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You can make connections more easily, be more accessible and listen better

The world is changing. The convergence of digital, social and mobile is enabling connections between customers, employees and partners in all sorts of new ways. Leaders must recognize that a more connected world is changing the way people engage. We are living in a continuous feedback environment. When news and views are spread around the world at this sort of speed, the only response is to build the organizational agility that enables you to respond at speed.

Being active on social media shows that as a leader you are listening. It is a great way to get news and views in a timely, cost-effective way. It enables leaders to flatten hierarchies and get things done. When leaders are online and listening, they are far better able to influence the conversations that matter. They can learn things first-hand about how customers perceive their services – things that they can take back into the organization and actually do something about.

Leaders today are rightly focused on getting better customer insights, and are constantly seeking a better understanding of individual customer needs in order to find ways to improve services and products. With so much at stake, why allow others to do all the listening for you? It’s only when you’re involved in the interactions yourself that you will be able to get a real sense of what needs to be done. After all, market research is simply data unless it provides insights. Insights enable action. By being actively engaged in the conversations that matter, you will be treated to a treasure chest of insights.

Some leaders I spoke with use these insights to drive action and awareness in their organizations. They become passionate about solving problems and inspiring employees to deliver solutions. They just love to go back to customers online and tell them about what they’ve done in response to what they’ve heard. When consumers or employees see that you are responding to what they say and acting on their suggestions, you inspire greater loyalty.

Ben Verwaayen, the immediate past Chief Executive of the telecommunications business Alcatel Lucent, told me of how he had encouraged 80,000 staff around the world to e-mail him directly when he first arrived to lead the organization. He said he received thousands of responses, and replied to every e-mail himself. As a result, he said, he knew more about what was going on in the organization than nearly all of his managers.

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