Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bringing Value to Your Social Media Network

Have you ever taken a moment to assess how much value you bring to your social media network?

Equally as important, have you ever taken a moment to assess how much value your social media network brings to you?

A strong social media network is a prized possession.  When people collaborate, they create opportunities to learn, to share and to change the world.

But a strong social media network is like a classic automobile.  When taken care of and nurtured, it is a source of pride and enjoyment.  It brings a sense of purpose, fulfillment and joy to your life and to the lives of others and therefore provides value.

If it is not nurtured with effective, proactive maintenance, it eventually turns into something that takes too much of your time and appears to be of little value.  It may even become something you come to resent as you seek to find the value that you know should be there but is difficult to see.  It’s the classic automobile that has potential but which is buried in a pile of junk in an old barn out back, waiting for its potential to be rediscovered.

If there is no value in some relationships, why invest in them?

When you are on your way to work, to the mall or wherever, do you stop and chat for 30 minutes with every random stranger you meet with intent of building a lifelong relationship?

Of course not – if you did, you would never get anything done.

So I wonder why people would do the same thing with certain slices of their social media network; spending too much time trying to incubate all the relationships instead of focusing on the relationships that really bring value to each participant in the relationship (or third-parties who will benefit from their collaboration).

Many spend too much time with their “broad-side-of-the-barn” approach, get very little for their unfocused activity and then complain that they aren’t producing the results they would prefer to produce.  Many who spend a lot of time doing this lament that they are run off their feet because they are so busy.

Yet when their effectiveness (and sometimes happiness) are actually measured, the results are embarrassing.  They have confused activity with productivity and action with traction (completely different from the story of success that they claim exists).

I would suggest that growing a network of immense size and unknown value that takes a small staff to maintain is not the right approach.  If people selected the members of their social media network more effectively, they might find that the relationships bring greater quality to their personal and professional lives and the lives of others.

I know that some people will cry foul with this observation.  It is true that there are people who use their networks VERY effectively.  Others can learn from how they contribute to and participate in their social media network.

However, when many people complain of poor results or the fact that they have no time to get anything done, you realize that these people still haven’t figured out how to use social media effectively.

In fact, I don’t think they are using social media at all. I think it is using them.

As with all technology, control the use of social media effectively otherwise it will control you. 

In 2011, I have decided to eliminate 80% of the connections in my social media network.  My network is quite large and has reached a point where maintaining the network is becoming a full time job (for example, my LinkedIn 3rd degree network has almost 16 million people in it and drives a lot of traffic in my direction that I have no interest in and where I can offer no value in return).

I did this last year and it greatly reduced the amount of noise in my life.  It is time for a second pass.

Feelings will be hurt.  Some people will be offended. That is unfortunate but if we live a life doing everything that everyone else expects of us for their own gain, we would have no time to live our own lives.

My Life, the time I have remaining on this Earth and my unlimited potential to make a difference are too important to waste.

I believe yours is too important to waste also.

So why waste it?

To you and yours, I wish an amazing abundance of health, wealth and happiness in 2011.

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Tradition - Appreciating Our Blessings

Some years ago when my oldest son was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  For my son to have so much stuff that he rivaled Toys R Us in inventory still didn't seem enough for some reason.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York to be exact) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started the truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence. 

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it. 

The teacher always appears when the student is ready and our Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions we have in our family at Christmas, there are two that we find important.

1. We always listen to this story at least once.

2. We always share it at least once.

The story we listen to can be found here.  Click on the "Real Media" or “Windows” links under the title "John Henry Faulk's Christmas Story" to hear the story.

Besides my family and Life itself, I consider myself blessed to have so many incredible friends and colleagues.

With that, I thank YOU for what you do - for the light and love you bring to so many.

In an uncertain world, every day we are alive is still an incredible gift.

In a world that experiences difficult moments, there are still miracles being created.

In a world that experiences war and hostility, there are still many examples of love and generosity.

In a world that experiences adversity and challenge, there exists unlimited opportunity and potential.

In a world that may seem to embrace greed, there are examples of incredible generosity.

We have many reminders that we still live in a beautiful world.

As you celebrate this Holiday Season, please remember those who are not as fortunate.  There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule.  However you celebrate these days, cherish them. 

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.


For those who can’t find the links on the NPR website to hear the story, they can be found here:

Windows Media Player

Real Media Player

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Owning the Problem–the WikiLeaks Issue

As a strategy advisor, I have been watching the WikiLeaks story break with interest and amusement.

The US Government, in typical government fashion, has gone on the offensive by portraying Julian Assange as a potential terrorist.  Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for alleged sex offences he has committed.

And while the US Government announces almost hourly assessments of the alleged damage that Assange is creating, there are some other important elements that are intentionally being allowed to fall by the wayside.

For example:

1. The critical information that the US wishes to hide was all accessible by a single system.  Whoever made that decision should be publicly condemned. Rule #1 – if you want to make it complicated for people to obtain too many damaging pieces of information, don’t make them all accessible from one place.

