Tuesday, 25 May 2010

What has happened to LinkedIN Etiquette?

I spend a lot of valuable time on LinkedIN – I was an early adopter and barely a day has gone past in the 4 or so years that I’ve had a user profile that I haven’t logged in for one reason or another.

I use LinkedIN for business – I am a hiring manager and comfortable networker, and the functionality helps to keep me up to date and in touch with an ever widening group of contacts. I am not an open networker, I have fought for the integrity of my network and it delivers value back to me daily. The role of LinkedIN allows me to ring fence my Facebook Account –as a rule, I do not accept ‘friend’ invites to my Facebook account from people who are in my business network – my Facebook network is less that 10% of the size of my LinkedIN network.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I respect the social territory-based networking that linkedIN enables – it’s empowering and enriching to watch the career progression of people you have worked with previously.

However, there is one facet of LinkedIN that never fails to irk me; the endorsement process. In fact, it’s not linkedIN itself that irks me, it’s peoples use/misuse of it. In the ‘early’ days, people were respectful and humble over their request for an endorsement – they either rang and asked personally, or made the time to find you face-to-face or at the very least scribe a personal request.

A personal reference is a very valuable commodity – it can influence your equity value to a new employer and make you stand above another candidate who has like-for-like on-paper experience. It can also influence a buyer’s decision to contact you for business services over another supplier who has less definitive recommendations – it’s a powerful reputation building device.

Of course, generally speaking, the more senior/influential the person who is recommending you, the greater the value of that endorsement.

So why is it that the last 5 endorsement requests that I have received, from otherwise talented relationship builders with whom I have worked directly (so know personally and have mentored), have been via the generic LinkedIN scripted request template, with no personalisation or effort?

I have found myself archiving these messages and feeling disappointment in the people who have sent them – I thought better of them. I may be being precious, but I happen to find it disrespectful – why should I spent 20 mins of my day crafting a personalised recommendation for someone who hasn’t even bothered to contact me personally?

I’m fascinated about the thought process from the requestor – what is the decision making path that has lead them to act like that – do they have a sense of entitlement that overrides their basic standards of etiquette? Are they embarrassed to ask, so take the pot-shot easy option to see if I have nothing better to do with my day than spend it helping them in their career for not even a courtesy phone call? Or is it that they took a cheap and nasty route and just spammed their whole network to see if someone, anyone, would oblige?

Anyone who has worked for, or with, me knows how I work – I always make myself available when people need help, support or advice, I consider it part of my responsibility as a senior bod and I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.

So am I a victim of my own accessibility – people now take it for granted and assume a right to have that helping hand without having to impart basic manners to the process? I’m not sure – I tweeted about this last night to see if I was the only person who got upset about receiving non-personalised endorsement requests, and I was glad to see that I’m not – for example, the reply from @martin_thomas: “No, they're a bit like spam. Non specific, non personal”.

What an uncomfortable concept – I’m being spammed by a small minority of my own carefully built network of people I have invested belief, mentoring and support in. That surely has to come full circle back to me somehow.

So I guess it’s shame on me....or is it only shame on me if I actually then still write the endorsement?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Commerciality in Creative Companies.

Commercial savvy is not just about T&C’s – it’s also about internal process/lack of. Creative and Tech environments are naturally populated by people who love to explore – be-it a new piece of software, a new tool, or a new creative concept. If work is not scoped and managed properly, this exploration can become an expensive indulgence that, whilst on one hand it can be captured and shared where knowledge-sharing policies are embraced and active, on the other hand it often it results in non-billable time generation – not great in an industry that’s revenues are largely generated via billable time. A balance has to be struck – the tech and creative teams thrive on exploration – that’s what drives innovation, great work and a collaborative working environment, so it’s important that this exploration is not suffocated. At the same time however, boundaries have to be set in order to also protect the margin on the project. This is most easily achieved by effective team leadership – instilling a sense of commercial responsibility into the stakeholders on a given project, but it also needs to be part of the culture of the department/Company – there are several positive ways of applying this, both in terms of relationship management and workflow process evolution. Importantly, the value of creative output must never be underestimated and must be effectively relayed to the Client – an increasing challenge in the current world of procurement disciplines!