A Business Case for Social Media – aka Real Life

Last week I turned up the wick and really focussed on developing connections into relationships. LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, yadda yadda. I love ’em. Great places for making connections. And then comes the privilege of reinforcing interesting online connections into real, handshakey, conversationy, bike ridey relationships. If you would like to read on, this is the story of a journey into, and out of social media and real life. Or if you prefer, it’s a business case, demonstrating a bountiful return on our investment.


The week started with Alan Whitford interviewing me for his thought leader series of conversations over at RCEuro.com

I met Alan at the recent ConnectingHR Unconference. He’s an encouraging guy and asks good questions. We had a good conversation about fear, honesty, integrity and The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. If you are familiar with me then I’m not sure the interview will reveal anything you don’t already know (Alan refers to my “open kimono” style whilst we’re speaking – which means I’m rubbish at keeping secrets!). If you’re new around here you might want to invest ten minutes and take a look. I’m grateful to Alan for taking the time to make this happen. Alan then kindly invited me to join a panel discussion on social media and employee engagement at the upcoming Social Recruiting Conference. The panel is chaired by Jon Ingham and Charlie Duff will be there too so it promises to be lively.


I met Sarah Matthews for lunch. I first met Sarah at the recent ConnectingHR Unconference (huh, didn’t I just write something….). We had an enjoyable and useful conversation about creating value. Not profit, value. We chatted about how closely linked HR and branding are, how it seems to be that the more people skills people (all people, not just HR – I hate it when I hear folk say “people, that’s HR’s job”. Time to resign) have in organisations, the better the organisations are and will be. And we talked about less concentrating more doing, which prompted us to order lunch. A great conversation, thanks Sarah.

And then I dashed off to help make “Is Bad Behaviour Killing Big Business Live” – come to life. I think it worked.


I met Flora Marriott and some of her colleagues at Yell Adworks. I first met Flora at the recent ConnectingHR Unconference (groundhog day post?). They do stuff at Yell Adworks. Quickly and effectively. A fantastic example of action, inspiration, flow and productivity. I was left breathless by the pace, the action, the subtle visible leadership.

I journeyed on to meet with Jonathan Wilson. I’ve known Jonathan for many years and am proud to call him a friend an associate. We got together at Friends Meeting House near Euston. A wonderful venue for a more leisurely meeting. Good coffee, free wi-fi. Recommmended venue.


I attended the inaugural London HR at the Table. There I met Vandy and Katherine. Two people who fill me with optimism and creativity. I also met Claire Walsh again. I first met Claire at the recent ConnectingHR Unconference (you’re kidding me right? No – it’s true). I learned that Claire has more ideas in a lunch break than I have in a week! It’s always exciting to be at the start of something interesting. Thanks folks.


I wrote a song about writer’s block for Callum Saunders (yeah, I first met him at ConnectingHR etc etc)

I took my daughter Keira to ballet class


I enjoyed a lovely bicycle ride with two good friends, Marky Mark, and Lord Ingram. I enjoy cycling and yet since my off eighteen months ago I’ve lost my bottle. If you want to learn more about that, feel free to watch the dodgy rap video my daughter and I recorded to mark the occasion. Where previously I used to enjoy blatting along dual carriageways time trialling at speeds (sometimes) in excess of 40mph, I now crawl timidly along the lanes and byways. I get scared every time I ride, and I keep going back for more and getting a teeny bit less scared (well most days at least). I’m encouraged by the support from my clubmates.

In the evening I joined more friends from the world of cycling for dinner to help celebrate a birthday. Most, if not all of my cycling fun is arranged online first.


Spent a lovely day with Carole and Keira, and then went with them to enjoy a 21st birthday party.


I have been privileged to be in the moment many times recently. Flow is hard work, and enormously rewarding. And it beats the crap out of work life balance every time.

Return on Investment

Folk often ask me, so where’s the return on your social media investment? Return means different things to different people so all I will say is there is a lot of value being created by the interesting people I meet who motivate and inspire me. And if that ain’t a good enough business case, well tough luck buddy – we approved it at our last board meeting and we’re doing it. Now.

Courtesy at Work…Works!

A recent article on HRzone about rudeness at work sparked a big debate over at the Bad Behaviour LinkedIn group. We were drawn to a piece by Philip Broughton in last October’s (2009) Management Today called “Manners Maketh Management”, also drawing on Christine Pearson and Christine Porath’s research, “The Cost of Bad Behaviour”. Here are a few key findings.

After a single incident of incivility, 48% said they reduced their effort at work; 80% spent time worrying about it; 78% said their commitment declined; 66% felt their performance declined; 38% intentionally reduced their effort and 12% quit because of uncivil treatment.

Over 60% blame bad behaviour on an excessive workload. 4% say they do it because they like it.

