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Influence is not celebrity (although celebrities can be influential).
As we’ve seen throughout this long running series, influence is not a Klout score, a stock value on EmpireAvenue or even (gasp) a Traackr score (like we currently use in our automated rankings). Each of these is a useful way to learn about people and their impact.
The rise of social media thrust a bunch of people into the limelight before they had a chance to really develop competency in their professions. They’ve become interestingly influential celebrities in our niche; long on style, short on substance. That’s not all that unusual. It just used to be reserved for popular culture (where style always trumps substance). The early 2000s will be remembered as a time when celebrity was democratized and became a neighborhood phenomenon.
Still, the puzzle of influence remains worth studying. As a tool, no HR professional can get their work done without knowing how to utilize influence. That’s what people in staff positions do. Folks with line responsibilities have power and authority. People on staff have responsibility and influence. (This, more than anything, is at the root of HR’s status in most organizations.)
I took a 90 day break in the flow of people to the Top 100 list. After 18 months of relentless study of the topic (in this project and the related niche algorithms), it was time to absorb some new perspective. Josh LeTourneau has been kind enough to repeatedly insist that I was missing something by not considering Social Network Analysis. He demonstrates one kind of influence that’s hard to measure: annoying persistence rooted in being right. (Don’t you just hate that?)
At any rate, the underlying message in social network analysis is that some people are at the hub of things actually getting done. The key to practical influence (which is the ability to get things done without authority or resources) is to occupy a position in the network that gets the most done with the least effort. Generally, this looks like a small close inner circle composed of people who have broad reach.
It’s no accident that Trisha McFarlane‘s roots are in doing HR in a Public Relations firm. She is the next person on the list (number 77) because she demonstrates an astonishing combination of online networking, good grass roots organizational development, network finesse and working excellence in the profession. Anyone who happens by Trisha is inevitably pulled into her various plans and schemes for world domination.
When you look at her online artifacts (Blog, Twitter, Another Blog, Linkedin), you discover a relentless commitment to doing the actual work. In an era where influence is reserved for those who can afford it (and have the marketing budget to back it up), Trisha solves the resource problem another way.
“Trisha views her role of a HR professional as more than just trying to have a seat at the table. It is her attempt to guide employees through the work experience. She wants to become an integral part of their performance and sometimes, wants to be able to sing and dance right along with them. Trisha also does what she can to make the HR experience a smooth one for leaders and employees.”
After putting the kids to bed at night (she has an amazing set of seven year old twins), she gets some sleep. Then, she gets up at 4:00am to do her non-work network development.
4:00am. And her husband swears it’s every morning! 4:00AM.
So, what has she accomplished with no resources and no authority?
Trisha is the heart and soul of HRevolution, the network of HR professionals who have a social media edge and rely on each other for professional support. This is the ultimate social media driven grassroots organization. Charging a pittance for participation, HRevolution routinely hosts the next generation of HR Leadership in contexts in which they can get to know each other better. Unlike most conferences and conventions, the people who attend HRevolution look forward to being with each other and are happy to give up weekend time (and often their own resources) to be there.
There is nothing like it anywhere else in the industry.
Bill Kutik, the HR industry’s center, figured out what Trisha was doing when he visited HREvolution last year. This year, HRevolution is the opening event in bill’s HRTech week.
Trisha is particularly modest about her accomplishments (though you can see the PR training at the edges). She firmly believes that building a network of collaborators is the way one ‘evolves’ HR. She’s making it stick.
In my other role, as the Principal Analyst at HRxAnalysts, I am in the middle of the development of an analysis of social media in the HR and Recruiting functions. We’re interviewing vendors and key players in the space to try to understand who’s doing what to whom.
Bill Kutik, the mother of all HR Technology, says that innovation reaches HR first through Recruiting. It makes sense. Recruiting is a competitive outwrd facing function that depends on maintaining a competitive advantage. So, there’s a lot of work being done in the recruiting sphere.
But, a picture of HR that begins and ends with recruiting is as useful as one that begins and ends with the Training Department (Learning and Development). We’re digging hard to discover new solutions in the rest of the Department.
To celebrate, I’m going back to school.
For starters, I’ve joined an amazing group of learning professionals in a short and intense class led by Howard Rheingold, one of the leading voices in virtual community, digital literacy and online learning. Called Mind Amplifiers, the course takes place in a virtual classroom with multimedia, blogging, forums, collaborative mind-mapping, group video conferencing and shared whiteboarding. The class itself is an education in collaborative learning.
