Tag Archives: Paul Levy

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

Looking back and looking ahead at executive blogging: the missing link is leadership

Debbie Weil, corporate social media consultant and author of the recently updated The Corporate Blogging Book (now on my Kindle), tweeted this on Monday:

9 years since my 1st article about blogging on Aug. 22, 2001: To Blog or Not to Blog http://bit.ly/cgL88M Yr thots on what has changed – ?

Weil was prescient with her 2001 ClickZ article To Blog or Not to Blog… That’s a Good Question. She not only saw blogs as potent corporate marketing tools but saw the possibility of them being used by executives:

TCBB_Kindle_FinalFrontSmall72RGBSo how does this translate to your email marketing program? If your objective is customer retention and you are sending an e-newsletter to your house list, you could easily include a link to your CEO’s blog — or a blog by another executive in your company who has a keen wit, writes with style, and has something to say.

In 2006, Weil wrote in her book:

Ideally, the blog attaches a voice to the company through the words and style of the executive writing it. A legitimate question to ask, however, is this: Is a CEO blog "the" voice of the company? What about employee blogs? Perhaps it’s better to say that a CEO blog can help tell the story of the company. The story you want customers and the media to listen to. It’s a subtle difference, but it touches on one of the most oft touted reasons for a large corporation to blog–giving the company a human voice.

Jennifer Van GroveYesterday, Jennifer Van Grove, Associate Editor at Mashable, published an article titled How CEOs Will Use Social Media in the Future.

Van Grove quotes from last May’s Mashable interview with Forrester CEO George Colony titled Should CEOs Be Fluent in Social Media? about how few top executives use social media, noting that "social media abstinence even appears to extend to CEOs of tech companies."

She brings in the age and attitude factor (which Colony raised as well):

When it comes to CEOs, there’s a vast disparity between the young ones heading up startups and the more seasoned CEOs running the world’s most powerful companies. That disparity is social media — the young are more versed than the old. The difference between the two groups can be attributed to different generations and different attitudes around content and information meant for the public and private domains.

But she fails to mention that in that interview, as well as on Colony’s blog here, that he also notes that the CEO’s of social media companies are less than avid social media users:

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is active on his platform but doesn’t blog and infrequently visits Twitter. Evan Williams of Twitter Tweets several times per day and blogs, but hasn’t posted in 2010. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn uses Twitter several times per week and posts to the LinkedIn corporate blog. Mike Jones, co-CEO of MySpace is on Twitter several times per week and has a blog (though no posts this year).

I don’t know the ages of Weiner and Jones but Williams is 30-something and Zuckerberg is 20-something. These guys are not only extremely versed in social media but Williams (Blogger and Twitter) and Zuckerberg (Facebook) were among the creators of it.

So it doesn’t seem, as Van Grove asserts, that lack of executive blogging/social media use is solely because of "different generations and different attitudes around content and information."

I’d argue that it’s because executives of all generations have not considered how these technologies can be used as leadership tools. They only see them as marketing/public relations tools and once a company gets to a certain size, few CEO’s engage directly in PR on a daily basis.

Van Grove lauds the tweeting of Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman but he doesn’t appear to blog and I seriously doubt that he spends much time reading or personally responding to the tweets of his 38,000+ followers. As I blogged last month, the social networking part of social media is a problem for most executives.

Van Grove asks Edelman Digital’s Senior VP Steve Rubel what he thinks the use of social media will be by executives in the future:

While bullish on CEOs making organizational changes to better incorporate social media, Rubel does not see reason to predict a huge uptick in social media broadcasting from the CEOs themselves. “I see CEOs more laying the groundwork in vision and process than necessarily participating actively themselves,” asserts Rubel.

That’s because Rubel sees the world of social media through the lens of public relations. Others, like that geezer CEO Paul Levy, see it through the lens of leadership.

Debbie Weil saw that a blog could give an organization a human voice.  We now need executives to see that a blog can help them lead an organization with human voice.

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.

Social media in the executive suite: For influence, yes. For networking? Not so much

George Colony In his recent series of blog posts on The Social CEO (Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Q&A), Forrester CEO George Colony seems to assume that social media technologies can only be used as tools for social networking. 

If I’m reading him right, I think this is a mistake. If these technologies were seen more as tools for leveraging one’s influence, then many more leaders would like be willing to deploy them. 

