Are you hiding behind technology?

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Aug 06 2018 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

We hear all the time about how leading remotely is harder than when your team members are all in the same place. Often thatís true - or at least feels true which is sometimes the same thing - but thereís one way being remote is easier for managers. And this is not necessarily a good thing.

For managers, itís a lot easier to hide from their team members when theyíre not within actual armís reach. Now, we know that no good leader should purposely avoid their team members. Iíd also warrant weíve done it at one time or another. What do I mean when I say ďhideĒ? Well, have you ever:

  • Avoided returning an email until the next morning, claiming you didnít get it til too late in the day?
  • Looked at the Caller ID and just blissfully let it go to voicemail?
  • Set the Out of Office on your email or Instant Messager after youíve gotten a request for time or information from someone you donít want to talk to?
  • Left a bad-news voicemail until you had a better-than-even chance that person wasnít going to be around to answer the phone? Darned time zones.
  • Attached a document (or put it on SharePoint) and hoped for the best, when you know in your heart you should have spoken to the person and taken the time to ensure understanding and buy-in?
  • Sent an email reprimanding someone, rather than schedule an in-depth conversation (all in the interest of being timely, of course)?
  • Scheduled an all-hands teleconference instead of more intimate small-group discussions that might involve answering uncomfortable questions or airing grievances in public?

We are not bad people. We arenít lazy, unfeeling slobs. We arenít evil. What we are is tired, rushed, overworked and occasionally - just occasionally - human beings first and leaders second. Communication technology, supposedly there to help us, frequently feels like itís part of the problem.

All leaders need to be proactive and available to their people. Thatís a whole lot easier to do when they can see you sitting at your desk, or look out to the parking lot and see your car is still there (donít think they donít). Hiding, while tempting, isnít really an option. When youíre connected electronically, though, itís hard to

Itís okay not to respond immediately to problems. In fact, sometimes itís best not to. Whatís not allright is to avoid them altogether, or take the easiest way out by avoiding confrontation or uncomfortable conversations.

As a leader itís your responsibility to model responsiveness, good communication and adherence to the teamís communication charter and agreements about response time, method of communication and flexibility. Yes, it makes the job tough sometimes.

We all need an occasional break. It becomes a problem when itís symptomatic of the way your team works on a regular basis. Take a moment to ask yourself, am I leveraging to tools at my disposal, or using them to hide. Maybe you need 10 minutes to catch your breath. Maybe you need a vacation. Or perhaps you need to examine how youíre using the tools at your disposal and ask if youíre hiding behind them, rather than addressing real needs.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.