Leaders: Prepare Your Remote Teams For The High-Tech Future, Today
There’s no denying that we live in turbulent times, especially when it comes to evolving technologies.
Typical business practices, as they are commonly designed today, force many of us into an extraordinarily narrow and short-term view of the world around us. As leaders, we are often hyper-focused on our organization and customer goals and not paying close enough attention to the impact this approach could be having on the interrelationships of broader stakeholders.
However, as uncomfortable as the notion may be, we can either choose to be fearful, resistant to change and reactionary, or we can lean into these fluctuations and technology developments and seize the opportunity to learn, adapt and thrive moving forward.
I prefer the latter.
While history teaches us that we cannot prevent change, it’s crucial for leaders to recognize the interconnection between all of the events we experience now and in the future. For example, consider technological advances that enable us to accomplish tasks now that we once believed an impossibility.
In the early 2000s, I participated in a professional workshop led by a futurist. He spoke about a new handheld device on the horizon that was more powerful than any technology we had available on the market at the time. He shared with us that this device would radically change how we connected and thought about work – a paradigm shift if you will. I was doubtful at the time. Yet, Apple has sold more than 1.5 billion iPhones since 2009, making it one of the most utilized smartphones in the world.
Today, it’s unimaginable to think of how one would survive in the professional world without mobile devices and advanced technology – they seamlessly integrate our personal and work lives, enabling communications with colleagues, clients, family, friends, and communities across both time and distance. They provide access to critical information instantaneously and give us the ability to collaborate in real time.
To prepare for additional (and imminent) developments and advances, leaders must consider the technology we currently know and use each day, as well as the potential of future technologies and how they will affect the way we organize business, production, and consumption.
As such, the challenge for leaders is to ensure that their organization succeeds not only as a single entity but also as a team player in the greater global landscape. No matter what industry you practice in, it’s vital to recognize that your company has a genuine impact beyond merely addressing your customers’, employees’ and financial investors’ goals.
Leading Beyond Buildings: Remote Work + Dispersed Teams Can Still = Community
With evolving technologies, we no longer need buildings to assemble in to accomplish our work. The advantages of working remotely abound: there’s no need to physically commute; work can be accessed anytime and from anywhere; and, organizations benefit significantly from the productivity engendered by workers from various parts of the world coming together in creative environments, generating new ideas and ways of doing things.
On the other hand, relying entirely on technology to accomplish our tasks remotely is not without its challenges. These hurdles can be personal, societal and organizational and might include the following:
• Working remotely requires workers to be self-dependent and accountable in ways that autocratic and hierarchical organizations typically excuse us from.
• For the last 200 hundred years, we have defined ourselves through the community that is our “workplace,” or the building we go to every day and the people we meet with, as well as our status in that community. Remote working frees us from the commute but removes this in-person community.
• Another challenge is how to organize teams without buildings. Leaders must structure things strategically in ways that explore the potential of organizing differently (versus trying to replicate the way they have always worked). For example, developing communication skills that make full use of technology so we can be present for each other via video. Or, in the near future, perhaps using gaming technology to experience being in the same rooms. With this strategy, younger workers will better appreciate this type of work environment, especially because many are already comfortable with technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
Leadership Of Networks Requires Embracing New Skills
To be effective as the business world changes to networked dispersion and organizations with permeable boundaries, leaders must develop new attributes and hone new skills. They must be open to partnerships and see strength in accessing opportunities that can be acquired more easily and flexibly than building these internally.
This strategy also changes everything about the competitive mindset. Because it’s impossible to be successful autocratically or hierarchically in this type of environment, leaders must strive to develop themselves to be:
• Self-reflective, so they continuously learn and develop and have the ability to manage themselves exceptionally well. As such, they should never panic or lose their head in difficult situations.
• Visionaries who have conviction about the possibilities of the future, and realize how to communicate this in a way that excites people’s imaginations. If leaders don’t possess the right skills to handle details, they must ensure they have employees around them who know how to turn this strategic skill into plans and practical actions.
• Thoughtful about what they do – they must have excellent critical thinking skills and be adaptive based on a deep understanding and analysis of the context of their organization and the challenges it may face.
• Honest and transparent, as well as open-minded. They should aim to show strength by being open about their vulnerabilities and how they address them.
• Understanding of what makes others tick. Above all, they must be able to engage, support and develop their people non-hierarchically. In other words, they should appreciate the value of the contribution their team members are making and ensure they feel able to continue contributing.
It’s Time To Get Excited About Leading ‘From The Future’
The business world is changing rapidly. Today’s leaders can survive and thrive by leaning in and adapting to these changes – and ultimately, by understanding the implications of change and its impact on the broader business world.
When leaders shift their perspective toward the future of their organization, it enables team members to realize their true potential and see themselves not as confined by the walls of the organization but empowered to have a much wider impact for the greater good.
As seen on Forbes Coaches Council
Check out my other contributions to the Forbes Coaches Council:
People are people, not just resources
We don’t believe in quick fixes to whip an organization into shape. We believe that people know the answers to the problems they face; they just need to be asked the right questions. And we are very good at asking questions.
We start from the belief that everyone has a contribution to make and that people work best when they are excited and engaged by what they do.
Problems can arise in work relationships, and individuals can lose their way. This is evidence for human complexity. People have problems, but they also have potential.
As clinical psychologists, that’s how we see it.
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