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Harnessing Social Media for Leadership Development - Part 2

By Aviel Selkovits

In part 1 of our series, we discussed how social media is currently being used in leadership development and the benefits that social media offers. In part 2, we'll explore barriers to success and how to set our leaders up to succeed.

I Built It, But They Won’t Come

We asked those organizations that are using social media for leadership development if they are having success, and what seemed to be the biggest barriers. Before looking at the data, we hypothesized the biggest reason might be on the technology implementation side. What the survey told us was that the single biggest barrier to implementing social media tools as part of leadership development is that the leaders are not comfortable or familiar with the tools.

What barriers to success have you encountered in implementing social media tools for leadership development?
So we first need to train our leaders on how to use these tools–if they have not been offered any training or best practices on how to post to a discussion board, what kinds of questions are appropriate, or how to respond to (or write an original) blog entry, they will be hesitant to use it. When it comes to social media, there is nothing more daunting than a blank forum or blog. If you simply put these tools out there to be used . . . they won’t be!

This may be why the next most common barrier is the amount of work it takes to implement social media options. It requires the facilitators, trainers, and implementers to be the experts in the best use of these tools. While many of them come with low or no cost, it takes a significant amount of time to become experts and to drive leaders to them in a way that is value-added and meaningful to their ongoing development or application of newly-developed skills.

Any platform and IT support must go hand-in-hand. One of the struggles organizations have is where to drive leaders to use these tools. Should it be on an LMS? Or should they purchase a platform? The answer to this question may be different in every organization depending on internal technology infrastructure and relationship with IT, but it’s an important question to answer before you start adding in these technologies.

How Can We Set Ourselves—and Our Leaders—Up for Success?

There are a number of steps organizations can take to better position themselves. We mentioned earlier that leaders are not as comfortable with how to use these tools, but we also need to assess how comfortable we are, as training & development professionals, with using them. We need to ensure that we have a strong understanding of how to use social media, when the best time to use it is (for example, would a discussion forum work better before formal learning, or after the session?), and then we can help our leaders understand as well.

We asked some questions to get at the heart of some of these processes and found many organizations have not yet put them in place. Start with your strategy. Most organizations now have policies or guidelines in place for how associates can use social media as it pertains to their work, but many organizations have not defined a strategy around social media as it pertains to leadership development (or other HR practices). This is a great place to start because it will help incorporate other best practices, such as understanding whose job it is to hold leaders accountable for using the tools, how you plan to measure the tool’s effectiveness, or what skills the development team needs to have in order to implement and support leaders' use of these tools.

Social media metrics graph
*Rated 1 to 5 on a scale of Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree

Take a look at the items above–how many would you agree with when you think about your organization? These will get you started as you think about your social media strategy. Thinking through these questions will help you assess how ready you are, where some potential implementation gaps exist, what barriers you may come up against, and also where you have the greatest opportunity for early wins.

Aviel Selkovits is a former senior marketing consultant. at DDI

For more information and best practices on using social media as part of a winning leadership development initiative, view our webinar. The Law of the Hammer in Training.

Posted: 04 Apr, 2013,
Talk to an Expert: Harnessing Social Media for Leadership Development - Part 2
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