Are You a Goofus or Gallant Boss?

When I was young, Highlights magazine published a cartoon entitled Goofus and Gallant. Each month, the two boys would react to a particular situation in different ways. Goofus invariably chose the selfish or mean option while Gallant was an upstanding young role model.

I thought of Goofus and Gallant this week while listening to Six Pixels of Separation. Host Mitch Joel and author Niall Cook were discussing companies that set up firewalls between their employees and social media. So, why did I think about Goofus and Gallant and what does this have to do with social media rules in the workplace?

It seems to me that there are two types of bosses - those who are afraid of social media and those who view it as an indelible aspect of our daily lives now. Let's go through some of the characteristics.

A Goofus Boss

A Goofus boss is afraid of social media - he's afraid his employees can't be trusted to do their job rather than "surf the Facebook" all day. He thinks he knows that his customers are not on social media outlets. He'd rather keep doing things the way they've always been done.

Goofus bosses fear communication between employees and between the business and its customers. They like to control the message. They think they control their brand.

Goofus bosses are set in their ways. They think that if they change their mind, people will think they're wishy-washy or weak. So they stamp their feet and yell and set up firewalls so no one can interact online besides what is exactly in their job description. Then they go home, satisfied that the job is getting done.

A Gallant Boss

A Gallant boss understands that social media is here to stay and that it can actually help his employees do their jobs better.

He creates a private, company-wide del.icio.us account where employees can share articles about their industry. He asks the marketing team to create Facebook and MySpace pages. He also asks them to reserve their company name on places like Twitter and YouTube.

But before he does anything with these social media tools, he gets everyone together to determine whether they have a strategy for this, figure out how it matches their business goals, and chooses who in the company is the best person to head up the effort.

Back To SPOS

On Six Pixels of Separation, Niall spoke about I.T. departments' reactions to social media. But in my mind, these could also be typical of Goofus and Gallant bosses. Here is the quote that rang out to me:

"The answer is not to do what they've always done: 'Oh, we've got to block it!' We use security for everything.

It's to do what everyone else needs to do which is sit back and think, 'Right, OK. So, this stuff is happening. How can we use this? How can we embrace this? How can we facilitate this? How can we build on what these guys are doing? And how can we then actually generate some credibility, some internal credibility and trust in this area so that people will be more willing to come to us?'"

In my experience, the Gallant bosses are those who see and understand the world as it is, while figuring out how they can use the best tools and the best people to their advantage. Only Goofus bosses would instead hope to block these advances or try to stop the world from changing.

Are you a Goofus or a Gallant boss? Have you taken a few misteps, but eventually come around? We'd love to hear from business leaders about how you approach openness and social media in your office.

And employees - what are success stories you've heard or witnessed? Have you seen web 2.0 champions emerge from unfamiliar places?

(Thanks to Sonia Simone for influencing this post.)

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