Can we really learn leadership lessons from twitter?
I believe so, and have spent the last 5 years learning a lot from twitter, but today it hit home that one of the hidden skills that can be learnt is the black art of delegation. Yes you read that correctly… delegation.
Let me start with my short journey to this conclusion today. As many of you will know, in June I ceased being an active consultant with RapidBI and have taken a full time project role with a major global logistics firm. It’s a great project with lots of challenges, and scope to really make a difference both with the team I manage and the people we all impact with on a daily basis. In fact it is so “full time” that I have not been blogging much in the evenings or weekend either! In my one-to-one today it was mentioned that it had been noted that I am still active on twitter, so was I busy or was there capacity for more work? Of course there was an assumption that it was me that was tweeting live and not a PA or other resource. I guess on the surface to people that do not understand the power of twitter if I am tweeting in working hours then I have time for more other things. In other words a belief that you need to be there to get a job done.
Then this evening it struck me. The way I use twitter is in fact delegating. Delegating some of the posting (activities or tasks/jobs) I make to a person that can do what I want at a time I need, and they are better suited to doing it them than me. Why schedule posts? simple, I know that my twitter followers are on many time zones and access twitter at different times of the day or week, so a good percentage of what I tweet is pre-scheduled, note I tweet 24 hours a day… I do sleep you understand! contrary to popular beliefs I am not an insomniac (well not always). In this case I am delegating to a piece of software, my personal PA that schedules the less personal tweets for me, to share MY thoughts with YOU, my followers.
Is scheduling your tweets cheating.. yes if you believe twitter is a chat channel, but you know that the majority of the news you watch on TV has been recorded earlier, and not broadcast live. is this a problem? Twitter for many, especially those of us that attempt to add value is a form of broadcast but with the aim of engagement, that engagement does not need to be real time, not everyone is on twitter 24/7, they will see your reply when they look after you post. Asynchronous engagement.
It’s not all about automation
Automation for an account like mine is important, but each tweet is carefully considered and planned. Also the beauty of certain tools (like hootsuite one of the tools I use), is that as well as prescheduling some tweets it allows me to monitor threads and chats, and in the few minutes whilst waiting for lunch or for a coffee to be poured I can reply individually, without wasting time sieving through 1000s of tweets or messages. This means I can invest time in relating to people rather than just when I share stuff I fund of value
The longer you use twitter in the professional space, the more you realise it is all about collaboration, the more you give, the more you get.. or what goes around comes around. Give without expectations, you never know what will happen.
As well as scheduling some posts I have learnt that when I am at conferences I can take notes of key learning points on a blog like this, and use software to post chunks to twitter for me, so that others can learn at the same time as I do. Now if you think its easy and you cannot listen whilst posting ask people that try, actually you need to listen really hard to be able to comprehend and explain in short bursts. I have found that whilst doing this I learn more from the sessions than sitting their passively! Try it.. its hard and tiring.
Back to Delegation
One of the key skills of any leader is getting things done whilst not there. many leaders do not know how to let go and trust their resources. Trusting a scheduling tool is no different than delegating to a person. You need to understand their competence, strengths and capabilities in order to delegate effectively.
We cannot be in many places at once (if you know how please let me know! #OpenToLearningNewThings)
Well unless you have TARDIS and are a time lord, then for the rest of us mere humans, we can only be in one place at one time. This means if we want several things doing we need to plan and delegate the authority for the task to others. I have given a software tool the authority to post on my behalf, just as when I am leading and managing I give the authority for a task to my team, but much like my scheduled tweets I am responsible foe the content and the net result.
Delegation is a skill that all leaders (and managers) need to master, of course we get it wrong from time to time, but that is call learning… as long as we do not make the same mistake again.
So if you are reading this post in your work time, what should you be doing? I know that as you read this post I am planning the travels of my team ;)