I sure haven’t figured out how to respond to criticism. I’ve made my worst mistakes when I don’t listen to it, though, and understand it. This post is prompted by Ewan Mcintosh’s post about Loic Lemur and the big blowup this week at Le Web conference. Ewan writes an excellent blog about how he’s using social media in Scottish schools.
Yesterday we were presenting to a bunch of executives and employees at Intel. It was a big thrill for me to be there. Yesterday was my “blog birthday” — I started writing a blog on December 15, 2000. Unfortunately we can’t look at the first year’s worth of posts.
One exec came up to me afterward and said something like “I was impressed with you because you were listening to us.” He said he noticed I even adopted the Intel language in my answers and changed strategy based on answers we were getting.
I have to credit Amazon’s CTO, Werner Vogels, for teaching me to do that. When you’re hearing objections you’ve really got to get into their shoes and think about how things look from their perspective. It’s not something I do well on my blog. But then I don’t need to be obsequious when I’m blogging — this is my chance to say how the world looks to me.
Anyway, at one point the Intel folks started having a fascinating conversation about listening. I wish I could present it here, but can’t. Let’s just say that Intel is realizing that the real benefits of social media is that it presents an opportunity to listen to what everyone is thinking, feeling, saying about your company and your products.
How many company employees put their product names into a blog search engine and watch what people say? Or, even better, what they are saying about their competitors?
A culture change is coming to corporations. Even ones that are “anti-blog” can use social media to listen.
What would I have done if I were Loic?
I wouldn’t have called bloggers names, even if they are really jerks. I wouldn’t have stood up and said “I’d do it again” on the closing speech. Neither of those demonstrated listening behavior.
And, as Ewan points out, I wouldn’t be quiet when almost the entire blog world (which is who his conference serves, so he should care about it) is against him.
At minimum I would have linked to all of those critics, along with the few that supported him.
When you’re in the middle of a firestorm I’d link to EVERYTHING that moves. That demonstrates, at minimum, that he read and saw every post even if he doesn’t agree.
Then I’d demonstrate listening behavior. What did he learn? How is he changing? What will he do differently next time?
But, what does the silence tell us? That he’s not listening. Not learning. Not participating. Not engaging.
On the other hand, I’m sad to see Loic go through this firestorm of criticism. I’m sure it must be very tough. Last year at Le Blog 2 we had an awesome time and he was a gracious and fun host.
Maryam, who has put on many events in her life (she’s a professional event planner), both big and small, has advice of her own to Loic. It’s sound advice. We’ve been there before with angry customers who didn’t get what they wanted from the event that they spent good money to attend and that advice has helped turn many irate customers around into loyal customers.
Really, I guess the advice that I’m giving myself is when you do things for audiences (or, really, if you’re going to be successful at business) you’ve got to be adept at listening.
If I ever demonstrate I’m not listening, kick me under the table, OK?
UPDATE: Loic just posted some more on his thoughts of the week.
UPDATE 2: Tom Morris has some good advice for conference organizers.