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LEADING IN A VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT – THOUGHTS FROM AN ARMY GENERAL

October 15, 2018 in

The first thing that comes to mind when reading the last HCS blog about responsiveness among co-workers is email. How wonderful it is, but how much of a scourge it has become. Let me explain:

From my experience as a senior leader running large organizations, receiving up to 150 emails a day is normal. And over the years, receiving up to 100 emails on weekends is more the norm as well. As you know, this type of “connectivity” can become overwhelming.

The secret to remember, though, is that every email has an author and a purpose, and normally that author is looking for some action, reaction or affirmation for the work he or she has done. My management style has always been to respond in some way to every email (except for junk mail). The response is important for all the reasons Noelle highlights in her blog. A lesson of leadership I learned a long time ago is that people respond best to your leadership in your organization if they feel good about themselves in your presence. Note I did not say that they need to feel good about you, but rather their self-esteem and worthiness. Our job is to give them tough work, the resources to do it, an environment for success, and then to affirm their efforts. Responding in a positive way – even if it is a “thank-you; great insights” – means more than you know.

The obvious drawback of responding to every email is that it can generate more responses, which can literally consume hours on your calendar. To mitigate the time creep, you must learn how to manage all the traffic and recognize if it is demanding too much of your time. Specifically, if it is competing with your reflection opportunities or with other important things in your life – like sitting down and having dinner with your kids or reading them a story at bed time, then you may have to reconsider your current communications and put a plan in place that your team is aware of.

For other teammates, keep in mind that the boss has numerous responsibilities other than responding back to your email. He or she will also be sending out emails, and there is an expectation that the recipient will in some way acknowledge and appropriately respond, which further increases the email pipeline. Regardless, when the boss sends out information, the expectation is that the recipient will acknowledge, apply the information, and respond appropriately and timely.

As you know and have probably experienced, all of this can get out of hand. Therefore, the boss must recognize the level of communication traffic and balance expectations. I’ve always been an advocate of the 360 assessment, and it is a great opportunity to tell the boss if there is a balance issue and to ensure the boss is listening as much as they are barking out orders.

If you’d like to learn more about effective responsiveness, reach out to us at HCS@HigherEchelon.com or through our website for more information.