Category Archives: Leaders who blog

Another hospital CEO blogger: Dr. David Abelson

A short StarTribune article on Saturday alerted me to the blog of Dr. David Abelson, CEO of Park Nicollet Health Services. From the Feb. 22 press release:

DrAbelsonConnectsFor the past three years, the potential readership for Park Nicollet CEO David Abelson’s blog was 8,000 Park Nicollet team members. Now, however, his potential audience is limitless. Abelson’s CEO Blog is now available worldwide on the internet as DrAbelsonConnects.

“My blog began as a direct communication to our team members and existed only inside our computer servers here at Park Nicollet,” he recalls. “It didn’t take long for people to start sharing the blog with friends and family and soon the entries were circulating far beyond our system.  Everyone is affected by health care on a personal level, and, whether they’re aware of it or not, on a political and policy level. The universality of these issues makes the blog relevant far beyond the walls of Park Nicollet.”

I’m encouraged by what I see so far, as most of his blog posts include a story. He appears to be as a good a blogger as Paul Levy, former President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Levy has continued to blog since his departure but he now calls it Not Running a Hospital.

You can also follow Dr. Abelson on Twitter.

Fear and Loathing in the Executive Suite: Why Leaders Avoid Blogging and Other Social Media

PDF version of this blog postMost every leader is feeling the effects of the waves of social media technologies that are increasingly washing up on the shores of their organizations. It’s primarily been blogs since 2005 but now it’s also Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Leaders cannot help but notice the demands for more organizational transparency, authenticity, responsiveness, and engagement from employees, customers, constituents, members, citizens, and the media–all of whom are increasingly adept at using social media technologies.

If you’ve been reluctant to use social media technologies yourself in your role as a leader, you’re not alone.

ceobloggingstage_tnThe problem was noted as early as 2006 when the New York Times published an article titled All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.’s Use It? Author Randall Stross cited only one active CEO blogger among the Fortune 500.

Fast forward to January, 2009 when social media consultant Steve Borsch authored a blog post titled Why Executives Don’t “Get” Social Media. When he asked one executive, the response was, “Because I’m getting sh*t done and I can’t invest my attention or energy there.”

GeorgeColonyIn the spring of 2010, Forrester CEO George Colony published a series of blog posts titled The Social CEO. In Part 1: Most CEOs Are Not Social he noted that not only were few CEOs using social media, but that even CEOs of the big social media companies weren’t exactly active users.

Colony and others have some theories about why so few executives use social media technologies such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube in their roles as leaders. In Part 2 of his series titled CEOs Aren’t Social For Good Reasons, Colony listed these factors:

  • Age
  • Risk and regulatory constraints
  • Time
  • The social heavy model breeds blowhards

In August, 2010, the principals of corporate social media consulting firm DemingHill published a paper titled Why Executives HATE Social Media citing that executives:

  • are “non-narcissistic in a YouTube world”
  • are inherently introverts and gravitate towards solitude versus socializing
  • have difficulty with the lack of control required for social media to be fully unleashed
  • fear and feel vulnerable around the technology in the social arena, even as they depend on it in other areas
  • wonder if social media is yet another technology whose promises will go unfilled

In my work as a leadership blogging coach the past five years, I’ve heard all these reasons and a few others. In this blog post, I address them and suggest some alternative ways to think about them. Continue reading Fear and Loathing in the Executive Suite: Why Leaders Avoid Blogging and Other Social Media

City Manager Dave Ruller of Kent, Ohio: using a blog to teach

Kent Ohio City Manager Dave RullerDave Ruller is City Manager of Kent, Ohio and maintains a blog at Kent360.

Last week he published a blog post titled Managing snow and it caught my eye because it’s a good example of What to Blog for a local government leader: Use your blog to teach about a service, program, or department.

After what turned out to be a terrific Fall, I guess Winter had to eventually arrive, and in case you hadn’t noticed — it’s here.  The official start of Winter is still a couple of weeks off but that doesn’t seem all that relevant at the moment with snow piling up outside my window as I type this post.  We’ve got ourselves a good old fashioned snowfall with big lake effect flakes piling up and creating havoc with our streets. 

He then goes into great detail about the city’s snow-related policies, since there were some significant changes in the past year. Most important, he uses an informal conversational tone in his writing that makes it a much more interesting read for a local citizen.

We do our best to break a truck off the primaries to punch a hole through the middle of the neighborhood streets (often just a single lane) but until the weather breaks and gives us a chance to catch up, the neighborhoods will be challenging to get through. 

