My Blogs vs. Other Social Media post last week started as a response to yet another prediction of doom for blogs and, as I wrote it, turned into an introductory post for this series. This Darwinian thing is starting as a play on the "evolution" of ideas about blogging from a piece by Graeme Thickins back in April 2005 and the apparent "extinction" of the online magazine where he published it, Darwinmag.com (here's the Internet Archive version). I have no intention of contributing to the scientific literature on Darwinism, but the wordplay may be too tempting to resist, so we'll see where it goes ... and please let me know if it gets in the way of the discussion.
BTW, I gave a Graeme-2008 a heads-up that I'd be doing this series and now have had the pleasure of exchanging emails and talking with him on the phone. Here's an email snippet from what he had to say: "Wow, Tom, you're really diving back into the Internet Way Back Machine on this one! Seems an eternity, huh? But, okay, I hereby put myself up for even more abuse by the blogosphere... :-)"
I think we'll all enjoy Graeme's current perspectives on this discussion, since I've discovered he's got a rich background and long experience on the Web and he's indicated he'll be contributing to the comments along the way. We'll start that off by inserting the rest of the email mentioned above as the first comment (Graeme sent it after seeing and discussing a draft of this post).
So let's get started. Graeme-Apr05 wrote:
1. Business doesn’t do “passion.” That, according to the experts, is the prime requirement for launching and successfully building a voice with a blog. On the contrary, business is about logic, predictability, executing a strategy, even-temperedness, a steady hand – and, yes, earning a profit (something absent in the field of blogging). Name one successful CEO known for passion who’s lasted beyond a short flameout period (okay, besides Steve Jobs).
Wow! I guess I'd turn the challenge around and ask anyone to name a "successful" leader in business or any other field who did not have a passion for the task at hand. In fact, Darwin might have called passion a business leader’s survival trait.
In his book, Leadership: Thinking, Being, Doing, Dr. Lee Thayer describes this essential characteristic as "being 'had by' your cause." Thayer, who is the CEO consultant behind the famous turn-around at Johnsonville Sausage, explains:
"It isn't having a vision or mission that is compelling to followers. It is being had by a vision, mission, or goal that is compelling to those would-be followers.
"There is a significant difference between merely having a purpose and being had by a purpose. Most people abandon their espoused purposes in life. Talk is cheap. If the road is a tough one [like now?], and if it requires real effort or sacrifice, most people won't walk the talk. ... Much of what it takes [to be an effective leader] comes from being in the thrall of a purpose or cause ..."
[Full disclosure: Dr. Thayer is also one of our clients, books and a blog. You can challenge him, if you dare, on his blog, The Leader's Journey.]
Warren Bennis calls passion a "basic ingredient of leadership" in On Becoming a Leader. And in his study of organizations that produced extraordinary results (e.g., Disney, Xerox PARC, Apple, the Lockheed "Skunk Works"), Organizing Genius, he identified a leader's ability to inspire passion for the task in others, to create a "we're on a mission from God" atmosphere, as a key leadership skill.
Dr. Susan L. Reid devotes an entire chapter in Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Guide to Business Success to tapping into what she calls "multiple streams of passion" for achieving business success. (A free PDF of the chapter is available at her blog.)
[Full disclosure: Dr. Reid is also one of our clients, book and blog. Just to brag about her a little, Samurai has been named a business book finalist in two different book awards this year. We get to work with some really smart folks around here!]
To Graeme-Apr05's contrary assertion that "business is about logic, predictability, executing a strategy, even-temperedness, a steady hand – and, yes, earning a profit," Dr. Thayer might say, "Conventional thinking always and inevitably leads to conventional results." But more directly, none of those are inconsistent with having a passion for your business.
Nor with a business connecting — really connecting — with its customers via a blog.
Some final points about the need for passion in blogging, business or otherwise: The way you express your passion will be individual to the blogger. And the blog doesn't need to come directly from the CEO to be a valuable business tool.
Sure, Bill Marriott says his blog has generated $4 Million in bookings. And his passion for his business comes through quite nicely at the beginning of this recent post: "I've blogged many times about how much I love to hear stories about exceptional customer service. Both guests and associates constantly send me wonderful stories. Let me share a few of my recent favorites."
But he also had his CFO Arne Sorenson (presumably interested in stuff like logic and profit) write a post about the company's Amazon rainforest program, which included this:
"As a matter of fact, I'm standing in the middle of the rainforest right now in a small 17 home community called Boa Frente, where I landed a few hours ago by seaplane.
"The scenery is breathtaking. It's very peaceful. All you can hear are the sounds of the river rushing by, the leaves rustling and birds singing. That and what looked like dozens of children. I've been meeting and visiting with the people that live here and learning about their culture. They are very warm and friendly and are incredibly proud of this place and want to preserve it."
So the passion doesn't always need to come from the CEO. Another example, is at Coca-Cola, where the Coca-Cola Conversations blog is written by the company historian, Phil Mooney. And of course, there are many examples of businesses with multiple blogs, or multi-author blogs.
If it's the word passion that puts you off, perhaps more current buzz-words like authenticity or transparency feel more business-like to you. But successful blogging simply comes down to communicating things you care about. That will draw others to you. And, if you listen ... and engage, it can bring great value to your business.
If you don't care about your business, or don't care enough to express it to others, it's probably time to find something else to do.