No. 48: LinkedIn Not Paying Attention to Africa Would Be a Huge Mistake

LinkedIn is missing an opportunity to capitalize on its reach into the top management talent around the world to capture the stories of Africa’s top business talent and their experience before and ruing the economic sea change taking place across the continent. The company’s Influencers program has been running for over two years now and it does not have much representation from African thought leaders. I counted at least three.

Africa’s growth story is a big deal. Between 1990 and 2000, GDP growth lagged the global average. Since that time, growth on the continent has exceeded the global average, considerably. Hundreds of millions of people will be moving into the middle class across the continent. Food policymakers are watching the continent while trying to figure out where the food is going to come from to feed the next billion people. How are the top business people across the continent dealing with this growth? What do they read for inspiration? Who are their mentors?

Why would it make sense for LinkedIn to pay more attention, you ask? I often hear from African business leaders that they did not know certain things were going on in other countries on the continent. At the same time, policymakers are trying to figure out how to solve the problem of traveling executives needing to secure a visa for 80 percent of the African countries they visit. Stock exchanges are upgrading their technology and deploying new investment tools. Startups are pushing for solutions to big issues on the continent. Agricultural output is increasing in some countries. LinkedIn would be at the crux of solving these enormous issues.

Another reason LinkedIn should be paying more attention to Africa is its Economic Graph project – “digitally mapping the global economy to connect talent with opportunity at massive scale.” If LinkedIn gets traction with this project, the results could be massive for African countries, many of which have worked extremely to improve the data the collect. The data provided by LinkedIn’s graph could provide actionable insights to these governments.

So, LinkedIn should pay more attention to Africa. Recruit some Africa-focused business leaders to write. Here is a sample of suggestions:

Bob Collymore

Monica Musonda

Ory Okolloh Mwangi

Acha Leke

Fred Swaniker

I’m happy to provide more!

P.S. Thanks to Jason Calacanis for the headline inspiration.

No. 33: What’s Your Reputation?

Your reputation is powerful. I recently sat in on a workshop covering best practices for managing one’s reputation. The three prevailing themes were:

1. What do you perceive your reputation to be?
2. What do you want your reputation to be?
3. How do you plan to make your desired reputation a reality?

None of these is very helpful if you do not know what your reputation actually is. That requires the hard work of going to someone and asking them to tell you about yourself.

I will never forget the wise words of Margaret, one of my middle school classmates. I’m walking to the school bus after classes had ended for the day, making all kinds of pompous comments. I was that not-cool kid who tried extra hard to fit in. Foolish.

Finally, Margaret got fed up and stopped me before getting on her bus: “You think you’re the s%#t, but you’re not.”

If I was born with a tail, it would have been tucked all the way between my legs. I had an idea of what I wanted my reputation to be, but had lost sight of what my real reputation was. I had no idea that humility rather than jackass-like behavior was necessary in managing my reputation. Margaret’s insights helped me re-calibrate.

So, before you receive an unpleasant dose of medicine like that served to me by Margaret, develop a level of self-awareness by:

1. Identifying a core group of people who represent the various parts of your life;
2. Asking the people in that group for their observations of what your reputation is;
3. Getting their thoughts on what you might do to maintain, repair, or enhance your reputation;
3. Asking for them to encourage you whenever they notice you making positive gains and to hold you accountable when they see you stepping backwards; and
4. Checking back in periodically with this group to gauge how your reputation is changing.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

What else? What other things are key to managing your reputation?