I love that line: "break a truck off the primaries to punch a hole…" You just know that wasn’t written by a communications staffer. A voice of authenticity indeed.

Here’s my little treatise on why using a blog in this way is important for a local government leader:

Continue reading City Manager Dave Ruller of Kent, Ohio: using a blog to teach

Leadership blogging: Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn’s Asian travelogue of strategic, short storytelling

Brian DunnBrian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy, has blog called The D. Brief which, he says, “is where I share news and ideas and get your feedback about them.” You can also follow Dunn on Twitter

The past two weeks he’s used his blog to chronicle a trip to Asia in a series of blog posts he called Chasing the Sun (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV). I like this series of posts because he tells little stories that convey his values, rather than the typical “I went here, we went there” travelogue I see so often.

I’m always hammering away with my belief that leadership blogging is the art of strategic, near real-time, short storytelling. Dunn’s travelogue blog posts are all near real-time (eg, “I left for this year’s trip on Sunday morning”), they’re all strategic, and each includes a short little story. To wit:

Blog post: Chasing the Sun, Part I

Short story:

During the flight to Seoul, Barry Judge (Best Buy’s Chief Marketing Officer) and I had a chance to review our Holiday TV spots… we tried to get our various devices on various networks. It took time (and I’m sure we looked random and quite humorous trying all sorts of connections and attempts)…

Strategic value conveyed directly:

But our role is more than just contributing to the products, we as a company have to determine the best drones for sale that aren’t in the electronics manufacturing business what technology can do for them. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s not the “stuff” – it’s what that “stuff” does for people and how it can keep them connected to what matters most that’s important.

Blog post: Chasing the Sun, Part II

Short story:

I see people in the Connected World everywhere I go, but I’m always extra curious about how it works in airports (where everyone is on-the-go and clearly trying to keep in touch). The Inchon airport was no exception…

Strategic value conveyed directly:

Best Buy and our employees are here to inspire people to what is possible today. Think about your own digital camera. When did you get it? If it’s more than a few years old, the difference in how it looks, performs and shares is staggering compared to what’s available now. And you can probably connect, share and use that camera in ways you didn’t even imagine when you bought it.

Blog post: Chasing the Sun, Part III

Short story:

After the meeting, we had to hustle to catch a bullet train to Tokyo. It’s a 2 and a half hour trip, even with the Bullet train hitting top speeds of 160 mph…

Strategic value conveyed directly:

I’m pleased these innovations are increasingly driven by the voice of the customer, and I can tell you everyone in this industry is driven to bring ever-expanding technological capability to consumers. Capability to enable connection to the things people care about, so they can build their own, personal Connected World.

Blog post: Chasing the Sun, Part IV

Short story:

We left early because (as I mentioned in my last post) Typhoon Chabba will hit land tomorrow and we wanted to get out before it hit.

Strategic value conveyed directly:

Combined with these great engineering companies, Best Buy has the opportunity of a lifetime to connect the people who want to:

  • Connect with the information they crave.
  • Connect with the entertainment they desire.
  • Connect with the people they love.

Finally, during one of the meetings this week one of the people I was meeting with told me his Grandfather’s favorite expression was “Empty Hands” and that he thought this philosophy was important in his leadership. Because I’m a Connected World kind of guy, I Googled the phrase and found it was from a story about Alexander the Great. The gist of the story is that we should always remain humble because into this life we are born with empty hands and at the end we leave this life with empty hands…. If you are interested for the whole story, click here.

I thought it interesting that Gerald Wilkie, General Manager of the Best Buy store in Burlington, NC, attached this comment to Dunn’s Part III blog post:


I love the slide first seo and the opportunities our senior leadership gives us to hear not just direction, but insights as well. Thanks for everything you do and how you lead! Keep on doing what you do!

Gerald Wilkie
GM #648

Dan Carlson, now blogging as an ordained minister

I’ve been working with Dan Carlson on the blog site for his venture, Public Safety Ministries: Promoting Spiritual Fitness in the Public Safety Professions, since he departed as Eden Prairie Police Chief  back in January of 2007.

Dan Carlson, Griff Wigley, at Maynard's in Excelsior Dan Carlson at Ginko Coffeehouse PSMI
Dan was ordained an ELCA minister back in August and a month ago, asked me to help him revamp his site and coach him on more advanced WordPress skills.  We met about a month ago for a planning lunch at Maynard’s in Excelsior and again today at Ginkgo Coffeehouse in St. Paul for a coaching session.

