I became a reluctant member of the FaceBook revolution in the early summer of 2008 with the sole intent of using it as a tool to plan our 20th High School Reunion. I had every intention of deleting my account as soon as the reunion was over and needless to say, I have yet to follow through. As my personal network of friends and family grew, invitations of "friendships" began to trickle in from my professional life. I had told the first dozen or so friend initiators that I was using FaceBook for my personal network and LinkedIn for my professional network and asked them to connect with me on LinkedIn. For me, it was akin to the Seinfeld episode when George Costanza didn't want the worlds of "Independent George" and "Relationship George" to collide for fear of one of his two personas disappearing.
After thoughtful reflection, I came to terms that I had but one personality and therefore had nothing about which to be concerned. I also know that as a champion of transparency and clarity at work, not embracing the power of social networking was hypocritical at best and possibly irresponsible. During what to date has been my most enjoyable tour of duty (Executive Officer at NSGA Naples), I made it a point to visit each work center every day. Not because it was an obligation, but because it was my favorite part of the day. Each afternoon, I made time to create a mutual exchange of ideas, concerns and mentorship and I acknowledge that I likely learned much more from them than they did from me. In the process, we built personal relationship and got to know each other as people. The net result was increased teamwork, communication, mission accomplishment and continual improvement (happened to be our command values and the ones I take with me to every job). Since accepting FaceBook "Friendship Requests" from colleagues past and present, senior and junior, my News Feed has become the watch floor I enjoyed in Naples. From the comfort of my family room, I know when a colleague has something to celebrate, needs a helping hand or just has a question/concern. By way of FaceBook, I have become ambiently aware of the lives of willing participants in my professional network, as we make ourselves accessible to each other. I am collaborating with Sailors far and wide and I even informally engage an Admiral or two who understand the power of and make time for social networking. For more on the subject of ambient awareness, here is a nice article from the NY Times
In the world of leadership, many people believe that emotional intelligence is far more important than intellectual intelligence (myself included, likely because I am never the smartest person in the room). For those interested in learning more about emotional intelligence, there are many books on the subject, but I recommend Primal Leadership. The core of emotional intelligence is personal competence (managing ourselves) and social competence (manage relationships). I submit that when used properly, FaceBook is the premier relationship management tool today and leaders who are not using it to "friend" colleagues are doing themselves and the team a disservice. I hear excuses each day about people who believe FaceBook, blogging and even doing personal e-mail after a day at work is time wasted. I say, all three (in addition to personal letters, but that is another subject) are time well wasted and clearly enhance both team productivity and mission accomplishment.
For my FaceBook friends in uniform, I appreciate and value the investment you make in relationship building as demonstrated by your active participation in social networks. You clearly understand a shared emotional connection is critical to developing a strong team. For those leaders who have yet to deliberately leverage social networking to enhance your emotional intelligence, I ask you to come "waste time" with the rest of us and become a part of the conversation. The more actively we share of ourselves, the greater our situational awareness becomes and the more efficient and effective our progress.