For a long time, highly structured, centrally organized hierarchies ran our corporations, non-profits and church groups. The people in power controlled information content and flow. That was how it was and everyone understood it. But a new age is upon us and the old systems are out of sync.
A few months ago, I was talking about the use of the Internet for ministry and someone asked me, “How do you control it?” She was very worried about the dangers—wasted time, loss of productivity, and worse.
My answer was that you cannot control it. You need to trust your people and give them guidelines to use technology appropriately when they are acting as part of your organization. Then you hold them accountable.
Fear of Virus Attacks
Some organizations, including dioceses and parishes, have such a high security level on their systems that staff cannot download content from the Vatican website, attend webinars, or even read my blog! They say that they are worried about virus attacks. To them we say get a good firewall and install virus and spyware protection. Keep it up to date. Just living involves some risk. In every other part of our lives, we take reasonable precautions and then go about our business. Why not do the same with the Internet?
Fear of Mistakes
Other organizations are afraid of what staff might say on social networks. Fear of losing control has to be replaced with a collaborative approach to the work of the organization. A shared vision among leaders, staff, and members for the good of the organization, mutual trust and accountability are essential. When a professional code of conduct and a culture of responsibility characterize our organizations, there is no reason to fear the Internet or social media. Sometimes mistakes will occur. Let’s correct them and learn from them. They are not the end of the world.
Fear of Criticism
Some leaders may be afraid of opening themselves to criticism, complaints, and questions they can’t or don’t want to answer. Think about it. Every comment, good or bad (and it is very possible that there will be some good ones) is an opportunity to teach, to explain, to correct a misunderstanding, to respond honestly and perhaps learn how we might do things better in the future. Is that so bad?
New Systems are Needed
Leaders have a responsibility to provide professional ministry staff with the resources they need to do their work. Today, that usually includes a workspace, a phone, and a computer. We need to add to that list a company email address and easy access to the Internet including social media websites. But even that is not enough. We need to examine the way we operate. Transparency, collaboration, and flexibility in our internal and external relationships need to be hallmarks of our organizations. They also need to influence the way we engage on social networks. This is the new world to which we are called to bring the Good News. Have courage. Do not be afraid. We can do this!
That’s what I think. What about you? Your comments are most welcome.
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