There is nothing wrong with the powerful productivity applications that have transformed our work experience.
There is everything wrong with how some leaders use them.
Or should I say, abuse them?
Instant message conversations.
These tools do accelerate the work process. Or at least they should. And that can be a good thing.
But there’s a theme here. Do you see it?
They are designed to replace that slow, cumbersome experience of having to actually talk to another person(s), in-person, or even on the phone, in real time and work things out.
Drive-by messages are substituted for thoughtful conversations. Multitasking is encouraged. Meaning gets warped in the digital noise. Emotions are replaced by emoticons. Stories are sanitized by charts and data.
Our interactions are reduced to byte-size messages with tools designed to keep us productive and create results in the shortest time possible. But what is the quality of those results?
We can cover more territory with more people than ever before. But what is the value of that territory?
What are the trade-offs? Do we know when to stop? When to disconnect from the device and reconnect with people?
Analog leadership feels slower, (but may actually move things faster). It requires our attention, time and creativity. It necessitates certain skills and qualities. It’s a long-term play and it’s more work in the short-term. But it does offer some advantages.
- We observe body language, hear the tone of the other person and form a complete picture of the message they are sending.
- We give our full attention to the person(s) with whom we are interacting or to the process we are facilitating.
- We clear up misunderstandings and clarify intent in real time versus hoping our message was interpreted correctly.
- We express the emotions that are tied our words, especially when offering appreciation or giving feedback.
- We share our experiences and tell stories that bring color to our ideas and build a connection with others.
Underneath lies the simple truth that leadership is a human experience. With that in mind, the list grows much longer.
I believe we are in danger of slipping unaware into a blurred and frantic pattern of digital interaction while forgetting that behind these tools are human beings.
It’s hard to build trust via email or know if a person needs our encouragement. There are things the data just can’t tell us. There are unique personalities, experiences, histories, and stories that are easy to miss via instant messages.
There is something intrinsically rewarding about real, human interaction that I just don’t find in the never-ending typing and clicking version of team management. As a matter of fact, I find it a lot more interesting. Others may disagree, and that’s Ok. It’s how I’m wired.
One other thing I’ve noticed. Sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. Often that involves an analog approach.
Our digital world is revolutionizing the workplace. Leaders are smart to leverage the benefits of these tools. I know I do. Just consider that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. They weren’t intended to nor can they fully replace the necessary human interaction that makes leadership effective. If we apply the right balance we can increase our efficiency without losing our effectiveness.