83% of customers who witness incivility tell a friend, 55% take a less favourable attitude and 50% were less willing to use the company’s products or services.

Pretty powerful stuff eh?

And then a ray of light from Jonathan Wilson who suggested “The article suggests some of the least civil managers include Michael Leary, Gordon Ramsay, and Alan Sugar. Unfortunately, viewers seem to enjoy TV programmes featuring these people. I wonder how much these programmes encourage people to think that this behaviour is a part of leading high performance, or even worse, necessary?

I have had the pleasure of working for some very successful businessmen who were always courteous, including Michael Bishop, Richard Branson, Peter Drew and Frank Hope. Can others names leaders with whom they have worked who have paired politeness and profit successfully, please? I’m sure you can! I look forward to reading what made them special.”

Well I can’t claim the level of “brand” awareness Jonathan does with his leaders. But – I will always remember Mark Brinicombe. In 1994/5 I spent a whirlwind two years carrying out a number of interesting roles with Dixons Stores Group. I was fortunate to be part of the leadership team which set up, opened and ran the Guildford branch of PC World. Mark was the boss. He was quite a round guy, and was full of energy, good humour, enthusiasm and a desire to succeed. And he knew very well he couldn’t achieve that success alone.

I worked very closely with Mark as we recruited all the staff for the opening and began their training. We got involved with fitting the place out, stocking it, all kinds of things. Mark participated and led. We had to let people go in the induction period and he was always, and I mean always, polite, gentle and supportive when doing this. He would often as a member of the management team to sit in and observe so I witnessed this process first hand a few times.

Mark was able to motivate all the staff, everyone knew what they had to do to make the place buzz. He did this mostly through basic kindness. And enthusiasm and encouragement. I never saw him tell anyone off, and that was a unique experience in my time with this retailer.

There’s lots more I could say about Mark but what was the icing on the cake? Whilst busy at work one day I got a call from my Dad telling me my Grandpa had died. I wasn’t getting on well with my Dad at the time and he was calling me from Scotland on the day of the funeral. Gran had been too upset to call – I found out later. And Dad had just headed off without thinking to contact anyone. I was very upset at missing the chance to pay my last respects to someone I’d been very close to. The next couple of minutes were a little blurry but Mark spotted me and saw immediately something was not right. I was spoken to calmly by him as he guided me outside and we walked along for a little while. Mark was gentle and reassuring as we strolled around, and when back at the car park he walked me to my car and just said; see you when you’re ready. The store was busy at the time and he was needed by many more people than me. Yet he trusted his team, left them to it and gave me some focussed attention. I took the following day off then returned to work. He welcomed me back and we got back to the business of enjoying working together.

Best boss I ever had. One of, if not the very best leader I have worked for.

Thanks Mark.

Team Work

Today we’re looking at how teams of people can come together and integrate difference without losing it. As a result, they can create great power with and for each other, not over each other. Here are two good examples.

Last week a committed bunch of football supporters got together at a fund raising event to raise £10,000 for their club. The club will use this money to help fund a loan player for the squad until the end of the season. The group of supporters are known as the Tranmere and Wirral Football Supporters’ Trust, the football club is Tranmere Rovers. The event was promoted on national radio by the trust and club together, it was featured on the club’s official website and doubtless elsewhere locally too. The supporters trust succeeded and hit their fundraising goal. This interested me for three reasons:

1 – It’s unusual, and impressive, to see a football supporters trust working closely with the club they support. Too often these trusts are viewed as an unnecessary irritant by the club, and I know this has been the case in the past in this example. Now, differences have been overcome, and clearly everyone is working together for a common aim.

2 – This shows how powerfully people can unite in support of a cause, or brand, they believe in. The people who supported this fund raiser have lots of differences. Where they live, how they work, what they look like, religious beliefs will doubtless be just a few differences. Yet they’ve integrated those differences and come together to show visible leadership in support of something important to them.

3 – This proves that persistence pays off. As a lifelong Tranmere Rovers supporter and former member of the Trust I’m personally delighted to see that.

I had a chat with Brad Jennings this week. Brad’s an interesting guy, currently working with Vodafone. He focuses on the power of communication to create a branded employee experience which in turn will create a branded customer experience.

Brad spoke about the excitement that can be generated in large organisations around bringing the spirit of the brand to life. He spoke passionately (well what did you expect?) about:

How powerful it is when people come together in support of the brand they work for and believe in. The people who work in Vodafone have lots of differences both individual and the role they play within the organisation, so the goal is to merge those differences and bring people together to support something important to everyone.

Each employee loves the brand in their own individual way, so why not release that spirit and encourage employees to be brand advocates not brand clones.

Brad’s approach is about energy and passion to ignite the brand by integrating the difference without losing the difference. That’s powerful.