Matt Norman thinks Twitter in the global workplace can be a good thing.
Norman, the president of consulting firm Dale Carnegie Training in the northern Midwest, believes technology, especially social media, can be used to build strong connections and inspire collaboration across teams. Technology also can be used to improve business results and even gain market share. He has trained employees at companies including Hormel, General Mills and Pentair to do just that.
Dale Carnegie Training, based on 20th-century business guru Dale Carnegie's communication philosophies, helps people hone their communication skills in both business and everyday life.
Norman, inspired by Carnegie's teachings and the newly released book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age," an adaptation of Carnegie's teachings, says social media can, and should, be integrated into business strategies.
QHow did you become a part of Dale Carnegie Training?
AWhen I was at Thomson Reuters I was supposed to do a presentation, and I got so nervous I had to step out of the room. I felt so uncomfortable and anxious in group settings. I decided to overcome this anxiety by taking a Dale Carnegie course, which helped rebuild my confidence and improve my people skills. The course inspired me so much I ended up joining the company full time.
QIn what ways is social media changing how companies communicate?
AIn a 140-character world, managers have to figure out how to repackage information so it's easier to digest. Twitter is a metaphor for how we need to communicate in this age. If we talk like we Tweet we will be better communicators, because we have to focus our attention on the main idea.
Being brief is a positive byproduct of technology ... it teaches us to be more efficient communicators. If people just need to know what time it is, tell them the time, not how to build a clock.
QHow are social media solving communications problems?
ATake virtual teams, for example. It's common now for people to be on the same team, but in completely different countries. To help solve this problem I've trained companies by using Adobe Connect Pro, which is basically Skype on steroids. With Connect Pro, I helped one of our Eagan-based clients train teams in Michigan, Minnesota, London and Mumbai. Social media allows leaders to better manage and connect with their teams.
QWhy are many companies shifting from a competitive culture to a more collaborative one?
AIn the past, collaboration wasn't a highly valued trait in senior executives. Corporate boards valued a more competitive person. This is changing. A 2010 survey from McKinsey & Co. showed that companies that used multi-channels of communication could actually achieve higher margins and greater market share.
To be successful, you can't just be competitive. You have to be able to connect with others. Tools like social media can help companies become more collaborative, which breaks down silos and builds relationships.
QWhat do you do if you encounter a company that is slow to adapt to new technology, or doesn't want to adapt?
ASome companies are slow to adapt on purpose, some simply because they want to be counter-cultural.
People who have been overwhelmed with technology are usually the ones who resist it and don't want to figure it out because there's so much to work with. But in general, there's a very broad-based support for leveraging technology as strategy, because it's become a necessity, especially with such a diverse distribution of employees and customers.
Dale Carnegie motivates companies to make that transition to new technology because, if they don't, they can get left behind. We do this by integrating technology into their work systems so it becomes a natural way of how they do things.
QWhat do you mean when you say technology creates diversity of thought?
AThere are so many different ways you can communicate with people, and they with you. Social media lets you express yourself in unique ways, and it can be better than your traditional e-mail or speech. For example, you can humanize complex messages by incorporating YouTube videos or Twitter. This is a more visual, personable way to communicate, which makes people more engaged in the information. It also helps you understand different communication styles.
QHow is technology humanizing communications?
AThe stereotype is that technology is impersonal, and there's some truth to that. We're constantly bombarded with information, so we've learned how to tune a lot of it out.
But, if businesses are disciplined with how they use technology and if they see it as a tool for collaboration, it can help build connections and bring people together.
Sunny Thao is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.