I am writing this on my 73rd day as part of the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command Team. Each day has been great in its own way. In addition to gaining a solid understanding of the mission, I continue to learn a great deal about my teammates and give them more opportunities to get to know me. 73 days is enough time to get acquainted with another human being provided you spend time together and personally engage, but when you are splitting yourself amongst more than 500 teammates it’s a little more challenging. Last week I had a passionate Sailor engage me in conversation in the passageway. That, in and of itself, is not unique as I make it a point to create these serendipitous engagements regularly. Though she had briefed me before, I had not formally met her. She proactively introduced herself and after exchanging formalities, she stated that she had heard that I was a big fan of social media and wanted to know if she could pursue the creation of a Twitter presence for the Command.

Seeing as since my arrival we created a Command Facebook page, the Operations Officer and I participated in a live streaming video interview now posted on Youtube, and my blog was read by many long before I joined the team, her statement was well informed. She knew she was correct in her statement and as a result likely guessed that I would find a way to say yes to her request. But I am certain that my response caught her a bit by surprise. I replied along the lines of…

I see great power in social media and I believe that every organization should have a deliberate presence there. But, it’s not about social media, it’s about connection, it’s about engagement, it’s about influence, and it’s about leadership. Social media is a powerful tool, but it is no more or less important than engagement in the physical world.

We started with Facebook because it was easy and the Command could see a visible commitment to public engagement. Then we moved to a live interview so the team could see someone besides me publicly engage and in a non-traditional way. After that, we created a Command Engagement Team to synchronize our physical engagement. Finally, we wrote a couple of articles for blogs and magazines, and there are plenty of other opportunities being created as I type.

When I was notified that I was joining this team, I was surprised to learn that there was no public facing web presence.  At the same time, I was not surprised to learn that very few people outside of the Command had any idea as to what the team did and very few military members on the team had any clue about the Command before they joined it. All will say that it was by design and most of them will tell you that some of our engagement activities we are doing make them a bit uncomfortable. To that I have told them that they need to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable; that engagement and connection is the new normal…

  • We will get to know each other as people and not just as co-workers.
  • We will engage outside the walls of the building where we spend our days (and nights).
  • We will partner with people who don’t yet know we even exist.
  • We will influence all who are paying any attention and many who are not.
  • We will educate the Navy by embracing our role as the Navy’s only defensive cyberspace operations command.
  • We will become a team that attracts talent and ensures people join our team knowing what we do, why we do it, and how we engage before they arrive.

So yes, I am a big fan of social media and I believe that every leader is more effective if they have a deliberate presence in cyberspace. But it’s not about social media, it’s about engagement and connection. If you choose not to engage and connect virtually, you need to find a way to compensate for that in the physical world. My experiences tell me that it can’t be one or the other, it’s got to be both if you are serious.

  • How do you connect with others?
  • What tools do you use to engage those on your team?
  • If you do not have a presence in cyberspace, how are you compensating?
  • How comfortable are you with being uncomfortable? How are you helping your team to be comfortably uncomfortable?