We are most successful, we get the best results when we align our personal values with the value we provide. The more our behavior models what we believe in, the more we can close the gap on our promises, the better promises we can make because of trust and credibility. It sounds simple, but it gets complicated in a hurry when we involve social networks.
Take for example social networks. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter have built very powerful platforms for marketing, business transactions, media but also for everyday people who just want to stay in touch with a grand-daughter, see what their friends are talking about, receive notifications from colleagues and peers in passion work.
Social networks are busy building their platforms and value, which they then in turn resell to brands and individuals who want more advanced functions. The people who run them are running a business, they have created their internal credos—Facebook has one, Twitter has one, and so does LinkedIn, which is now part of Microsoft. Based on these credos and the product of design choices, the output encourages a certain kind of external culture (the image below made the rounds.)
There are also implicit and explicit rules—social networks have Terms of Service and Privacy statements. These are examples of explicit rules. What people find acceptable on those networks and what they don't is an example of implicit rule. We call the first legal statements and we agree to them when we sign up and start following, liking, and linking to people.
We call the second mind reading.
Because social networks are vast, they go beyond the 150 social ties where we would know everyone, and culture at this scale is very hard to do. So we bring more of our personal culture into it. If we buy into the idea that online tools help us amplify our reach—make us go viral—then we would probably also see the role amplification plays on behavior.
Behavior comes from the individual.
So we have no idea whatsoever why someone invites us to link on LinkedIn using the one click button with placeholder text “I'd like to connect.” Hence the mind reading part. There are millions of words online, many of them on LinkedIn dedicated to helping people learn how to write a good invitation to connect.
Given the context, it goes to show that:
a./ free content is bad business—we just don't value generous sources of good tips enough to share and give back, never mind implement right! So we get more of the sources with a specific agenda (which may not be ours)
b./ tools make it easy, but not intuitive—many people who are not tech savvy, but in a hurry, think there'll be an opportunity to insert a personalized message on LinkedIn, to stay with the same example. There is, but only in certain settings (good for LinkedIn, bad for us)
c./ screens trick us into a false sense of confidence—we would make better choices if we truly felt that each single message mattered and would come back to haunt us (it does, but we just don't know when)
d./ individual accountability has fallen through the cracks—it may be because one or a combination of the above. Or maybe, just maybe, we feel special, we make our own rules
Back to the example of “I'd like to connect” invitations.
Maybe you do this as well. When I receive those invitations I reply “Thank you for reaching out, how can I help?” I'm curious, and like to approach conversations with an open mind. I won't attempt to mind-read, hold off on making assumptions, and just ask. Sometimes I get a direct pitch—but more often than not, I am surprised by the genuine interest (i.e. a tool problem, or “b.”)
This approach comes from my values (hence the manifesto on meaningful actions above.) In short, being a conversation agent to me means to value energy and time—mine and that of others—and to believe in generosity and openness—within boundaries. If I can help, I will.
Some people call it "karma," other think of it as the Golden Rule.
But sometimes the timing is wrong.
Aligning value with values matters
When it matters the most to align value with values—in situations when we're introducing ourselves for the first time, maybe we want to share something important—we short ourselves. We have this fear of missing out, magnified by social media and the pressure to fit in with everyone else, and we miss fitting in with our self.
Each one of those individuals we follow, like, invite to link has values and value they bring to the conversation in the form of experience, contacts, being a good person (highest compliment.) In some cases we know these people in real life, in others we read and appreciate their work, in yet others, they are friends of friends and we'd like to link directly.
We are not one and the same with the social platform.
When we engage actively on social platforms, we're playing in their home. In many cases, we are using the service for free, on top of having signed away many rights, including to our work, to them. We use the forms and tools they provide to add people easily, and we start to build our “presence” —followers, links, likes, and so on.
Then something interesting happens. We confuse the platform with the people in it, and we misbehave. That is we behave in a manner that is (likely) inconsistent with our values; or worse, we show our true colors because we think we can hide behind the platform (i.e. individual accountability, “d.”)
The truth is, we can't hide and we don't. The very same people who send the easy invites because they want something are quick to pull the trigger when other people reach out to them. This is not theory, I test behavioral patterns all the time. And take action. When values are not aligned, and I say that in my social network participation policy, there can be no value both ways.
But how do we know beyond mind reading? The pain is real. LinkedIn and other platforms are investing real money in addressing it. And we are building the platform for them. They get a return even when all we get is a number of links.
There is one tool, one piece of software that comes installed with us at birth—language and cognition, the ability to communicate and think (not necessarily in that order.) Some of us are benefiting from this amazing feature to get things done and live meaningful lives in more than one language and culture. As we develop our conversation skills, we learn to make more things “right for us,” we can ask, offer, share, elaborate with others, think through issues, and the best of all, listen.
Conversation helps us to attract like minds (and values). We can write an email that will attract only the people we would want to work with, for example. Which is super useful, because we have limited time and do want to be more effective, make an impact on the things that matter to us.
It is so exciting when we experience it in first person that we can hardly believe it works. We can use words that work, so to speak (pun intended.) And yes, there is such a thing as “digital body language,” when we learn to be in conversation with text and inflection and tone, and visuals. This is one of the many things I plan to bring into the program.
Because we are bad mind readers, but awesome learners and doers when we put our selves in it.
Reputation is stronger than good intentions, confidence is better than just a social platform, and forward movement is the product of curiosity and imagination. We are more creative when we're engaged, and we're more engaged when we have purpose.
Developing a deeper sense of purpose comes at a price—doing the work.