Like Christine Martell I've clearly let my magazine reading fall by the wayside more than I realized, because the article I'm about to reference was published in April 2007, which in Internet time might as well be April 1997. At any rate. . .
Last week I finally got to read Wired Magazine's The See Through CEO, which is a must-read for everyone. Some choice quotes:
Google is not a search engine. It's a reputation management system. . . Online your rep is quantifiable, findable and totally unavoidable.
A single Google search determines more about how you're perceived than a multi-million dollar ad campaign.
Being transparent, opening up, posting interesting materials frequently and often is the only way to amass positive links to yourself and thus to directly influence your Google reputation.
The reputation economy creates an incentive to be MORE open, not less. Since Internet commentary is inescapable, the only way to influence it is to be part of it.
The entire premise of the article is that 1) your reputation is made and broken by your Google search rank and results and 2) the only ways to positively influence your results are to use social media (like blogs) to be as transparent and authentic as you can be--radical transparency as the order of the day.
What does it meant to be radically transparent?
- Opening up the inner workings of your organization for other people to see. That means blogging about the goings on in your organization, allowing people to comment on what they've experienced, letting staff have a voice and putting leaders out in front, instead of behind the front-lines.
- Publicly acknowledging when you screw up--and having a sense of humor about it.
- Being willing to honestly share bad news without sugar-coating it or trying to spin it a certain way.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about online identity and it seems
to me that a big part of it has to be about transparency. Some people
think they can escape the need for transparency by escaping being
online, but which is worse--having someone see you and know that you
have some flaws or being invisible? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
I know that it's really hard to be this transparent. It's scary--what happens when they find out you've screwed up? Or if you show them that the process of doing what you do is really messy? But the thing is, someone will inevitably discover it anyway, so it's better for you to put the story out there first and to admit where you went wrong or that you aren't perfect than it is for you to pretend like everything is always great. Then you control the message. You control how the situation is perceived and handled.
One of the great advantages to this kind of transparency is that people like you more. They see you as human. They want to help, to provide you with their advice and good ideas and support. It's crowdsourcing at it's best. I think it's because we relate more to people who share their vulnerabilities, rather than to those who pretend they always have their act together.
I think we learn more from transparency, too. One of the things I find is that when I'm trying to hide things from other people, I'm often trying to hide them from myself, too. If I don't want others to know my process, then I'm also not thinking very much about it. A policy of transparency helps me become transparent to myself, too--I'm more willing to take a hard look at what I do and how I do it because I'm trying to make it comprehensible to others. In that process I help both myself and other people. It improves my learning.
So here's the question--do you and/or your organization have the courage to get naked? The rewards are rich, but it can also be a pretty painful process, especially when you first start to expose yourself.