A recent article in The New York Times discusses CEOs’ aversion to blogging. Many people in companies today have blogs; some companies actively encourage them and have thousands of employees running them on their intranets. Handled properly, this can generally be an excellent means of networking and information sharing. So, why don’t CEOs do it?
The article suggests that such an activity is viewed as too high-risk. A CEO might make an off-hand remark that is interpreted as policy by employees or shareholders. Confidential information could accidentally be released and, even if it wasn’t, an unhelpful tea-leaves reading industry could spring up around the CEO’s postings. The probable need to involve attorneys and senior management to screen posts before they went online would likely obviate the value of the whole exercise.
But some do it anyway. The author explains how those CEOs who do blog shrug off the alleged risk and dare to do something as unheard-of as to communicate with their employees in an informal, relatively free-flowing format. He also celebrates the benefits of everyone having this as a vehicle to receive the CEO’s thinking on specific and general issues facing the company.
I suspect that many CEOs avoid blogging not because of risks like those delineated above; it may be at least as (maybe more) likely that they are concerned about the risk of exposing the fact that they have little to say of interest to their employees and junior managers. They are too far out of touch. They may not even get it. They think all they have to do is the “big arrow” stuff, and may not even realize that their real job is to make sure the little arrows line up right. This has been referred to as “execution,” and is too obvious, really, for many senior executives to see.
So, all the more reason to encourage them to blog. Let them think about what they should be saying to their own firm, and how to say it. Let them wonder what would be of interest to their employees, would help them understand the enterprise they are participating in, and enable them to work more effectively and with more productive satisfaction.
The author of this article offers a single throw-away line about how the blog also enables visitors to respond to the CEO and to communicate with each other. However, the emphasis is clearly less on that than on the blog as a means of publishing the musings of the great leader at the top: “It’s the thoughts of the blogger at the top that really count.”
Really? Actually, the blogger at the top should be principally concerned with making decisions, not dazzling a new audience with the brilliance of his or her thinking. Having a CEO who is willing to submit that thinking to the blog format is a strong plus, but the real value is not for the benighted masses who read it, but for the “blogger at the top” who has the opportunity to become truly enlightened by the comments generated on the blog in response to his or her postings.
But let’s stipulate, for the moment, to the author’s premise. If the thinking of the “blogger at the top” is so important, then let it at least be informed by the reactions, observations, and suggestions of those who work throughout the organization. Let that fact show in his or her postings as time goes on. Then, perhaps, the CEO will indeed be learning what communication really is, and how to use a blog to exercise it in the best interests of the firm.
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