Dan’s work involves collaboration with the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association, Minnesota National Guard “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon”, the Minnesota Emergency Services Chaplain Association, and the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association, among others.

Eden Prairie City Manager Scott Neal, leadership blogger, soon taking the reins at Edina

A month ago, Eden Prairie MN City Manager Scott Neal announced on his blog that he’d accepted a new job as City Manager for the City of Edina, MN.  See this recent feature in the Star Tribune newspaper profiling his career: Edina’s new city manager has lifelong interest in governance.

Griff Wigley and Scott Neal

Scott and I had breakfast last week at Turtle Bread in south Minneapolis near his home.

I got to know Scott when he became Northfield’s city administrator in 1996. Only 100 days on the job, he became our first guest in an online web forum that I moderated titled State of the City (transcript). When he departed Northfield for the city manager job Eden Prairie in late 2002, he became my second leadership blogging client (see this blog post of mine dated March 31, 2003).

UK government delegation visits Northfield, 2004Scott Neal gives keys to Kingston Scott Neal gets keys from Kingston
(Left photo): When a delegation from the UK government visited Northfield during the summer of 2004 to learn about the civic leadership blogging in Northfield and Eden Prairie, it turned into a trip to the UK in Feb. 2005 for both us to teach local leaders there about leadership blogging (see the album of 240 photos).

(Center and right photos): Scott gave ceremonial keys to the city to the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames when we visited the city, and Kingston Councilor Mary Reid (recently retired) did likewise when she and others from the UK visited MN for the International Symposium on Local E-Democracy and spent a day in Northfield (see my blog post with photos here) to discuss leadership blogging at the local government level. (See Mary Reid’s blog post on our visit here.)

Scott’s blogging taught me more about the power of a leadership blog than I taught him. I remember the most startling revelation for me was the extent to which he used his blog to communicate indirectly to the employees of the City of Eden Prairie. ‘Indirectly’ because the audience for his blog was primarily local citizens but his staff followed his blog closely.

Affirming people is one of the key ways to use a leadership blog and Scott consistently did this in his 7+ years of blogging as Eden Prairie City Manager. See this recent blog post where he singles out three employees for detailed recognition.

Will Scott be blogging in his new job?  Stay tuned.

Rick Cole, Ventura CA City Manager: embodying the values of empathy and dialogue in a blog post

Rick Cole Back in August, I noted in a blog post that Ventura City Manager Rick Cole had an interesting blog post titled The New Normal in which he attempted to reframe some common adversarial extremes (e.g., sustainable economic development vs. public employee pension reform.)

A week ago, I tweeted how he and Ventura Mayor Bill Fulton had each blogged (Cole here, Fulton here) about the City’s new downtown parking management program.  Since it’s a controversial change, both leaders were making substantive efforts in their blog posts to explain in-depth the rationale to their citizen readers. Cole ended his post with another reframing:

What both proponents and skeptics of parking management share is a fierce commitment to Downtown. Like crowded parking, that’s a good problem to have.

Last Friday, Cole published a new post titled Public pay disconnect and the magic of dialogue in which he painstakingly explains the how the new economic realities look from different points of view: citizens, business owners, and public employees. He’s attempting to diffuse the tensions and wonders what could be done to increase mutual understanding:

What’s really missing is that neither audience wants to watch the other movie — or better yet, sit down face to face and listen to the cry from the heart of the other view. I know that if the people we serve and the people who serve them could sit in a neutral living room and really listen to each other, the magic of dialogue would blend these clashing realities. Folks on both sides of the divide would have much greater understanding of the shared anxiety and frustrations brought on by these troubled times.

Maybe it’s time to set up some real life discussions in real life living rooms. Time, perhaps for the people who maintain our parks, patrol our streets and repair our water pipes to sit down and listen to the folks who pay the bills for all that — and for the citizens to hear about the tough challenges facing those trying to do an excellent job with a whole lot less money and help to work with. Any volunteers?

His latest post is a textbook example of how a leader’s values can be embodied in a blog post, in this case, the importance of empathy and dialogue, especially in polarized conflicts.

I wrote to Cole last week to let him know that I was following his blog and planned to cite some of his posts in my leadership blog coaching and teaching. He replied:

In approaching the blog, I mix in some timely news, but my main purpose is to seek to provide context — “the news behind the news.”  I usually try to acknowledge that there are (at least) two sides and seek to “reframe” in your phrase or reconcile the polarization that has become so endemic.

