We hear all the time about how leading remotely is harder than when your team members are all in the same place. Often that’s true - or at least feels true which is sometimes the same thing - but there’s one way being remote is easier for managers. And this is not necessarily a good thing.
For managers, it’s a lot easier to hide from their team members when they’re not within actual arm’s reach. Now, we know that no good leader should purposely avoid their team members. I’d also warrant we’ve done it at one time or another. What do I mean when I say “hide”? Well, have you ever:
- Avoided returning an email until the next morning, claiming you didn’t 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 you’ve gotten a request for time or information from someone you don’t want to talk to?
- Left a bad-news voicemail until you had a better-than-even chance that person wasn’t 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 aren’t lazy, unfeeling slobs. We aren’t 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 it’s part of the problem.
All leaders need to be proactive and available to their people. That’s 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 (don’t think they don’t). Hiding, while tempting, isn’t really an option. When you’re connected electronically, though, it’s hard to
It’s okay not to respond immediately to problems. In fact, sometimes it’s best not to. What’s not allright is to avoid them altogether, or take the easiest way out by avoiding confrontation or uncomfortable conversations.
As a leader it’s your responsibility to model responsiveness, good communication and adherence to the team’s 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 it’s 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 you’re using the tools at your disposal and ask if you’re hiding behind them, rather than addressing real needs.