CEO Oversharing

Posted by: Nanette Byrnes on November 5, 2009

Recently Chip Conley, CEO of Joie de Vivre, a $230 million company with more than 3,000 employees, got enmeshed in a bit of a modern corporate culture snafu. Conley’s not your average Harvard MBA pinstriped buttoned-down corporate chieftan. He’s an entrepreneur. He writes his own rules. So to him, it wasn’t so strange to post some pictures of himself at the Burning Man whatever-it-is in the desert on his Facebook fan page. Or to tweet on Twitter about the demise of his 8-year-long relationship.

Some of his employees, however, found it unseemly for a CEO to be shirtless on Facebook. And since he runs a company that’s pretty open and has a whole system for making sure the CEO hears from the rank and file, well, he heard about it.

This is already a little unusual, but then he did something even more surpising. He wrote an article about his actions on BNET and asked people what they thought of his conundrum. Included as a topic for conversation: whether it’s ok for him to post such shot and then turn around and put some limits on what his employees can do in the socially networked world. (For example, no employee tweets about the famous rock star in the hotel lobby.)

Deborah Schultz, a partner at Altimeter Group, a San Mateo based boutique consulting firm that advises on the social media landscape, says that while not every CEO will find themselves in this exact boat, all leaders (and followers) need to think about the changing modes of communication today and how they present themselves through them. “It used to be we had the ‘luxury’ of discreet roles,” says Schultz. The new social media terrain “is forcing a much more integrated view of who we are as people…It’s really about having a new set of etiquette, what is private and what is public.”

Schultz suspects that the response of Conley’s employees may well be an indicator of some broader issue, something this snafu might have helped surface but which predated the shots of him in a tutu. “Technology can be a lightning rod,” says Schultz. She applauds Conley for embracing the chance to open up his internal debate to broad input through his BNET piece. And he’s gotten a lot of comments, many very thoughtful. “He spoke to the horses mouth and asked people what they thought. Others would be meeting with their public relations staff behind closed doors.”

Early discussions around social media often involved employee bloggers losing their jobs. Now it’s the bosses who are hiking through uncharted terrain.

Reader Comments

Frank A NYC

November 6, 2009 1:45 PM

There used to be a term for this, TMI! Some people need to realize everyone does not care about what you are doing 24/7. As the CEO he represents his company and employees. Show a little class, it wont hurt, really.

Thomas Huynh

November 7, 2009 8:54 AM

Chip Conley simply seems to be having fun and being himself. You know, living life. Just because he's founder/CEO doesn't make him somehow less human, less communicative, especially in the business he's in. Come to think of it, I wonder if because he is who he is that his company thrives.

Thomas Huynh, founder
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Les McKeown

November 9, 2009 11:43 AM

The lines between public and private are becoming increasingly blurred with the levels of transparency that the internet brings.

I'm not condoning the overt sharing of this information but I'm pretty sure that the chances of someone other than Mr. Conley making it public instead are pretty high.

Is it better that it comes directly from the source?

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Hung Lee

November 11, 2009 4:13 PM

I would suggest that Chip Conley has done very well for himself and his business - whether by design or not, he's given Joie De Vivre tremendous publicity through his overshare on social media. As you've already recognised, he's already become a mini web 2.0 celebrity - and whilst you can have your personal opinions on his behaviour - there's no doubting his achievement in being a talked about figure in the industry.

I feel that Conley must be recognised as a pioneer. Whilst he stands accused of being a narcissist, he's nonetheless walking the talk - taking a risk in revealing the life he's got outside of being a business leader of a sizeable concern. How many CEO's can we say that about? For that at least, he deserves a measure of respect.

Finally, Conley's overshare is perhaps an overdue reaction to the pressures we all have in social media. Its an enormous pressure to be constantly vigilant on whats being posted on your site or profile, to have the mental discipline to police your activities, to have to 'dual brand' everything you do. Its one of social media's central ironies that as the tools have become available for us to share, we've immediately and seemingly by default, erected barriers to prevent that sharing. Perhaps what Conley's recognised is the inevitability of the merging of the professional and personal, and the essential hypocrisy involved in separating the two.


Hung

Hung Lee

November 11, 2009 4:14 PM

I would suggest that Chip Conley has done very well for himself and his business - whether by design or not, he's given Joie De Vivre tremendous publicity through his overshare on social media. As you've already recognised, he's already become a mini web 2.0 celebrity - and whilst you can have your personal opinions on his behaviour - there's no doubting his achievement in being a talked about figure in the industry.

I feel that Conley must be recognised as a pioneer. Whilst he stands accused of being a narcissist, he's nonetheless walking the talk - taking a risk in revealing the life he's got outside of being a business leader of a sizeable concern. How many CEO's can we say that about? For that at least, he deserves a measure of respect.

Finally, Conley's overshare is perhaps an overdue reaction to the pressures we all have in social media. Its an enormous pressure to be constantly vigilant on whats being posted on your site or profile, to have the mental discipline to police your activities, to have to 'dual brand' everything you do. Its one of social media's central ironies that as the tools have become available for us to share, we've immediately and seemingly by default, erected barriers to prevent that sharing. Perhaps what Conley's recognised is the inevitability of the merging of the professional and personal, and the essential hypocrisy involved in separating the two.

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Loraine Antrim

November 20, 2009 6:35 PM

Whether a CEO's actions are reflected on a social media site, or on TV or in a newspaper article, bottom-line, he/she has a personal brand at stake and actions detract or add to brand credibility.
But CEOSs also are mirrors of their company and company brand. THat should give all execs pause before they post on any site. Loraine Antrim, thecxomindset.blogspot.com

Loraine Antrim

November 20, 2009 6:36 PM

Whether a CEO's actions are reflected on a social media site, or on TV or in a newspaper article, bottom-line, he/she has a personal brand at stake and actions detract or add to brand credibility.
But CEOSs also are mirrors of their company and company brand. THat should give all execs pause before they post on any site. Loraine Antrim, thecxomindset.blogspot.com

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November 23, 2009 6:39 AM

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November 23, 2009 6:41 AM

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November 23, 2009 6:44 AM

Is it better that it comes directly from the source-or not?

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