In Part 2 of his series, Colony writes:

With the exception of a small minority of brilliant thinkers, smart social networkers, and publishing-oriented personalities, the social heavy model is a recipe for blowhardism. Think about it — how many people do you know with the erudition to make 30 worthwhile short statements per week, and one valuable long statement per week?

What Colony appears to miss is that a blog in the hands of a leader can be used for (among many purposes) strategic, near real-time, short storytelling. And Twitter can simply be used to help the individual blog posts ‘travel’ around to the leader’s intended audience. (Yes, I’m deliberately using the term ‘audience’ instead of the term ‘network.’ More on that below.)

Here’s a recent example by Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, in a post to his Running A Hospital blog titled Brava, Maureen!

Paul LevyI was out of town when President Obama made his recess appointment of Don Berwick to head CMS, and when the Institute for Healthcare Improvement announced that Maureen Bisognano would take over as CEO… Regular readers have often seen Maureen’s name on this blog. Her suggestions, for example, have made a huge difference in the way we have made our ICUs more patient- and family-centered.

Levy’s using his blog post (tweeted here) to provide recognition, telling a short and simple story about someone whose efforts or actions embody his values and furthers his strategy and goals as a leader. 

Another Levy example: a blog post about a single employee whose actions reflect one of the hospital’s strategic initiatives.

In the networked world we live in, this is a significant way to affirm someone. In the How to blog effectively section of my 2005 Leadership Blogging Guide (currently under revision as a White Paper), I write:

One of the most effective ways to acknowledge someone informally is to tell someone else a story about them. Why? Because it has a better chance to spread around.

A positive remark directly to the person being acknowledged generally goes no further because to most people it would feel like bragging to tell someone else. But if the positive remark is made to someone else, then the recipient is very likely to repeat the story to others.

A blog post recognizing an employee, a colleague, an organization or business in the community is an effective way to accomplish the informal form of recognition with the impact of the formal.

Others see the post and mention it to the affirmed person; some pass around its URL/PermaLink via email to others; others blog it and retweet it, thereby widening its impact; and the search engines store the content of it indefinitely, thereby providing opportunities for serendipitous acknowledgement far into the future.

I can imagine in the days and weeks subsequent to Levy’s blog post about Bisognano, she got a fair number of people saying to her "Hey, Maureen, I saw your photo in Paul Levy’s blog…"

While erudition might be important for anyone aspiring to be a columnist (which is how I’d describe Colony’s "one valuable long statement per week"), it’s not necessary to be an effective leadership blogger.  (Providing recognition is only one of the ways leaders can use a blog to leverage their influence. I’ve identified about a dozen.)

Colony rightfully challenges the notion that executives need to be heavily interactive with their use of social media technologies. In Pt 4, he writes about his ‘social light’ strategy:

Now admittedly, this is a far cry from the "Get into the conversation" conventional wisdom of the social heavies. And it contradicts the "Post incessantly to build followers" high-school behavior of many social players. But let’s face facts — most CEO don’t have the time or the capacity to play those games. They’ve got companies to run.

Which is why I think it’s often more helpful to emphasize the term ‘audience’ instead of the term ‘network’ if you’re a leader considering how you can personally deploy these social media technologies. (Some of the lack of adoption of these technologies by those in leadership positions is likely due to the nomenclature of social media. ‘Blogging,’ ‘tweeting,’ and ‘social networking’ can be off-putting terms to the uninitiated executive.) 

For the ‘audience’ vs. ‘networking’ approach, look no further than Seth Godin who has a huge following among the social media-oriented communcations/public relations/marketing crowd (and a favorite author of mine as well.)

  • SethGodinsBlog Godin does not allow comments on his blog. Readers can only like/recommend a post and/or retweet it. (He does allow pingbacks/trackbacks but in the age of Twitter, it gets little use.)
  • Godin only uses his public Twitter account and his Facebook page as a tools for automatically publishing the content of his blog posts. (His Facebook page followers engage with one another on his Wall, but he doesn’t participate.)

In other words, Godin’s using social networking technologies very effectively to reach his audience without any of the ‘social’ or the ‘networking.’ (He does publish his email address and is reputed to be very responsive.) Rather, Godin is big on using these tools to leverage his influence.

All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.’s Use It? 
Not enough has changed since 2006 when Randall Stross published a column in the New York Times titled All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.’s Use It? 

It need not be the case.

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.