True leaders engage in conversation with their staff

As stories of sexual abuse flooded social media in response to the #MeToo awareness campaign, NBN Co chief executive Bill Morrow’s thoughts went straight to his employees.

Were there victims of sexual assault and harassment amongst his staff at NBN, Australia’s National Broadband Network? Did they need help? Could he help break the culture of silence around abuse?

How could the leader of a large national corporation find out answers to such a sensitive topic and let staff know he is here to help?

His answer was the most obvious – ask. Offer to help. Engage in conversation. Show true leadership.

Mr Morrow wrote an open post on NBN’s internal online social network, Workplace by Facebook, asking victims of sexual harassment to come forward, talk to someone – himself included if they felt comfortable to do so.

Within seconds the post lit up. Support flooded in from all aspects of the business.

Karina Keisler, chief corporate affairs officer at NBN, explains it best on her LinkedIn post.

“Today, the CEO of nbn sent a Workplace post to all employees about the current discussions rocking Hollywood,” Ms Keisler wrote.

“Noting not all sexual predators are rich, famous or indeed males, he appealed to the team to come forward, talk to someone, him if we’re comfortable, if we have been victim of sexual harassment.

“I am so proud, not only of our leadership, but of the response by the business.

“The post lit up within seconds and the support and gratitude is overwhelming. I hope others are doing the same. #metoo.”

The response to Ms Keisler’s post was one of admiration for Mr Morrow’s responsible and authentic leadership.

“A bold leadership stance by a brave and wise man. Well done Bill and nbn,” wrote Pia Lee, CEO at LIW Global Leadership Consultancy.

Head of Workplace, APAC, Ramesh Gopalkrishna, commented; “What a great example of responsible leadership and addressing an important topic head on!”

Unsurprisingly, within hours of Mr Morrow posting his message, it topped the list of the Most Engaging Posts in the past three months on NBN’s SWOOP Analytics dashboard.

Before the end of the day, there were more than 100 comments to Mr Morrow’s post, more than 1000 likes, almost 1000 employees engaged in the conversation and more than 4000 employees had seen the post, from a business with about 7,000 employees.

SWOOP data showed one in every seven NBN employees across Australia was actively involved in the conversation and almost 100 per cent of daily active users on NBN’s Workplace network saw Mr Morrow’s post.

The NBN team uses SWOOP to analyse the effectiveness of communication across the enterprise and provide insights about connectivity, relationships and social capital.

SWOOP allows each employee to identify who is talking with whom, spot influential people and hot topics, recognise the best performing groups, hot topics, most engaging posts and give every individual tips on how to improve collaboration.

SWOOP Analytics chief executive Cai Kjaer said Mr Morrow’s actions were an example of great leadership where he has broken down traditional business hierarchies and engaged his people in conversation in an atmosphere of certainty and trust.

In this case, Mr Morrow addressed the important topic of sexual abuse. What he has also done is role model how executive leadership can connect and collaborate with every employee using Workplace, Mr Kjaer said.

Getting senior leaders engaged on enterprise social networks, like Workplace, is the most effective way of connecting employees across an enterprise. SWOOP shows every leader their own collaboration behaviour and gives them tips on how to improve.

“Bill Morrow has shown true leadership by engaging people in conversation,” Mr Kjaer said.

“Once employees are connected and collaborating across a business, it leads to greater knowledge sharing, problem solving and innovation.

“This leads to a greater return on investment for organisations.”

Ms Keisler said it was the introduction of Workplace to NBN that allowed whole-of-business conversation to happen.

“Two years ago this would have been on email,” she said on LinkedIn.

“The Workplace platform is so powerful in creating a supportive environment and an open conversation.

“This kind of thing really brings it to life. So good.”

It seems Mr Morrow too was buoyed by the impact his post had on employees.

A couple of days later he asked employees to raise any issue with him.

“And today, he asked anyone/everyone to post any question at all… and that lit up within seconds also… anything from complex technical questions, to diversity questions, to workplace ideas… with Bill fielding responses himself,” NBN senior program manager Dawn Leong wrote on LinkedIn.

“Awesome and impressive.”

We agree.

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