Brutal Friendship

This month I had an opportunity to speak to 80 or so business people at the Chamber of Commerce Breakfast in the Blackstone Valley area of Massachusetts. (Thank you to the Chamber and to the audience for a very pleasant morning!) My talk was on “The Business of Social Media” and we covered why a business person might want to use social media as part of their marketing mix and, if one was so inclined, how they might go about getting started.

I like to start that talk by asking where people are at in terms of their comfort with and interest in using social media and it’s typical to find that there are a few avid users, a majority of “dabblers” and a few who think Alexander Graham Bell was a fine fine man and we should have left well enough alone with the telephone.

No matter where one is on the continuum, though, it’s important for each of us to ask ourselves “Why?”. Why are we there? Why are we not there? What is it getting us as a business? Is it helping us to reach our organizational goals?

Business-focus is the hallmark of my work mostly because it so quickly helps things to fall into place. When I’m working with a team, I am the objective third-party who can often see more clearly whether organizational activity is aligned with (stated) organizational goals. Like an acupuncturist can sense unbalanced “chi”, I can sense organizational misalignment. Like a mechanic can sense an incorrect gear ratio, I can identify a communication breakdown. Like the mighty hunter who can…. Okay, you get the picture.

Interestingly, this doesn’t translate as well when I’m dealing with my own “stuff”. Staying focused on goals and choosing the activities that will MOST EFFECTIVELY help me reach my goals is HARD. There are things I know I SHOULD do and there are things I know I WANT to do and there are things I know that OTHER PEOPLE want me to do. So what to do?

I’ve found it immeasurably invaluable to have a few object third parties around that I like to refer to as “friends”. Now these particular “friends” have a very special job. Their job is not necessarily to be nice to me and it’s definitely not to tell me what I want to hear. In fact their job – if they do it right – is to make me question myself, to debunk my theories, to hold me accountable to my own goals. They don’t care about what I WANT to do. They care about what I SAID I was going to do and what I’m doing to GET THERE. Sometimes this can be a pain in the neck. Sometimes I don’t like what they have to say. Sometimes I swear at them. (most times they’ll swear back so it’s even but even so, I still apologize).

Organizations could use more friends like this. Don’t you think?

Yours in brutal friendship,

PS: Here’s a heart-pounding, eye-opening (short) video on Social Media. I’d recommend you take a peek.

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