This is the second blog in our Social Leaders series exploring how real life leaders are using social media to connect with their customers, employees and stakeholders and seeking their advice for aspiring social leaders.
Today we have Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. As HR professionals, he’s kind of our boss, so we were chuffed that he was happy to talk to us about how he sees the role of social media in leadership.
Peter is recognised as a leading consultant, speaker and writer in the field of human capital and organisation, having worked with many organisations, practitioners and thought leaders in this field. He was voted as the UKs most influential thinker in HR for 2013 by HR Magazine. He is also a Non-Executive Director at BPP University and sits on the Advisory Board of the Open University Business School. Prior to joining the CIPD, Peter was Global Managing Director of Accenture’s Talent and Organisation Performance consulting practice.
We say he is also a great example of social leadership. He uses Twitter to engage with the people that work with him and who are members of the organisation he leads. He shares content not only from the CIPD but other relevant sources (one of our key recommendations on being social!) and isn’t afraid to engage in a bit of social recognition. You can find Peter on Twitter as @Cheese_Peter.
Tim had a Skype with Peter to put our questions to him about all things social leadership. You can watch the video here:
Or just check out the transcript below……
What are your social media platforms of choice and why?
My social media platforms of choice, which are really the ones I engage with the most, are Twitter and Linkedin primarily. I am also on Facebook but rather less active on that and I do from time to time in a more social context (and I do think it is interesting to think about it in my business context, professional context and social context) engage a bit with Snapchat and Instagram.
As a business the CIPD is across pretty much all of those channels. Like any business we have a large constituency we are trying to communicate with and we are really working across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and trying to make use of all of the channels.
But personally, I most engage with Linkedin and Twitter.
How do you believe that your use of social media has benefited you in your leadership role?
I think the use of social media for leaders is really interesting. We have talked for a long time about authenticity and leaders, and being able to hear them as real individuals. These channels do provide that opportunity, they provide the opportunity for us to speak. I recognise that not all leaders who are speaking on these channels are speaking for themselves and are getting others to do it for them – but it is my voice coming through these channels. I think that is very powerful and first and foremost it allows people to see me in a more holistic way, to see me in a perhaps a slightly different or informal context and hear the kinds of things I am thinking about and what is on my mind. It has benefited me through that kind of outreach and that connectivity. It is very interesting to see how people react to that and how they react to what I push into these channels.
The second point to recognise is that they are fantastic learning channels for me personally. I am always saying to people through these sorts of social media outlets that they are wonderful learning opportunities. I do follow a lot of different people – it is quite extraordinary to think before we had Twitter how we did all of these this. It is the other really, really important part of social media – it creates an incredible learning platform and opportunity to stay connected to what is happening and as a leader in the modern world I think that is more important than it has ever been.
How engaged do you find the rest of your organisation with social media?
We have created a Yammer-like internal social media platform at the CIPD and we are trying to use that across the organisation. We have offices internationally as well and we are trying that same technique across our organisation – we are trying to help people connect – that to me is what social media is all about.
We are promoting that but as with so many of these things, you have to create that movement of change. Some of it is a bit viral and some of it is what you can direct from the top. I personally, of course, need to be visible on these platforms. So that is one aspect – how we are using it within our own organisation.
Then, more broadly, it is about how are we seeing our own employees out on social media platforms themselves. Are they on Twitter or LinkedIn? I continually try to encourage people back to the points I made earlier: this is not just using social media to express your innermost thoughts or what you had for breakfast, it is a fantastic vehicle for learning and keeping in touch so I am always encouraging them that way. I say the same things when I speak to HR professionals – you should be on Twitter as a good example because it is such a great learning platform.
What, if any, downsides do you see to being a leader on social media – and what do you do to avoid them?
I have, like many of us, lots of conversations with business leaders about things like this. You can divide it into various camps. There are some leaders who feel quite exposed – they feel that if they are on social media platforms they always need to be commenting or always writing stuff. “I may not say the right thing”: there is a real fear of saying something inappropriate or inadvertent.
