Sean O’Neil Shares His Thoughts on Social Media and Managing Personalities In Your Company

Interviewer’s Note:  Welcome to a rollicking interview with Sean O’Neil, a management consultant and author of Bare Knuckle Management.  You’re in for a mildly profane interview that talks about the importance of knowing the type of professional personality you and your co-workers have, and the social media value of a good public Twitter fight.  Enjoy!

Hello Sean, welcome to the Pluggio Blog!  How do you describe your work?

I’m a sales and management training consultant. I began designing and delivering trainings for large and small companies with sales and management training needs. But now I mostly help companies design and implement their own programs, and I also do lots of speaking engagements.

How did you get started as a speaker and author?

I’ve always loved writing and speaking. It took the Great Recession to allow me to find the time to write my first book.

Ah yes, the great motivator that was the Recession…  I love that you made it work to your advantage.   So how did it work for you?

An agent and publisher picked it up, and that paved the way for speaking engagements. I guess just because you have a published book, people think you have something interesting to say.

What inspired you to write the book?

I joined what was a family training business. I remember growing up and hearing my Dad frequently say, “We’ve got to get a book on the street.” Mom and Dad kicked around lots of ideas, but they had a hard time finding the time to write one. When the Recession hit my business hard, I determined I had the time and plenty to write about. I started writing.

What role does Twitter play in your business?

Good question, and I would say my answer is still evolving. I get some play for my tweets, but have yet to receive a legitimate lead from them. Also, I feed most of my tweets to LinkedIn, where a lot of my work contacts view and comment on them. Funny thing is that I find myself floating ideas out to Twitter to see what resonates and what falls flat.

I liked the Personality Test on your page.  I scored as “The Cop.”  Are there any personality types that particularly need help in their management style?

Ha! If I knew you were a cop, I would have secured a Non-Disclosure Agreement before agreeing to this interview.

Well, too late now :)

To answer your question, I firmly believe that we ALL need help with our management skills – me included – no matter what our style is. I co-lead a national sales company with over 100 sales reps and a large back office. I make mistakes every single day managing my people. I preach that managers can become better by understanding themselves (their drives, their needs, their triggers, what makes them crazy, etc.) and each of those around them (their individual employees, peers, boss, and business partners).

I’d agree with that.  Is there a common factor to all those personality types and approaches, that we all should heed?

Heightened awareness is the key – not simple one-size-fits-all management techniques. I just don’t think they’re all that helpful. They sound good, but they’re not nuanced enough to help people in their own management contexts.

For small or start-up companies, do you have any special advice on management for them?

Only that they need to watch for what I disparagingly refer to as “corporate creep” – people trying too hard to narrow their job descriptions and too clearly define their roles. Most small businesses have to rely on role flexibility and people wearing mutliple hats. If you or your people are coming from corporate world, you might notice a tendency to over-departmentalize.

What impact or change have you seen due to Twitter/social marketing?

One change is that everyone has the same opportunity to get their voice heard. I guess the problem is that because everyone is trying to get heard, it’s awfully hard to hear anyone at all. The result of that is that people try too hard to distinguish themselves, and they’re shooting for shock value over value value. I admit that it’s a tough balance I don’t always achieve. Sometimes I find myself wondering what I’m doing it for – it can be exhausting with little reward!

Are there any of your accomplishments with social marketing that you are particularly proud of?

I had a great Twitter fight with Tom Peters (author of, among other things, In Search of Excellence). Someone must have asked him if he had read my book, and he began pontificating about how obnoxious my title – Bare Knuckle People Management – was.

LOL!  I love it!  

Yeah, I jumped on and challenged him on his premise that it was anti-women.

I’ve heard a lot of people remark that Twitter seems so civil- everybody seems that they’re on good behavior here, but it’s almost…refreshing to hear about somebody having a very public argument.  That must have been very entertaining reading for your readers, on both sides.  Ok, next question:  How did you build your following?  What kinds of people/businesses are they?

I started by tweeting randomly and got nowhere fast. I stumbled upon this idea of couching most of my tweets as “management tip” or “sales tip” and figured out how to use hashtags. I don’t have a huge following, but would say that’s mostly because I haven’t done one of those services that acquies followers for you. Most of my followers are people in my space or those who read and liked my book.

How will you choose who you will follow?  What do you look for in a follower?

This is another great question, and I fear my policy shifts all the time on this. I went thru a stretch where I followed absolutely everyone who followed me – even guys from Moscow who tweeted in nothing but Russian. But more recently I’m more discriminate. If they seem interesting to me – at least at the time I check them out – then I follow them. I just hate missing interesting things!

What strategies did you use for social marketing (either online or offline)?  What worked for you? What didn’t work for you?

I started doing social marketing because my book publicist said I should. When I asked her how, she said I should figure it out for myself. I would say I still have no fucking clue what I do or why. I wish I could articulate a strategy, but I can’t. (If “The Cop” can’t tolerate my swearing, please edit out at your discretion!)

No objections here.  I’m a fairly laid-back, permissive cop.  If  you could go back to when you first began using social media, what is one thing you would have done differently?

Maybe sat down with a highly recommended social marketing person and construct a strategy. I sat with a couple of smart people who seemed to like what I was already doing, but didn’t add much value. I think there’s more to it, but I can’t tell you that I know what it is.

What does Twitter do for you that nothing else can do?

Twitter gives me a chance to float my often borderline and irreverent stuff without much downside risk. The way I see it, few people see any one of my tweets, so I can tap out a semi-appropriate, semi-articulated thought and see if the 10 people who see it respond to it in any meaningful way.

What lessons have you learned about Twitter and online marketing?

Try to offer value than just self-promote. I hate the recklessly relentless self-promoters. I love when I read something that moves me or makes me laugh or makes me think. That’s what I want to do with all my tweets.

Follow Sean on Twitter here.

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