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 and possibly irresponsible. During what to date has been my most enjoyable tour of duty (Executive Officer), 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 learned much more from them than they did from me during those walkabouts. 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 (just so happens that those were our stated command values). Since defaulting to a decision to accept Facebook “Friendship Requests” from colleagues past and present, my News Feed has become the watch floor I enjoyed so much. 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.

In the world of leadership, many of us believe that emotional intelligence is far more important than intellectual intelligence.  The core of emotional intelligence is personal competence (managing ourselves) and social competence (managing relationships). I submit that when used properly, social media is the premier relationship management tool today and leaders who are not using it to connect with colleagues are doing themselves and the team a disservice. I hear excuses each day about people who believe spending time on social media after a day at work is time wasted. Properly done, I believe it’s time well wasted in an effort to 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 and the more impactful our contributions.

  • What methods do you use to connect with teammates?
  • What does your social media footprint look like?
  • How are you responsibly wasting time?