I read about employee use of social media focus on the downside risks -- security threats, loss of productivity, leaks of confidential information. If that were the only side to the story the decision would be simple. But it isn't. There are several compelling reasons why allowing your employees to access social media in the workplace is actually beneficial to the organization. In most cases these benefits largely outweigh the risks, which could be mitigated by effective training and communication.

1. CONNECTED EMPLOYEES ARE MORE EFFECTIVE. Nobody can work in complete isolation, whatever they may think. To be effective and productive you rely on help from other people and the best way to be sure of getting that help is to have a strong network of people who can answer your questions or proactively share with you a useful new method, tool or idea. This is maybe intuitive but if your intuition doesn't get it then I recommend you read How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers, the Harvard Business Review article about Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan's 1993 study at Bell Labs that demonstrated this point.  Connecting for performance works best with knowledge workers, but everyone else benefits, too.

2. CONNECTED EMPLOYEES BOOST YOUR REPUTATION. People who are connected and use social media can boost the viability and reputation in many different ways, and much more cheaply than paid community managers. Very often they amplify your organizations's messages, sharing your posts, tweets and updates with their friends. Just by being active they also send a clear message to the community that you are a good employer and they can bring visibility to new audiences you perhaps don't target or don't know how to target. Even if an employee does not comment on your business most likely they have written "Works at ..." on their profiles, which can be seen by people looking for a good place to work or interested in your products.

3. CONNECTED EMPLOYEES ARE MORE MOTIVATED. In theory you could get the maximum possible productivity out of people by banning any kind of break or recreation, but in reality this just makes people stay at their desks. Experience has shown that people actually work more when they get breaks to recharge their batteries, talk to colleagues, get away from the work for a moment. That's why even the most repressive organizations allow their employees coffee breaks, once seen a waste of time but now pretty much universally accepted.  When employees can take little breaks to keep up to date with their world they return to their work with new energy. There will always be a small minority who abuse this opportunity, just like there have always been people who tool too many coffee breaks, make too many personal photocopies, talk too much with colleagues and so on.

Clearly there are also some downside risks, though these can mostly be avoided by effective training and communication. Simply banning access could eliminate some risks but it also costs you the benefits. In any case you still have to do the training and communication to make sure employees know how to use social media safely because they can always use smartphones in the workplace or use the social media at home.

Related Posts on Social Media Restrictions

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For lectures, workshops, coaching and writing on this and other communication topics visit or email or call me on 0033 6 79 61 42 81.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Googling Baby Names May Be a Waste of Time

Having an unusual name has always made it easier for people to remember you, but in this Age of Search Engines having a name that is rare or even unique makes you much easier to find. People with common names can be practically ungoogleable, which is fine if you want to maintain a low profile, but not so good otherwise.

Techcrunch's Alexia Tsotsis wrote recently in But What If You're Un-Googleable "In third grade being the unique and uncommon 'Alexia Tsotsis' sucked, but, in adult life I’m all like,”Hell yeah, I’ve got the first slot for my name in Google!” As the only Alexia Tsotsis in the world right now I feel pretty damn good "  With very much the same idea in mind many parents now google potential baby names, screening both for  names with unpleasant connections and anything that is too common. This was even reported in the NY Times recently in What's In a Name? Ask Google.

I would agree that it seems a sensible precaution to make sure that the name you have chosen isn't extremely common -- though in some countries this is harder than others -- and also to avoid any unfortunate clashes with notorious people, products or brands. But while this check probably makes the parents feel better it is not likely to do much good for the child.

Assuming that your child is born this year you probably don't want people googling them much while they are still very small. Most likely the whole issue of googleability will not really become important until they start looking for work or trying to get into a top school. This means that they will not be using their hopefully unique, clash-free name until about 2030.  Meantime many other children have been born and named, possibly with the same name, and some adult with the same name might have earned their place in criminal history. Perhaps also someone has launched a new brand of toilet cleaner with exactly the same name.

What could also happen is that the name you rejected because of some conflict issue actually turns out to have been perfectly usable. Someone once told me her mother had rejected the name "Caroline" fearing that it would always remind people of Caroline the Cow. Yes, that Caroline the Cow that appeared in three early black and white Disney cartoons. Not many people are talking about her now.

Even more likely is that by 2030 Googling could be completely irrelevant. Today we rely almost entirely on crude search technologies that simply match alphabetic strings. Two decades into the future this might seem as quaint as looking for people in the phone book. What is going to happen between then and now is hard to predict, but what we do know is what we have today -- both technology and laws.

In 2030 our children are unlikely to be typing words into a search engine unless they work in a museum. Looking at where Siri is today it seems more likely that we will be asking a natural language digital assistant for help, and in this case other factors will come into play. There are also some alternative scenarios based on a change in the way we identify people.  Today most people have a first name and a last name, but this is a fairly recent innovation. Just a few generations back most people were named after their fathers, so that James son of John would be James Johnson, and his son Alan would be Alan Jameson.

So go ahead and screen all your candidate baby names on Google if you want. This could potentially avoid your child some embarrassment thirty years from now, but this might just be a waste of time. Checking for conflicts with other languages might be a much better use of your time, but that's an issue we'll discuss another day.


Related posts on Branding and Reputation Management:
Choosing Pronounceable Brand Names: Lessons from the Cuil Saga
Five Simple Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation
Branding in the Age of Search Engines
Why Having Accounts on Photo Sharing Sites Is Good for Your Image
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Brand, Reputation

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For one-to-one coaching, lectures and workshops on this topic see or contact me at or by phone on 0033 6 79 61 42 81.  

If you have any problems fixing your search results or you are just too busy to do it yourself then contact me to ask about fast, inexpensive remote coaching options. I can provide personal advice by mail, chat, phone, videoconference in small manageable blocks of time. See for more details.