There are also concerns, and it was part of my concern when I got onto things like Twitter for example, of your sheer attention span. We are already overwhelmed with emails and texts and other forms of communication. Some people say ‘oh my goodness you now expect me to on Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn and blogging and I don’t have the capacity to keep up with it all!’. That is a genuine issue. How do we make sure that we managing these different channels but not overwhelming ourselves and finding that they become a huge distraction? I don’t know that I have entirely cracked it myself – but the great thing about social media is that you can access it any time, any place, anywhere. I tend to do things like Twitter when I am on a train journey or in a taxi. You can do it very quickly. That is the trick to this – not to think that you have to carve out an hour a day to do social media. You just interject it into those blank moments or whatever because it is so accessible.
Those are the two primary barriers that I hear: one is the time and attention and the other is what am I supposed to be saying – “if I’m a leader in a public enterprise, I’d better have my PR team telling me what to say”, that sort of thing. Those concerns have to be taken seriously and we do have to coach leaders in how to use social media platforms in ways that won’t get them into any “trouble”, if you will.
How have you used social media to connect with customers/service users/key stakeholders?
As a business, I often describe the CIPD as an “ecosystem”. We have 300 plus employees, a thousand plus volunteers – from people who run branches through to examiners and assessors and we also have a lot of consultants. It is a big ecosystem and therefore the value of social media to connect that ecosystem is very powerful.
It has got to work two ways – you have got to have the people in the ecosystem themselves on social media and linked to us so we monitor that very closely. We have people who monitor all the stats about how many people are following us on LinkedIn and all these other channels. What are the subjects that get most interest – what gets the attention? We are always learning how best to communicate through these channels. Those are fundamental points – understanding, as with any communication, that if you want to use social media to communicate out, it is a two-way street – you have to know that people are listening in, and then use it not just for outbound communication but as an opportunity to hear from the wider ecosystem, the members and all the other stakeholders.
That is very important as well. We are, for sure, experimenting with Twitter chats and other things like online hacks through social media to ask questions of the community, get them to comment and bring ideas together.
Or, of course – and this is another wonderful thing about social media – people can be in some ways more challenging through social media. They haven’t got to write a long email to me as Chief Exec – they can just challenge. We also know that there are some downsides to that – people do it, they think, anonymously and you get “trolling”, but in a professional business context I don’t see very much of that. The reality is that It is a great channel for us to hear honest feedback, contribution to ideas and thinking. I am very excited about the opportunities for us to continue to grow, though social media, that ability to connect and recognise that, as I said, it is a two-way connection as well as a peer-to-peer connection which is so powerful.
What advice would you give to other leaders who want to use social media?
The advice that I would give to other leaders thinking about social media is to do it consciously. You do need to understand what it is you are seeking to get from it, how to approach it. Having said that, you can also do it in real baby steps. Twitter is such a good example, you can just get on and start to follow people, you don’t even necessarily need to say anything yourself at all. You can just begin to get the tone of communication, look at others, follow other people, find things that are interesting and then evolve towards it. Those would be two obvious points of guidance: don’t do it lightly and understand what you are trying to get from it.
I have described a lot about how I see social media as such an important vehicle for us to communicate and connect but that is not the only reason, there can be others as well. Think about it consciously and you can go into it with relatively baby steps.
To come back to my platforms of choice, Twitter is very easy, the easiest of all in my experience to get onto and engage with. Linkedin is a bit more sophisticated and people are using it for a whole variety of reasons – I think that for the most part in the modern business world, most people are on LinkedIn in some shape or form. But this is a channel that is evolving, going from “telling everyone who I am” to one that you can also write and blog and communicate through. That is another step that people can think about around LinkedIn.
Some of these others – it is personal preference and choice, and where perhaps in different sectors or industries or communities, different social media platforms have a greater resonance, but that is why I tend stick mostly to Twitter and Linkedin, as they seem to be the ones that have the greatest connection to our communities.
I am not particularly interested in using Facebook, if I am honest, in a business context but that is also evolving and Facebook for business is evolving as a channel. That perhaps is the third thought – keep an eye on what channels are evolving and how the communities that you are working with are using them and if you are seeing a movement towards another channel then probably you need to get onto it.
A huge thank you from us to Peter for sharing his thoughts on all things social.
Next time on the #SocialLeaders series we hand over to Rebecca Jeffery of Apprentice fame, who shares all about how she has built her business through using social media.