The subject matter involves designing systems, tools and techniques to manage the onslaught of information. In the first class, I was surprised to get an object lesson in how useful collaboration can be as an information management tool. The class concluded with a group mindmapping exercise that seemed like magic. The mindmap took shape seemingly all on its own.
Many of these same tools are used by great sourcers to discover candidates; but that specific technique obscures their value as information consumption and dissemination devices. The class is amazing. It’s giving me exactly the perspective I need to see beyond my biases.
My classmates are 30 researchers and product developers in various aspects of the learning universe. 10% of the class is European and another 10% work for Microsoft. These are seasoned folks who have had lots of experience in futurism, design and online community.
I’ll keep you posted on my learnings. It’s a pretty amazing thing.
Next stop is a series of Statistics courses. I can hardly wait for that.
Heather Bussing is an attorney who writes a lot, teaches advanced legal writing to law students and is the Editorial Advisory Board editor at HR Examiner. She has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor law including contract negotiations, discrimination and wage hour issues. While the courtroom is a place she’s very familiar with, her preferred approach to employment law is to prevent problems through early intervention and good policies and agreements. Full bio…
Writing Online (and other places)
by Heather Bussing
Here are my suggestions for writing clearly. Writing clearly increases your chance of being understood. Being understood is a very fine thing, and the point of writing in the first place.
1. Have something to say. If you just want attention, but don’t have something to say, go play with your dog.
2. Make it Short. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. And lots of space between them. It’s easier to read and easier to look at. Fragments are okay, as long as the thought is clear.
3. Short is Harder. Being concise takes thought. It requires you to actually understand what you are writing about. Mark Twain once noticed “It would have been shorter if I’d had more time.”
4. Edit. Short also requires editing. Twitter has been a great tool for teaching people to write concisely. But, omit words, not letters.
5. Spell check. On your google toolbar, there is a spell check application that will spell check anything before you post it. Download it now and use it.
6. Organize. If you are writing something longer, break it into manageable bite-sized pieces by using headings or a numbered list.
7. Stay Cool. Do not post anything after 10 pm or after you’ve had more than one drink, whichever comes first. Give yourself at least a day before you post anything you wrote while scared or angry. Scared or angry always shows because it will be long and ramble. See 1-3 above.
8. Attribution. If you refer to another post or article, link to it and say who wrote it. This is required by copyright law and promotes traffic and exposure for both of you.
9. Context. Your tone and style should match the audience and the site where you are writing. If you are starting a discussion, it makes sense to ask provocative questions. If you are giving information, be straight forward and clear. If you are giving opinions, explain them. Briefly.
10. Avoid Jargon. Res ipsa loquitur.
11. Understand the Rules. The secret to great writing is just two words: Not Always So.
Heather Bussing is an attorney who writes a lot, teaches advanced legal writing to law students and is the Editorial Advisory Board editor at HR Examiner.
Steve leads content development, thought leadership and public relations activities as a partner at Starr Tincup. Steve received his B.A. in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2001, Steve has specialized exclusively in human resources and human capital-focused communications consulting after nearly a decade as a newspaper journalist. He has earned numerous awards for his business writing and his blogging and believes that most of life is just showing up and not being a jerk. Full Bio…
You want to be Zappos? Here’s Why You Can’t.
By Steven Wade Smith
Creating a great company culture seems to be the buzz these days. The reason for this surge of cultural awareness is mainly fear. Lots of companies really sucked to work for back in 2008 and 2009. Now businesses fear rampant turnover as the job market improves, so they bring in a ping-pong table and Casual Fridays and hope memories of benefit cuts and layoffs won’t linger.
Of course, other companies are more aspirational. These businesses want to create a great company culture because they perceive that it will create a competitive advantage. “We want to be just like Zappos,” they say.
And of course, they can’t be. Sure, they may give it a go, like the guy in this Businessweek article who, after attending a Zappos seminar, fired 12 employees who were “just not being nice.” But most companies fail at being like Zappos for three reasons:
Failure Point No. 1: Culture Starts at the Top
Zappos is a great company. I love the way they do business, and they do a lot of things right. Their CEO, Tony Hsieh, seems like a smart guy who is sincerely, legitimately nice. And that is why I don’t think the Zappos cultural model is ultimately scalable. It depends on the “nice” factor.
