Can a Wall Connect? [A Cisco Leader Day Interview]

When I hear the word ‘wall’, I go back in time to the June of 1987 in Berlin, Germany. At the Brandenburg Gate, Former US President Ronald Reagan emphatically declared: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear-down-this-wall!”
Historically and otherwise, a wall is often seen as a barrier. It causes collisions. And sometimes, it can completely destroy the delicate fabric of trust between teams and team members.
But the purpose of this post is to tell the story of a different kind of wall. A digital, social media wall with the potential to connect meaningfully in ways we hadn’t perhaps imagined before!
Liz Morgan | Cisco HR

Earlier this week, I interviewed Liz Morgan from Cisco HR who was the Lead Social Media Strategist for Cisco Leader Day. I was curious to learn how the idea came about, why it was so bankable, and what we learned from this success story. Here’s an excerpt from my interview:

Q: How did you come up with the idea of a Social Media Wall for Cisco Leader Day?  

A: Our Chief People Officer, Fran Katsoudas‘s vision was to have a robust, site connection strategy. The team’s initial idea was to have everybody logged in simultaneously. But the downside to that was, ‘everybody’ lived in multiple time zones. And it wouldn’t be possible to run the show, at the same time, across 18, different sites. It might feel more awkward than connected so we had to rule that out. It was then I hit upon the idea of pictures, videos, and tweets coming together on social media.

So, we began to play with potential, social media wall options. Every time we test tweeted something, it would show up. At the time, I wasn’t all that familiar with hashtag campaigns. While creating a hashtag, we came up with #CiscoLeaderDay because it was simple, targeted, and easy to connect for our 8000+ leaders on the day.

Q: Where does Cisco Technology come in? 

A: Everywhere! I mean, we couldn’t possibly do something on this scale without the incredible technology we have at Cisco. But let’s not forget: this was something we’d never done before! There was no precedence to fall back upon. When we were finalizing broadcast, logistics, etc. we were at capacity across the 18, different locations. It was a challenge to support our site connection strategy. We had to find a much more creative solution to make the awesome technology work for us.

Q: So, what was the breakthrough moment for you? 

A: I think the break through moment for me was when we discovered that a digital wall can not only support our social media strategy but also support a hand-off video that could be tweeted across multiple sites. And that we could have a common, Cisco Leader Day wall link that everyone could access.

Q: How did you choose 

A: When we discovered that the social media wall would support our strategy, it was time to choose a partner that had everything we were looking for. Most of them had similar technical features, design, chat capacity, and design.
What was great about is that they had a free-trial period. This allowed us to play around for a while and explore exactly what we wanted. Another consideration was the price they offered. Their subscription based fee was on the lines of $175 a month vs. some of the others that were charging $500 a day.
We wanted a #CiscoLeaderDay wall that wouldn’t just vanish after a day. We were looking for a platform that was both Twitter and Instagram friendly. It was important to keep the wall intact, long after the event was complete.

Q: What was your engagement strategy across sites? 

A: Fran’s vision was to have a simple hand-off video from site to another by interviewing one of the Cisco Execs in each of the sites. The video was an invitation for everybody to join, partake, and connect as a team. It was a little bit like passing the torch from one team to another. It was also an opportunity to see the excitement, energy, and enthusiasm at each of the sites (which was palpable).

Q: How did you form the Social Media Ambassador Squad? 

A: I knew we needed assistance across sites and time zones. We chose 16 people across the many different locations. They would serve as our ambassadors of Cisco Leader Day. It began by ‘hiring’ work friends I knew and trusted. Over the next few weeks, it evolved and we began to ask for recommendations. We were looking for people who enjoyed being part of something like this. We were lucky to have great talent that fit perfectly for this role.

What appealed most to team members was that this was beyond just their individual region or location. This was a global event. And they were representing something far bigger than themselves or their site alone.

Q: What is your personal learning and reflection on your role in this event? 

A: As the lead Social Media Strategist for the event, I have to say that 72 hours went by faster than I could think! We began in Greater China in Asia and wrapped up in San Jose in the United States across that time span. As I began to see the videos, the tweets, and the Instagram posts on the wall, it was beyond exciting. It gave me energy. Instead of sleep, I fed off of that positive energy. To watch that map light up on the wall was simply incredible. I didn’t have a minute to think about fatigue! And our internal chat room kept our conversations alive and connected. We were even trending on Twitter at some point! I have to say: this, right here, is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life!

Final Thoughts

And that was definitely one of the most fun interviews for me. Don’t forget to check-out Liz’s personal account of Cisco Leader Day here. If you’re interested to learn more about the event, take a look at my previous post, which serves as part 1 of this series.

As for me, I watched the Cisco Leader Day hashtag campaign come to life. Like Olympic athletes who pass the lighted torch from one runner to another, I watched the commitment and dedication of many team of teams at Cisco. And on that day, a single, digital wall brought us together as one, Cisco family.

Anitha Aswath is an HR Consultant and Strengths Coach of Leader Success in the Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area at Cisco. She has the unique privilege of meeting Cisco clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of their teams.


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