We’ve been interviewing senior executives at organizations like SAP, JP Morgan Chase, Del Monte, Alcoa, Axa, Deutsche Bank, the U.S. State Department, the Transportation Security Administration, Aetna, UBM, Ford and more to try and understand how they view and use social technologies and approaches. Some are just starting their social journey and others have transformed how they think about their business because of social technologies. The range in perspective and behaviors is staggering and not unlike the range that most of our clients face internally. While I am generally an optimist that everyone can change, we have definitely noticed some skills and qualities that stand out in enabling executives to incorporate social behaviors and make connections to their business strategies.
Some of the skills and attributes of those executives who have been most successful with social approaches are the following:
- Curious – the unknown prompts curiosity and learning rather than fear and compartmentalization
- Courageous – they have the ability to take decisive action even in the face of unclear input and objections
- A love of people – they genuinely like to connect with others and social acknowledgement is a strong motivator
- Inclusive – they are fascinated by different perspectives and don’t like hierarchical boundaries. They proactively solicit and make room for all opinions
- Modest – they do not need things to go their way and in fact, believe they are more effective when they let others lead. They also not only don’t mind doing their own communicating, they insist on it and prefer not to be handled
- Self-Aware – they understand how easy it is to become isolated or disconnected from clients and employees and constantly look for opportunities to reach out, connect and get input
- A technical and humanities background – they have the ability to see the implications of technology on human performance and because of that, are the best able to optimize the use of social technologies
All of these qualities suggest a down-to-earth, approachable person quite unlike the caricature of the aloof, tight lipped and formal senior executive of the past. From our interviews these qualities did not seem to have a high correlation with age but context did seem to play a role. The more varied an executive’s experiences, the more likely they were to demonstrate these characteristics suggesting that not only is tenure in a position or company not helpful in hiring for this type of executive, it might be a reason to question whether someone has the built up self awareness and adaptability to succeed in a rapidly changing environment.
Read about UBM’s Social Executive Journey.
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