Yesterday I ranted about how we don't have enough collective knowledge and experience to have a theoretical social guru and how important it is for all of us to play nicely, share our thinking and collaborate.
Today I would like to focus on the positive side of that story. To Shel Holtz's point, few people call themselves gurus and those that rant loudest about these gurus are generally in the industry themselves. I think the backlash around gurus is less about how people introduce themselves (Hi, I'm a jerk!) and more around the attitude of people who behave like jerks (Look at how smart I am!).
This post is about the behavior of people who facilitate success in social versus the behavior of those who spend a bit too much time pontificating.
Smart people act less like omnipotent geniuses who know it all (jerks exhibiting guru behavior) and more like partners who have subject matter expertise. I prefer to think of them as Guides.
What is a Guide?
When I was in college, I took a few years off and went to study abroad in Israel. While there, we frequently went on hikes that seemed to never end. Yet somehow, our pathetic very NYC approach to hikes melded with the reality that was the journey when we had a great Guide. Our Guides were typically somewhat loony yet were always very personable. They knew where we needed to go based on a discussion with us before we set off, they chose the right paths and they worked with us to help get the group to our destination. Somehow, these Guides got us from Point A to a very distant Point B. We never thought we could have made it, but the Guide made it work.
A Guide is familiar with the community dynamic and the tools of the trade. A Guide has walked a similar road before and has a great approach towards getting you to where you need to be. A good Guide is agile and works with the brand to adapt their knowledge to the brand's needs. And best of all, a Guide knows that there is a lot that isn't known and actively explores the white space together with the brand.
What makes Guides different?
Guides empower. Gurus/jerks talk.
Guides listen and interact. Gurus/jerks pontificate.
Guides explore. Gurus/jerks demand.
Guides have a destination. Gurus have a thought.
Guides are informed partners. Gurus are minimally informed pontificators.
Finding the right Guide
Ask your proposed Guide about their previous experience, both professional and personal. Ask them about the specific channels and approaches you're considering. Ask them about the teams they worked with. Ask them about the other agencies and consultants they worked with. Lastly, ask yourself Is this someone I would like to be stuck in an airport with?
- If your Guide has a robust resume and limited personal presence, they may be a professional but probably can't lead your customer engagement without additional support. This is OK, but it's important that you bring the right people into the team to fill in the gaps. Also, if they exhibit jerk/guru behavior, avoid them.
- If your Guide has robust personal presence and limited professional experience, don't look to them for business leadership. This is also OK, but it's important that you bring the right people into the team to fill in the gaps. Also, if they exhibit jerk/guru behavior, avoid them.
- If your Guide takes all the credit or has all the answers, you have a Guru on your hands. Avoid jerks whenever possible.
- If your Guide has real personal and professional experience and talks about exploration, partnership and collaboration, explore further.
- If your personalities don't click, this isn't the right Guide for you.
The Mickey Mouse Conclusion
Mickey Mouse was a brilliant concept. Walt Disney was a brilliant creative mind. It took a team of Guides that each knew their own area of expertise (animation, marketing, packaging, distribution, design) to bring this concept to life. When Guides come together, they become a team and creative a beautiful, meaningful product.
In other words, this is just business as usual. Smart people, great teamwork and an open-minded approach to a focused strategy make great things happen.