He then pointed me to an article he’d written for the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) October 2009 issue of Public Management titled Social media: What does it mean for public managers?

Public Management, October 2009The textbook model puts the elected governing board squarely between us and the public. Elected officials interpret the will of the people. They’re accountable to the public. We report to those who have been elected. But in the modern world, professional staff cannot hide behind that insulation. We cling to the old paradigm because we lack a better one.

That’s where the real significance of social media comes into focus. These aren’t just toys, gizmos, or youthful fads. Social media are powerful global communication tools we can deploy to help rejuvenate civic engagement.

Now if I could only get my hometown city hall to embrace that belief.

Tweeting some posts of leaders who blog: learning by example

I’m subscribed to the blogs of 18+ leaders (and adding more as I discover them).

Today, I tweeted five of their recent posts, ones that I think are instructive for those who are interested in the art of leadership blogging.

Twitter - leadership bloggers Aug 18 2010These weren’t retweets of their blog headlines. I tried to cram in a hint about why I judged each post to be instructive.

I’m experimenting with how to best format these tweets.  By the time I did the 4th one, it occurred to me to include:

  • The #Leadership hashtag at the beginning with the phrase ‘blog post’
  • Their name/Twitter username and their title/position/organization
  • The topic
  • My take on why it’s a good example of leadership blogging
  • A short URL that links to the blog post

Here are my tweets of today’s five leadership blog posts worth noting:

I’m not sure yet how often I’ll A) do this kind of tweeting; B) continue to blog the tweets.

Suggestions/feedback appreciated.

Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, by Charlene Li

open-leadership-smallI’ve started reading the book Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, by Charlene Li.

Charlene Li

I’m mainly interested to see how detailed she gets on the actual use of social media tools by individual leaders vs. the overall use of social media by an organization.

The title of the book seems to infer the former but I’m guessing that most of the content will focus on the latter. I’m following her on Twitter and keeping track of her blog.

I was pleased to see that one of the first leaders she discusses (p. 26 of the print edition) is Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. I blogged about Levy a year ago, as he maintains a leadership blog called Running a hospital where he regularly shares “thoughts about hospitals, medicine, and health care issues.” I follow Levy on Twitter.

Public leadership, transparency and the world of social media

levy-articlePaul Levy “They all get the idea that if we’re transparent about what we’re bad at as well as what we’re good at, we’ll get better.”  That’s a quote by Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, speaking about his staff. Levy maintains a leadership blog called Running a hospital where he regularly shares “thoughts about hospitals, medicine, and health care issues.” You can also follow Levy on Twitter.

I’ve been thinking about Northfield (my hometown) area public leadership, transparency, and social media tools this week for four reasons.

  1. Northfield City Adminstrator Joel Walinski has invited me to speak about civic engagement technologies for 10 minutes to the Northfield City Council next Monday at their work session.  See my previous blog posts on Locally Grown about civic engagement here, here, and here.
  2. Tonight I’m going to the Northfield School District’s Key Communicator Network meeting (I blogged about this on Locally Grown here). The District has received some criticism lately for its handling of the proposed calendar changes and the SNL cancellation.
  3. Tuesday, I blogged about a new book titled The School Administrator’s Guide to Blogging by Mark Stock.  
  4. Last Monday’s council meeting at which the lack of trust and respect were evidently issues. See the Northfield News article, City, townships don’t see eye-to-eye on annexation.

Lots can be learned by watching how Levy uses his blog and Twitter as a public leader. For example:

There’s a continuing stream of both good and bad news stories like these at all our Northfield area institutions that serve the public in some capacity: the city, the townships, the county, the schools, the colleges, the hospital.  And yet we rarely hear about them.  The ‘bad news’ stories too often never see the light of day. And the ‘good news’ stories are too often spun in such a way that they’re either not believable or they’re ignored. Not always, just too often IMHO.

The increasing pervasiveness of social media tools means, in part, that local leaders have less ability to keep a lid on issues of public concern. (Employee ‘leaks’ travel far and fast. Citizens with blogs pry more effectively.) So ratcheting up the transparency (along with judicious amounts of authenticity and engagement) is a smart strategy. The end result, as Levy says, is the institutions get better at what they do. And that’s what we, the public, want to see. And when we do, we’ll applaud it, thereby encouraging the virtuous cycle to continue and spread.