2. US Government officials decided some time ago that they would allow a very broad audience to have access to these critical documents.  Whoever made that decision should also be publicly condemned. Rule #2 – if you want to keep secrets, then limit how many people have access to the information and make sure that the authorization level of those individuals is appropriate (accepting the fact that if more than one person knows something, the chances of it remaining a secret forever are slim).

3. US citizens, including military personnel, downloaded the information in bulk.  Rule #3 – if you are going to allow a lot of people to have access to this data anyway, you should at least track who is accessing this information and what they may be attempting to do with it based on what they are accessing.

4. Assume no one is your friend (including your own citizens) when it comes to safeguarding sensitive information.  Rule #4 – there is always someone out there with an agenda or who is willing to compromise their values if the price is right.

So US officials authorized and created a system that allowed US citizens with inappropriate authorization to download as many sensitive documents as they wished so that they could do whatever they wanted with them.

This is a staggeringly incompetent recipe for disaster – it’s just a matter of time before the disaster takes place.

Despite this, the US Government appears surprised and affronted that a non-US citizen who has no allegiance to the US, who has signed no oaths of secrecy with the US and who has a chip on his shoulder regarding US foreign policy has accepted this information from US citizens and presented it for the world to see.

In the minds of the US Government, all of those details are not important.  What is important to them is that they skewer the messenger when in fact, he couldn’t have done it without their help!

It reminds me of a couple of times in my Wall Street career when I and others came upon violations of federal regulations within Wall St. banks and notified the banks to that effect so that they could fix the issues quickly.

We didn’t receive thanks or attaboys (which we didn’t want anyway – we were just doing our job).  No one said “Hmmm, we better fix that right away”.

Instead, the response was usually “How dare you point this out?  Things were progressing quite smoothly until this was documented.”

That is when you learn that the violators knew all along and instead of owning and acknowledging that they had made an error, decided to brazen their way through the fact that a known but secret issue had been discovered.  You also discover that a common way around this “problem” in their mind is based on their belief that if the messenger is shot, then the problem will go away and everyone can return to “business as usual”.

Unfortunately, when leaders take the tact of bullying their way through such a situation, a key opportunity for learning is lost.

The learning opportunity that is missed is that if the people making the incorrect decisions had properly owned the problem in the first place, then they wouldn’t have to be dealing with the explosion that ensued as a result of their poor decision-making process.

Having created the original problem, they also miss the point that if they successfully bully their way through the situation, no learning takes place and the original, faulty decision-making process will probably continue.

Finally, what is not immediately apparent to them is that if one seeks to shoot the messenger, it in fact empowers the messenger and drives them to continue their course (perhaps with a greater sense of purpose than before).

There is a lot of noise around the information being released by Mr. Assange and his organization.  The moral, ethical and legal ramifications are best left to the analysts who love to over-analyze such things.

However, the US Government is forgetting (at least publicly) that had they owned the original problem correctly (that is, the control and access to such information), then Mr. Assange wouldn’t have been given the fuel to accomplish what he is now doing.

They are also forgetting that as long as they continue to publicly vilify him as the only source of the problem, they are fueling him to greater heights.

And unfortunately, as long as they forget how this all came to play in the first place, then they are doomed to repeat this process.

World leadership, like corporate leadership, requires people to make tough decisions and to admit when they make mistakes.  Until they admit them, they are doomed to keep making them.

If they repeat the mistakes that are unfolding right now, there may be lots to worry about in the future.

However, it will be their own fault for not having owned the problem and the appropriate solution in the first place.

In service and servanthood,



December 2, 2010:

In case one doesn’t believe that hubris gets in the way of learning (and thus causing us to repeat a problem), note this item from CNN on December 2, 2010:

The Pentagon has known for years that WikiLeaks could mean trouble when it came to publishing classified or secret information.

In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center and the Department of Defense wrote a 26-page threat assessment report about WikiLeaks, predicting "articles involving sensitive or classified DoD will most likely be posted to the WikiLeaks.org Web site in the future."

That report, too, was classified.

But WikiLeaks got ahold of it and published it in the spring of this year.

It also reminds me of when a high ranking US military official told me in 1991 that one of the military’s greatest concerns regarding US national security was the possibility of commercial aircraft being taken over and used against public buildings.  Ten years later, we were “shocked and surprised”.

December 8, 2010:

As Mr. Assange finds himself in jail, his supporters have begun cyber attacks against Master Card and other organizations that have withdrawn their services from WikiLeaks.  Such reckless behavior affects many innocent people and starts additional “fires” that must be put out, providing a distraction that prevents people from solving core issues.

Regardless of whether a group like WikiLeaks sees itself as a modern day Robin Hood, when such actions are taken the self proclaimed protector of bullies becomes the bully, thus negating ANY hope that they may be perceived as any kind of champion for the people.  Hopefully, Mr. Assange will recognize the recklessness of his followers and will call upon them to cease and desist such disappointing behavior.

It is also a disturbing thing to realize how vulnerable we really are, that a small group of people can inflict so much damage so easily.  We have the technology to prevent such things – we just need the will to implement it.