Social media success: Do you have the right people on the bus?

square peg

Can people be re-trained to adopt a “social business” perspective?  In many cases, I am beginning to doubt it.

I was reminded recently by my friend Debra Andrews of the importance of getting the right people on board with your business in these changing times. We were having a discussion about the book Good to Great, which has stood the test of time as one of the greatest business books ever written. In this book, author Jim Collins goes through extensive research on what makes companies outperform competitors over decades.

One point that he makes is the essential strategy of getting the best people “on the bus” to drive your business. I have worked with dozens of companies over the past few years and, after corporate culture, I think this is the biggest obstacle to social media success.

While many companies are plowing enormous resources into social media efforts, are they the RIGHT resources or are we simply putting square pegs into round holes and checking a box?

Here’s a very real example of what I mean. Over the last few months, I have had a lot of demand for social sales training in an attempt to make their teams more social media savvy.

During the training, everyone seems energized and focused … maybe even inspired. But months later,usually only a small percentage of those who received the training actually adopted any changes.

Of course there could be many factors for this. Maybe this is simply human nature to seek equilibrium and return to old habits. Maybe it is not adequately supported by management. Maybe my training sucked.

But as I observe this pattern over and over across different organizations, I am coming to the conclusion that a root cause is that many entrenched employees will just never “get it.” Maybe it is time to start looking for different people to put on the bus if this is a true priority for an organization.

Certainly re-training could be an option, especially if there is follow-up and active management support which includes changes to performance objectives and the reward system. But if your efforts at change keep hitting a wall even if your management team has diligently pressed for institutional change, maybe it’s time to look at bringing some fresh energy on to the team.

One other perspective I would add here. When I managed a global corporate team, I took a very hands-on approach to hiring new employees because every person can have such a dramatic impact on our success and direction.

I was inspired by the advice of former Steelers football coach Chuck Noll who said that he simply recruited based on the best athletes he could find, instead of merely looking to fill a skill set.

That always worked for me too. When filling a position, I wanted to find people who had the ability to replace me, replace my boss, maybe run the company one day. That is the type of person who can really take a department in exciting new directions, no matter what the day-to-day job requires.

As we enter a new year with fresh goals and objectives maybe it is also time to reflect on the human component and leadership that really makes corporate change happen. What do you think?

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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