Sunday, May 17, 2009

Modeling The Way For Client Service

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner identify five principles of leadership in their book, The Leadership Challenge. The first is to "model the way" or as we also say "lead by example."

In a recent BusinessWeek piece titled: CEOs Who Use Twitter, the writers note that in August of 2008 they reported 18 CEOs using Twitter. Less than a year later, they're featuring 50 CEOs who are tweeting to their personal and professional delight. The trend is worthy of discussion for a number of reasons.

First, it speaks to a CEO willing to explore new ways to communicate with stakeholders. You set an example by showing your people that you're a curious person rather than a fundamentalist as defined by Seth Godin. To paraphrase, a fundamentalist considers whether a fact is acceptable to their faith before they explore it. A curious person explores first and then considers whether or not they want to accept the ramifications. Great CEOs challenge their people to be curious.

Second, CEOs who are exploring Twitter's possibilities send a powerful message to customers and other stakeholders alike that they want to engage directly with their audiences. In today's world there are two kinds of companies - the ones that want to promote a dialogue with their clients/customers in an effort to build true relationships, and the ones simply trying to drive transactions. I choose to do business with companies who exemplify the former.

Finally, in the communication business, clients want to believe you understand all the communication tools available to them. For my money, social media can't be taught, it has to be learned. Agency CEOs who aren't participating and leading their own people in this arena will never be able to provide competent counsel to yours.

Achieving an all new level of client service excellence will mean the difference between thriving and surviving in the coming months and years. We'd be wise to pay attention to these CEOs as they model the way.


  1. Leo, This is an insightful post. It seems many struggle with the "why" of social media. The smart use of social media does suggest a leadership team that promotes and values curiosity. This attitude can filter to all levels of the company, and yes, customers also. It's the new ideas that cause people to sit up in their chair and be engaged with their work. Excellent leaders have been practicing this way for years. Social media has just made the delivery a bit easier.

  2. Thanks Terry! I just think the BW article illustrates more about a leaderhip team and the brand than use of the specific medium. The piece is not an endorsement of Twitter so much as a solid example of good leadership.

  3. As you may know, have written about this in the past, and recently participated in article talking to C-level execs who use Twitter. The fundamental reasons CEOs should get on twitter are two-fold. One, get out of the tower and closer to customers. Two, to appear to be more real and human so on the day they need to defend themselves in light of criticism from press and stockholders, they have some added equity with a community of followers.

  4. Edward, thanks for your thoughtful answer. Most people I've come across who use Twitter today considered it ridiculous at first. They thought it was a flat out waste of time. Then lightening struck, and because they engaged with the medium, they began to realize its utility and its power. As Godin would say, "they explored first, and then considered the ramifications." For me, in addition to the great points you make about the reasons to use Twitter, CEOs send a larger message by engaging personally with new tools that they believe have a chance to help them connect with their audiences and underscore their brands. They create the mindset that sets the stage for their employees to explore the next Twitter to come along. In your leadership role at Mullen, your involvement in Twitter, and in social media in general, has far greater implications than the potential of the tools themselves. Nicely done!



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