Join Charlene Li for an in-depth discussion in this video Cultivate followership, part of Charlene Li on Digital Leadership.
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- The art of engagement really centers on the type of relationship you want to create with the people who you are trying to lead, those followers. It's actually something I call the practice of followership, which is different than leadership. What followership does, it encourages you to think about what kind of relationship you want to have with your followers. Is it going to be one where the followers follow every single thing you say to the letter, to the word? You are dictating to them and assigning them very specific tasks.
Or is that relationship going to be very different? One where you aligning against a very particular goal and you're co-creating, you're more peers than really subordinates to you. And it's a very different type of relationship. The way that you work, the way you relate to each other, is going to be very, very different depending on what kind of followership you are practicing. The key thing here, though, is that when you're cultivating followership, is that this is not a soft, friendly feeling of an exercise.
Rather, you have to have a laser-like focus on the outcomes that you want to actually create. Don't think for a minute though, that creating followership is a touchy, feely, soft kind of thing that you have to do. Rather, it requires a laser-like focus on the relationship outcomes that you want to have. For example, do you want to design the engagement to deliver a sense of familiarity and accessibility? That may be something that you want to pursue in one part of your leadership practice.
But at other times, you may want to instill a sense of confidence, and therefore the type of relationship you have with the people who you are leading, is going to be very, very different. So keep in mind the type of relationship you want to create and that will be your guide to the kind of engagement you want to have. I want to talk about David Thodey, who is a CEO of Telstra, a telecom company in Australia. One of his goals was to transform Telstra's culture to be much more open, and accountable, and transparent.
He really wanted the company to be much more customer oriented. He liked to say, transparency creates accountability. And he meant this because by knowing what everyone was doing and being very honest about that in the process of engagement, that was going to actually change and transform that culture. Back in 2014, the company actually went through this phase, where it missed it's very aggressive customer service targets. And as a result, bonuses were not paid. There was this huge outcry on the enterprise social network and he dove right into that.
And he started saying to people, "Look, I don't like this either. "I'm disappointed, but the numbers are the numbers "and we missed our goal," is what he said. And then he shared that he didn't get a bonus either. The outcome, is that, the employees were still unhappy that they did not get their bonus, but they saw that the decision was fair. It was impacting people throughout the entire organization. And they saw that the CEO was being firm but also understanding in the way that he engaged with them in this really tough time.
But they also understood something else, very importantly. And that was the priority of the company, making customer service the focus and the centerpiece of the work together. Now, David Thodey could have let this go. He could have let all those conversations just run it's course, let HR take care of it. But it was his leadership, and his initiative and his skill at using these digital channels that help set the tone. And it was this delivery of his leadership agenda that really made Telstra much more customer focused.
And the amazing thing is, he was the same way in real life, in the traditional channels and in the digital channels. There was no line that he drew in terms of where that engagement began and stopped. It was absolutely consistent, no matter which channel he was in. He was absolutely authentic, in the way that he engaged with people and it was very thoughtfully done against very strategic goals. I think as you think about your digital leadership journey, thinking about the type of engagement, the type of relationship you will develop with your followers, is going to be absolutely key.
In this course, she explains the three steps for extending leadership into the digital space: listening, sharing, and engaging. With her tips, you can transform your professional relationships with employees, peers, and influencers. At the end of each chapter, she provides a list of questions to help you get started on your next step.
- Listening at scale
- Scanning your environment
- Choosing the right type of engagement
- Cultivating followers