Leading From a Distance

There was a time when business was done face-to-face. Sure there’d be some travel, but it was over shorter distances. We’d have networks of offices spread across the country servicing our customers in close proximity to one another. We’d know our bosses and their families intimately – we’d play golf, send our kids to the same schools and the team building retreat would be held in a neighboring town. This was another time – and another world. These days, our bosses can be across the country – or across the planet. We spend our time on conference calls, video and virtual conferences and yes, planes. We snatch productivity from the dead hours of airport lounges and the long nights of jetlag re-adjustment. We have lost the proximity that helped us create culture, build and motivate our teams and intimately service our customers. As leaders, however, it is our role (and our challenge) to bring our customers and our teams closer together in a way that harmonizes all our interactions across time and space. Now, you may think I am referring to technology – to social media, blogs and the like. Yes, these have a place – and a very productive place it can  be. But I am taking my lead here from John Baldoni’s Harvard Business Review blog post – How to Lead Without Saying a Word. John suggests that our non-verbal cues often say more than our words ever do – and in a “long distance relationship” with our teams, we need to be careful that our leadership style, messages, directives and suggestions are not misinterpreted. Clearly this...

A Breakfast with Smart Women Leaders

Last week I attended SAP’s premier customer event in Orlando – Sapphire Now. It is a feast of presentations, discussions, forums and workshops. There are keynote sessions, luncheons, chance meetings and conference floor demonstrations – and around 50,000 people in three locations – Orlando, Frankfurt and online via the SapphireNow virtual conference platform. As with most conferences, it is not always about the mainstage. For example, SAP ran a Women’s Executive Leadership Breakfast event where attendees were treated to a conversation with Jeanne Ross, the director of MIT Sloan School’s Center for Information Systems Research. Tara Degler writes that rather than leading in with a raft of presentation slides, Jeanne shared her story – leaving the audience with three important actionable insights: Work smarter – It is one thing to be busy – but quite another to be “productive.” When you multiply this across your organization, the effect can be profound. Empower your people – Make sure that each and every role in your business is professionalized. Provide the structure to help make your teams successful and give them the power to achieve. Create the space for unlearning – Old habits die hard, so when you want to transform your business and they way that people work, remember that it takes time to unlearn. But how do you apply this thinking to your own situation? Are you working smarter? Are you empowering yourself? Are you able to unlearn? Take a look at this brief interview with Shari Temple from Aidmatrix where she talks about the challenges of finding a mentor. While things have changed over the last 20 years,...