At my last few employers I used to blog regularly and encourage other executives to blog. I will be reproducing slightly modified versions of some of those blog posts here. This one, on the subject of executives blogging, was first published in 2014 and re-published in 2018.
Original Blog Post
To kick off my contribution to our blogging culture, I’m going to re-publish slightly modified versions of some of my old prototype blog posts. Here is the first.
Let’s Promote Internal Blogging
This is a blog post about blog posts. A meta-blogI never meta blog I didn’t like, if you will.
I’m going to (try to) publish some general personal and professional thoughts, in blog format, on a semi-regular basis.
Why am I doing this?
First, to experiment with and promote the use of various Social Software tools for informal communication, and to test their role in management communication. Although we have a Wiki (thriving in a restricted community), we don’t have an internal blogging culture, and I think we should. I’ve recently come from another department where, after some growing pains, blogging became a regular way that staff at all levels – from working level up to the Deputy Minister – shared their thoughts and opinions, and it enriched the organization in many ways.
Second, to exercise blogging tools, and identify technology and policy gaps. I believe social software is going to become an important communication tool for managers. (I understand it is already an important tool for technical and personal matters with many people; it takes time for technology to migrate up the seniority chain). I want first-hand experience with the various possible services and communications vehicles, and I want, when possible, to discover their inadequacies before our clients do.
In the case of blogging, for example, do we need a dedicated blogging tool, or is the web-publishing capability of the Wiki (which we need anyway) good enough? My previous experience leads me to believe that the Wiki alone isn’t enough – we need publication, aggregation, and subscription management capabilities that are specifically designed for blogs.
Some of the concepts I would like to explore include:
- Is there value in having personal “what’s this person all about” commentary from senior management? Does it help staff relate, understand, and interact?
- How does an executive share ideas, opinions, and experiences with a team in a way that is taken as just that – ideas and experiences from someone who has worked in a field for a long time – but is not taken as orders “from the boss”?
Why I Like Blogging
I write blog posts for the same reason I take notes that I will probably never read: It helps me organize my thoughts. I blog at home and occasionally write in a paper journal too. I’m not really doing either of those things with the expectation that anyone – even me – will ever read it; it just organizes and focuses the thought process. And I think that writing down thoughts that someone might read forces an internal quality-control process to start up, generating somewhat better thoughts.
As another reason, I’m a big fan of influence techniques. I would much rather plant thoughts, suggestions, and ideas that prompt people to discover their own solutions than simply give orders.
“Give as few orders as possible… once you have given orders on a subject, you must always give orders on that subject.”
– Leto Atreides
I’ve always found it better to create the conditions, and provide clues and guidance, where people will make their own decisions, close enough to what I had in mind, and more motivating for those who did the creative work. I’m thinking the less formally structured, more personal nature of blogging might be conducive to this kind of guiding, shared-experience communication.
Finally, I find blogging to be a great tool for advice & mentoring: it’s a non-threatening way to provide coaching and advice to an anonymous audience. I can share thoughts and experiences such as “here is a process or approach that has worked well for me”, and others are free to think, “I’m going to try that” or, “what an idiot”, without embarrassment.
Why I Think Managers and Executives Should Blog
See the above. We all know (or should) that communication is critically important. Different people are best reached in different ways, and managers should use all the communication vehicles open to them.
It’s especially important when we consider demographics. Many senior managers and executives are “persons of an age”, while many new recruits are one or more generations younger.
We’re now hiring and leading people who
- have had online threaded discussion capabilities their entire lives;
- have never subscribed to a newspaper;
- expect all web pages to have a “reader comments ” section;
- don’t have a fixed, landline telephone;
- elect politicians based on comments in FaceBook and Twitter.
Social media is how a growing segment of the population, especially the kind of workforce we are trying to attract and retain, communicates. Senior management needs to learn to use those tools.
Issues Needing Attention
There are, of course, some concerns and issues that need attention. I consider these just that – issues that need attention, not reasons why we should not do this. I’ll ask various policy centres to look into these. Some examples include:
- What is the official records status of blogged communications such as this entry? Is what I’m typing right now an official record? (I think not) An official communiqué? Is saying something in a blog post an official decision? (No.) Guidelines are needed on the things for which blogging is or is not an appropriate communication vehicle.
- What kind of information management is appropriate? Is this post subject to ATIP? Should it be in the records management system? Classified how?
- How do Official Language requirements apply? Can people blog in the language of their choice, and can commenters reply in the language of their choice? (Yes to both.) Do blog posts have to be in both official languages? (I don’t know but that is the practice we are establishing.) Do people who want to comment on blog posts have to do so in both official languages? (l hope not – it would reduce the spontaneity of comments.)
- How do we handle Security and Need-to-Know concerns? There are certainly people – possibly a lot of people – who should not be blogging about what they do, even on an internal secure forum. But I can’t accept the notion that, because of those legitimate cases, no one should blog about anything.
There’s nothing like a real test case to help work through some of these important issues.
I applaud my colleagues who have started blogging, and I encourage others to do so.