How Managers build an Authentic Team and Ecosystem with Social

Building an authentic team and ecosystem, who collaborate as a living community and are connected by social media, is the new work for the emerging social manager. But how many of our managers are equipped to take this journey to new ways of working through collaborative networks of aligned talents?

The UK’s Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is producing some of the best and most relevant research for today’s leaders on the future of work and what it will take for managers to succeed in this new age. Whilst CMI’s research is focused on the UK, much of their findings mirror my own experience of the changing nature of work here in Australia as we move beyond the industrial organisation model of working to new ways of delivering outcomes through dynamic networks of skills and learning empowered by social technologies.

The collaborative social organisation

Four key themes are emerging around what we might call the rising social, collaborative organisation which is geared for innovation, agility and growth - not just survival or continuous improvement. These themes from the CMI research are:

  1. Building Partnerships & Collaborative Networking
  2. Creating Agile Teams
  3. Social Technologies
  4. Complexity.

I expand on these below.

Building partnerships & collaborative networking

This requires new mindsets around what Don Tapscott, in his brilliant book MacroWikinomics, calls the Principles of the Networked Age which include openness, sharing of IP and resources with others and interdependence between teams, competing enterprises and whole of sector; nationally and globally. The need for this mindset is being accelerated by the expectations of digital natives, our future leaders, who expect us to open up our institutions. The massive benefits of an open market and social media becoming social production are being missed by those who do not open their mindsets.

Resource: Don Tapscott: Four principles for the open world TED Video 28 June 2012, 18 mins

Creating agile teams

This requires throwing away our redundant, narrow and rigid job descriptions and instead re-aligning around the signature strengths of our people. The Gallup Group identify that only 13% of the world’s workforce gets to work to their strengths for most of the time and these people are the Contributors, who work for social managers who focus on people, not structure. 

Resource: State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide 

Social technologies

Many managers are struggling to embrace the social media revolution because they have been taught the mindset of control, not authentic collaboration.

The industrial world sees people as either workers or consumers but, as Clay Shirky points out, the emerging social manager understands that social media taps into the human need not only to consume but also to make and share. The new social organisation creates online, networked communities where both staff members and customers collaborate to create new products and services as partners.

Social technologies drop the cost of collaboration and interaction and changes the economics of many productive activities.

Don Tapscott calls this the new age of social production.

Resource: Clay Shirky on TED – How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World Video 13:39


The world is becoming more complex and integrated and changing at a rate that David Cooperrider calls ‘white knuckled change’. 

Today’s business changes are systemic, complex and global and require what is now being called Macro Leadership, rather than micro management. In the latter, managers apply known technical knowledge to emerging challenges but this is not cutting it when new knowledge is required which is outside what is known by managers and their experts.

The only way to deal with complexity is to bring the ‘whole ecosystem’ into the room and tap into the collective wisdom that comes from everyone being exposed and seeing the whole and co-creating a better future by building on the whole, not the part. There are too many parts now for managers to control individually, whereas the social manager brings the whole together to work, not on problems but on strengths aligned to opportunity.

Here the ‘room’ is not only a physical coming together but an ongoing real time conversation through online social platforms as community. The new power of the commons is an age of sharing and individual empowerment.

Resource: Appreciative Inquiry A Conversation with David Cooperrider

Getting fit for the future of work

Ann Francke, CMI Chief Executive, comments "Business optimism is on the up but this is a reminder that no employer can afford to neglect their managers’ skills if they’re serious about success. Management shortcomings are already part of the reason why the UK lags behind competitors like the US and Germany, and we could fall further behind if we don’t prepare now for the future. While managers can see that changes in the business environment will transform how they work, many admit to lacking the skills needed to make the most of the opportunities ahead. Employers need to prioritise these critical management skills to future-proof their business".

To make 2014 the year managers get fit for the future of work, CMI recommends using four strategies:

  1. Stop controlling and start coaching. It’s better for growth, job satisfaction and employee wellbeing. Research shows growing organisations are those with empowering, trusting management styles whereas ‘command and control’ styles are linked with decline. Managers who make a pledge to coach their staff to find their own strengths will have happy, engaged, highly performing teams.
  2. Bring your personal ethics to work. Companies where the organisation’s values are linked to its people’s values fare better. Be inclusive and embrace diversity to bring together talented individuals across your business. If you are open and lead by example, your organisation will benefit from a transparent workplace culture where everyone knows what’s expected of them and they work hard to make a valuable contribution.
  3. Get networked. Stop competing and start collaborating, inside and outside of your business. It will help build lucrative partnerships and facilitate innovation. The most successful managers are continuously learning from everything going on around them and everyone they interact with.
  4. Think agile. The more quickly and easily you can adapt to change and creatively combine people, processes and technology, the more successful you’ll be. Agile managers thrive on being flexible, dynamic and innovative and have a knack for building fluid teams as well as seamlessly adjusting to different environments and cultures.

You can see that many of the above exercises to get fit for the future of work involve having experience with social technologies and social networking. It's hard to coach if you have no experience of the game. Social media is experiential and getting started is a good start for managers at all levels.

About Jeremy

Jeremy Scrivens is a Guest Blogger, Work Futurist, and Principal of The Emotional Economy At Work whose work involves mentoring business leaders to engage more of their people emotionally on a shared journey of contribution, resulting in sustainable profits, achievement of vision, business goals and happy staff because they are engaged from who they are to be all they could be. Contact Jeremy @jeremyscrivens Linkedin: /jeremyscrivens

Hear Jeremy speak on this topic at our Business Leaders Luncheon February 27th, in Melbourne. Free, by invitation only.

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