Social intelligence was once defined as “the capability to effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments.” But what does that mean today when it seems every conversation – and every major issue – is discussed ad nauseam on social and digital media? When perceived injustices – even those over a small $5 monthly fee or a basic customer service issue – are globally amplified? When a single troll can seriously dent your brand’s reputation? What is corporate social intelligence?
As many organizations have learned in the Social Age, the definition of social intelligence hasn’t changed in these scenarios. However, the scale and impact have been magnified by perhaps tens of thousands, even millions, of times. We still need to navigate complex social relationships, of course. But unlike the past, our “environment” is global — and it seems the whole world is watching.
Here are four questions every leader can ask to better understand their organization’s level of corporate social intelligence (along with some reasons why you should care).
Have You Become Active Listeners?
There is no doubt: In the Social Age, people will talk. Good, bad or ugly – your customers, employees, competitors, both lovers and haters of your product – will voice their opinion.
And yet many organizations – a decade after social media became a mainstream channel for open communication – are not listening.
I blame “old white guy” disease – where the leaders at the very top, usually Boomer white males, have not yet learned to listen. Instead, they still count on public relations and legal teams to control the message and exert influence. They still talk at their stakeholders, not with them.
The problem with this top-down Industrial Age approach? Insulated from reality by layers of management, each with its own filters, leaders rarely hear – let alone digest – valuable input. Instead of with them, decisions are made for consumers, employees and community members. And when those siloed decisions are made – the $5 monthly banking fee by Bank of America, for instance – a social media lynch mob forms, ready to storm the corporate gates.
Active listening, in the form of social monitoring, is a key attribute of organizations with a high level of corporate social intelligence.
[ctt template=”4″ link=”flx2e” via=”no” ]Active listening, in the form of social monitoring, is a key attribute of organizations with a high level of corporate social intelligence.[/ctt]
Are you listening?
Does Your Organization Display Collective Self-Awareness?
Of course, it’s one thing to listen to our stakeholders and influencers. It is quite another to fend off those pesky social media lynch mobs.
Unfortunately, when under attack, many corporations still call on those PR spin-masters and adept attorneys to deliver a carefully-crafted response. Recently, companies like Volkswagen, NBC News and even family-favorite Jello have made ill-advised attempts at misdirection and manipulation.
Many forward-thinking companies, however, have learned to survive these digital attacks. And each of them – from Airbnb to Kraft to Starbucks – followed a similarly effective approach:
- Admit it
- Own it
- Make it right
In the process of embracing their collective self-awareness, through an authentic, mutually-beneficial response, and by taking positive action they turned trolls into white knights, and complainers into brand champions.
The lesson learned: Forget the spin. Forego the legal action. Instead… be intentionally human.
[ctt template=”4″ link=”24S2d” via=”no” ]Forget the spin. Forego the legal action. Instead… be intentionally human.[/ctt]
Do You Leverage Social Proof to Understand Your Current Company Culture?
Do you spend too much time believing the copy on your own ‘About Us’ page? Or, through the social proof available to you, do you really know your company culture?
What are your employees really saying about you on Glassdoor? Or on blogs? In online forums? What is it really like to work there? Is your company doing anything well? What could you do better?
What does the marketplace think of your products and services? Your brand reputation? Your people?
One of the most difficult tasks for today’s business leaders: Being vulnerable; vulnerable enough to collect data that reveals exactly where they stand, according to the people who matter most: their customers, employees and industry influencers. And data collection has never been easier. No need for focus groups, complicated consumer surveys or internal questionnaires. Everything you need to know – everything being said – is widely available online through social proof.
That’s where you learn how people feel about working with, and buying from, your company. Regardless of what the mission statement in your lobby says, within social proof is where you’ll find your real company culture.
Does Your Leadership Team Lead by Example?
As Miranda Lambert sings so well:
“The truth comes out a little at a time… and it spreads just like a fire…”
During the last decade, many leaders have learned there is no such thing as part-time values; there’s no such thing part-time culture. They learned you can’t say one thing, then not be held accountable when you do something completely different.
Especially when it comes to leading by example, living your declared values must come first. Just ask Travis Kalanik, formerly of Uber (or the many other recent ex-leaders who were talking about acceptance of diversity and inclusion but living in a frat brother culture). Or Des Hague, formerly of Centerplate. Or the ex-CEO of Yahoo, Scott Thompson. Each failed to live their corporation’s declared values. And, a little at a time, the truth came out. And thanks to social media, it spread just like a fire.
Does your leadership team lead by example? Do they live your stated corporate values? If not, it’s much better to remove a rotten apple proactively than after merciless public pressure.
Corporate Social Intelligence on Display
The best part of this conversation? Your current level of corporate social intelligence is already on display… in the form of millions of online data points. We just have to care enough to pay attention.
It’s how you treat people – and the way people report how you’ve treated them. It is apparent in how your organization responds to negativity, or even crisis. It’s about how close your real company culture – what it is really like to work for your company – is to what you want to be, or claim to be. And it shows every time you have an opportunity to listen – really listen – and do just that.
In other words, your corporate social intelligence is about being able “to effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments.”
Put another way: In today’s digitally-driven world, corporate social intelligence is about your organization’s collective ability to be… human.