Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Anti- Authoritarian Management Paradox

What happens when someone who notoriously questions The Man finds themselves becoming The Man...or Woman? Yours Truly is a very important Director of a quickly growing social media department. Yep. It says so on my cards. That's why I command respect. Or do I?

Not long ago my department consisted of just me. Then came the first new hire. As with all new jobs, there is a learning curve. So, when this new hire was faced with a question she couldn't answer she knew exactly where to turn. She looked over at me sitting in my powerful desk where I sat in benevolence, ready to offer my sage wisdom. She asked the caller to please hold while she consulted her..."other person."

Not co-worker. Not colleague. Definitely not manager, much less "My Director." Hey, I've got over 10 years experience with nationally regarded agencies under my belt and I have just doubled my department, so clearly I should expect this recent college graduate to cow-tow to me, the Big Boss Lady, right? Yeah, not so much.

The hierarchy of titles and traditional flow chart management systems doesn't necessarily translate to social media. That is not to say that there isn't process and accountability, but it's a new industry and new rules apply. Social media is in its infancy and nobody has the playbook for success. Even the most "seasoned" social media professionals have only been using Facebook and Twitter for a few years. And success in is not about a two year history of crafting 140 characters or gaining 400 Fans in 10 days. There are bots for that.

Instead of focusing on titles, focus on talent. I came across My Other Person forwarded me a recent post defining the 9 types of of "Social Media Expert." The post identifies several skill sets and competencies that are needed in social media, and also notes:

"You might be tempted to read into this post that there are certain types of experts that are more valid than any others, but except for the first type I strongly believe that each has an important role to play as organizations and businesses of all sizes get smarter about how and when to use social media. "

Wait a minute, this guy is claiming that updating a Facebook status is equally as valid as strategic development? C'mon, maintaining a reputation across the myriad of social networks is tedious work. Much better suited for a lower level employee. It's easy to craft 140 characters. So easy, in fact, that you could relegate it to an intern from your local high school. Or, why not create a bot that could potentially alienate your most loyal customer with 140 characters of offensive or superficial content that can go public with the push of a button.

I bet there is a bot that would call me boss. Repeatedly. Every time I used a specifically calculated keyword it would replicate an auto-generated message of deference to my superiority. Tempting. But, instead, I will continue to seek out smart, talented and opinionated people who will better my department. People who know that while curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought her back. People who get a little bit ga ga about Google. And people who question everything. Especially The Man. Even if that man is me.

Dear Future Employees,
Do not mistake this as a hippie dippy commune BS management style. Yours Truly is a hard ass with extremely high expectations. And so is my Other Person.