I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’ve met a lot of CEOs. A lot of them are nice. However – although Bob Sutton is doing his part – there is a higher percentage of assholes in the CEO ranks than in the general workforce, probably because guys who attend Zappos seminars fire most of the rank-and-file variety. I contend that you cannot build a great company culture if your CEO is an asshole. To prove this point, I invoke Zappos Core Value No. 10: Be Humble. (Check out Zappos’ Core Values here).
If you are an asshole, you are not humble. And if you are not humble, the whole model falls apart.
• A rebuttal: But I’m not an asshole, I’m just passionate and determined. See Zappos Core Value No. 9.
• A corollary: You can be passionate and determined in a way that leaves your employees ready to run through walls for you. If that’s not how you leave your people feeling, you are probably just an asshole.
Failure Point No. 2: Your Culture Is What Your Culture Is
Before there was Zappos, there was Southwest Airlines. Look at Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher, who was Tony Hsieh before Tony Hsieh was. And Zappos took a lot out of their playbook. Southwest was (and is) a service-oriented company with a fun, wacky side. Both companies are team oriented and strive to create a family atmosphere.
Does this sound like your company? If not, you’ve got a long way to go and the odds are against you. Most likely, you are in for a death march of forced “fun.” Like that time SpongeBob SquarePants threw a party.
Culture happens organically. You can’t be something you are not. Wackiness is strictly optional. If you think your company culture sucks, figure it out first. It might be more than Hawaiian shirts can fix.
Failure Point No. 3: Not Everyone Is a Genius
Remember back to freshman lit . You probably read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. You might even remember it. Basically, Ben tells you how he came from nothing to be an entrepreneur, inventor and Founding Father. Hey, I can do it, and you can, too!
Except you can’t. The problem is that not everyone can discover electricity like Ben Franklin and create a billion-dollar company like Tony Hsieh. Not everyone is a genius. And if your model depends on genius alone, that’s not exactly scalable. An inspiration, yes. But your mileage may vary.
So What’s the Point?
You can learn a lot from Zappos. But if you think you are going to pay people to quit and let your employees dress like Elvis or wear bunny ears and completely revolutionize your culture, that’s just not going to happen.
Does that mean you shouldn’t try? No. Zappos does a lot of things right, and there are a lot things to emulate. However, I think if ABC Widget Company tries to be Zappos 2.0, that’s not a winning formula. There are lots of great companies out there that aren’t Zappos, and most of them have their own model for success. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for another.
The best approach: Just be yourself and he honest about what your company can and can’t do. Try to improve the culture you already have by caring about your people and caring about your work. That’s the only true scalable model for success.
I was talking with a colleague about the buzzword problem in HR Technology. Most of HR is discussed in a jargon that has been slowly evolving since the first personnel departments emerged during the depression. The language of job descriptions, merit increases, conflict management, skills and personality assessment all require some level of stability in the language.
As technology began to penetrate the HR Marketplace, buzzwords became a feature of product marketing. As a result, the language is getting sketchier and meaning changes too fast for anyone to be able to agree on anything. New ideas rapidly devolve to the least common denominator.
This is the way that great ideas like “talent pool,” “talent community” and “talent pipeline” have become shorthand for the more apt “email list”. It’s how “intimate and authentic communication” evolves to “modified and personalized direct mail.”
Software companies, particularly the giants, resist new features. They are uncomfortable with innovation. They hate risk. They are really good at stability. This is what their customers want, from a budgetary and cost standpoint. Predictability is the enemy of the new.
New ideas enter the market faster than enterprise providers are able to react. Pretty soon, all of the users are asking for the new feature. (In large software accounts, the users are rarely the customers and the customers are rarely the users.) There are very few tools that are useful for managing the problem. Caught between users and buyers, the enterprise vendors use marketing to solve the problem.
Here’s how it works:
- Great new idea emerges (let’s call it Using Social Media for Recruiting)
- Recruiters hop on board. Recruiters are always the first to use new technologies.
- New companies emerge to utilize the new services, many are variants on older ways of doing things.
- The professional tadalafil industry is awash in quiet rumblings about the lack of useful data. New technologies don’t have an ROI
- The buzz builds, conferences launch, support groups are formed.
- Bigger companies start to get threatened by the early traction smaller more agile companies find.
- Big companies start renaming existing functions after the new ideas. Mailing list management is a good one. It’s been called “talent management” and CRM
- All companies in the market can check off the fact that they have the new capability.
- The cynics survive and get promoted.
- Great new ideas emerge….