The Employee Engagement Network

There is a a school of thought that the increased use of social media within organisations will undermine the role of the line manager as a communicator. 
Will this be the case, or, like the prediction of a 'paperless society', will the role of line manager plays in communications become even more important?

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There are many lines to follow in engagement. I think online will give quick and rapid access. I would be fearful if it totally supplanted face to face and real time meeting. I am no Luddite, we need tech and touch for engagement.

Couldn't agree more David and it's great to see you leading the line with such enthusiasm.
This Ning Network is a demonstration that you are no Luddite David. I agree on the multiple lines to engagement but I think social media is far more about changing social dynamics than accessing on-line information. By definition this will have an increasing importance in engagement. My belief is that will shift the role of the line manager (not take away the crap). I predict it's more about efficacy than efficiency, just like our 'paperless society'.
I agree that it will shift the role of the line manager Sean and that social dynamics is shifting....but invariably, just as 50s fashions are so sexy all over again, it will only increase the potency of good, precious face to face interaction.
couldn't agree more (well apart from the 50s fashion thing)
That's my point. Social media will change the way we interact F-2-F not eliminate it.
I've given it more airtime on your blog, but my bottom line is that one cannot lead and manage effectively at the same time, and management tends to win out over leadership when one is wearing two hats. So, anything social media can do to liberate leadership from the grip of (especially middle) managers without making the organization unmanageable needs to be welcomed.

Yes, that could mean reducing the number of managers, increasing spans of management (quantitatively and even geographically), and reducing managerial scope. Indeed, given the staggering cost of management in most organizations, such an approach should be considered on cost grounds alone, the liberation of creativity and initiative that can ensue would be a huge dividend.

The role of the manager needs to be treated as fair game--treating it as sacred takes a huge amount of potential innovation and results off the table.

You obviously have a very different experience of management to mine. 3 observations, based on 25 years experience:
Some of the managers/leaders I have worked with are amongst the most innovative people I know. In part, that's why they became managers.
Most managers/leaders I have worked with also make valuable contributions due to their technical skills and experience so they aren't just a managerial overhead.
Social media ain't new, it's just the elephant in the corner!
More on the elephant in the corner...

You wrote - "...that one cannot lead and manage effectively at the same time ..."

I could not disagree more. However, in practice you are more right than wrong because leadership is not understood even by the leadership gurus. Most gurus write many books about it always with a slightly different twist discovered by watching another leader.

If managers are provided with a reasonable script to follow for leadership, as they are for preventive maintenance, supply chain management, construction management, project management, financial management and the others, then they can excel in leadership. That is what I learned in 30+ years of managing people. It took me about 16 years to develop a reasonable script and a few more to perfect it. Only about 5% of managers were unable to develop exceptionally effective leadership skills. Actually, they are easy to learn and use, and are based on how followers react to managerial actions.

Best regards, Ben
I have indeed had wildly different experiences of management and leadership. I see them more as opposites--even though they can also be complementary and compatible.

My suspicion--some of those creative contributors who have been in management roles would love to be liberated from a lot of the control crap managers have to deal with--if it could be ensured that that crap can still be dealt with effectively by other means.

Another suspicion--in Britain in particular, there is a certain veneration of positional authority, in effect because Britain remains something of an aristocracy. So, those who are ambitious agree to take on the managerial role in order to move up the hierarchy, including people who are talented practitioners as well. But if one could establish oneself as a leader without having to also manage, who wouldn't do it?

Social media--here we agree, it's ancient. But the technology makes things more transparent and more (ugh) manageable, and therefore easier for organisations to use and swallow.

Best from Leipzig,


Michael, Michael, Michael, can you really be seriously suggesting that most people in the country which invented punk and the Artic Monkeys venerates what you refer to as "aristocracy" and that this is resulting in a greater reverance for hierarchy ? I could buy your argument if it referenced an inability in some quarters (especially the public sector), to throw off the shackles of the bureaucratic approach to management which underpinned the British Empire but ..........

Here's a real story which may help to illustrate some of the cross cultural differences. I was carrying out a comms and culture audit for a well known global investement bank. As part of the audit I visited and interviewed key personnel across Europe and the US.

The British were challenging and "on brand" but guarded; The French were charming but late and I could hear the receptionist constantly swearing after putting down the telephone; the Germans were very hospitable and ultimately very open once the junior employees understood that their bosses were participating as well; the Eastern Europeans were hugely suspicious of anything implying cascade comms or hierarchy and the Americans were full of spin and aggression and very protective of their corporate culture and corporate aristocracy (C suite) in particular. Any of this resonate with anyone?

They sound like caricatures I know - but these are my first hand recollections.

Perhaps its unfair to use a broad brush to sweep "managers" and "staff" into stereotypical corners of the corporate office. Perhaps Corporate Facebook is the future for Internal Communication. Personally, I believe new media is an exciting addition to the channel strategy for the forward thinking IC professional, regardless of the roots of their culture. But I also suspect that Corporate Facebook is and never will be a substitute for Corporate Facetime!

PS - there are plenty of "leaders" who aren't managers in the workplace. One of the roles we're often called upon as external consultants is to spot them and ensure that their powerful views are factored into any change programme. I've seldom seen one, however, who couldn't and shouldn't be recognised and rewarded for their role and if they're not "on brand"they really can't be ignored.
We've found front-line managers respond better to enterprise social networking in the lens of quick "follow-up". You've had the conversation, reach out and ask a question to confirm understanding. Less email and CYA. I can relate to that.


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