Hi, I’m Ian McClean. I’m the founder of Flow Group and GreenLine Conversations. And this podcast has grown out of the chaos that’s been thrust upon us. During the podcast, I’m going to try and share with you the best of 25 years of helping corporate organizations deal and cope with change. So, as you’re out there, busy making sense of it all, trying to cope, and maybe, in some cases, trying to rebuild your organizations, I’m hoping that some of this can be of some assistance. We’ll keep it deliberately short, because I know you’re busy. Let’s dive in.
Let’s be clear. We’ve had this pandemic thrust upon us. Nobody voted for it. The reality is that there are two types of companies: those who were already working remotely because it was the nature of their industry and their business, some tech companies, some knowledge-related industries, and they were already used to this, but they’re in a very small minority.
For the majority of our companies, for the majority of us, this is something that has been forced upon us, and we’ve had to adapt very quickly. Like one organization that we are currently working with who has gone from a situation where they actively forbade their people to work from home because of reasonable data sensitivity and encryption, and all of a sudden, they’ve taken a 180-degree swing and mandate their people that they must work from home like the rest of us.
As somebody commented, there is nothing quite like a coronavirus to accelerate your digital strategy. Adapting our leadership to deal with a remote world and remote followers and people is something which is going to take more than one episode to explain. So, in this episode, what I’d like to do is just address the idea of mindset around expectations for remote working and also share with you a formula for effectiveness in terms of working remotely and being effective as a leader.
Let’s begin with some good news. The good news is, there was ample research conducted around the effectiveness of remote teams, long before this pandemic ever started. And the clear message is, remote teams do not work as well as face to face teams that are present together. It’s not to say that they don’t work at all or that there aren’t better or worse ways of leading remote teams.
Somehow, There’s a tacit expectation amongst ourselves that as leaders we’re expected to get the same results today as we would do whenever things are face to face in the normal environment. And this is just an unnecessary level of pressure. It’s a little bit like expecting to post the same golf score in a round where you only have 50 per cent of the clubs in the bag or producing a fantastic meal when you’ve only got 50 per cent of the ingredients in your cupboard.
And the reason that I use 50 per cent as the number is this is the approximate value of the non verbal communication that happens whenever you’re sighted face to face and present with somebody. So all of those subtle, non-verbal cues that happen unconsciously that our limbic or feeling brain is picking up on all the time, when that is withdrawn or, or, or retracted, all of a sudden, you’re playing with half of the deck.
So, if we return to one of our points in an earlier episode about being kind to yourself and giving that inner critic a sabbatical. Don’t expect that you’re going to be as effective as you would be if you were face-to-face with people because there are elements and aspects that you just don’t have access to.
Our expectations are understandable. Because there is a tacit belief also that because we have technology, like video conferencing and the face-to-face platforms where we visually can see people like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, etc. somehow that is the equivalent of being together. The more recent research tells us that that’s actually not the case.
And what’s really happening is our limbic system is trying to pick up the cues that we are trying to discern through a screen that enables us to typically gauge what’s going on non-verbally with people. But when you’ve got a screen which is maybe 13 inches in size and maybe like celebrity or Hollywood squares divided into 22 different sections, it’s almost impossible to pick up that mild grimace that you otherwise would have picked up if you were face to face with somebody in the meeting.
And the endless face-to-face Zoom meetings that are happening, what it’s actually doing is, it’s a little bit like the old days where you were trying to connect to the internet via the dial-up modem. And you just have this constant white noise as it’s dialling up and an interminable wait to connect for a connection that never happens.
And that’s exactly what your limbic system is being subjected to currently. And what it means is that we feel ourselves by the end of the day, totally exhausted after the Zoom meeting, after Zoom meetings, we become Zoombies by the end of the day, and we wonder why. So, therefore, in this pseudo-sighted remote world that we are now obliged to lead in, what’s the formula for success?
Once we’ve relaxed the idea and the notion that it’s going to be as good as it is face-to-face. How do we actually operate and become as effective as we can be in this now ever-present remote world? Well, there’s a simple equation that I’m going to share with you and it goes as follows E equals CL times CO.
The E stands for leadership effectiveness, and it is equal to our ability to create CL, which stands for clarity, times our ability to get buy-in and commitment, which is the CO. If we manage to create clarity and don’t have the commitment to match it, it’s going to be ineffective. If we manage to create commitment amongst our people but we don’t have clarity, we’re going to be ineffective.
It’s a combination of creating clarity and commitment remotely that’s going to enable us to emerge as our best leadership. So, the challenge I have between now and the next episode is, can you observe and ask yourself the question, how clear Am I and are my people about what’s being asked of them?
Why they’re doing it? What their roles are? What their expectations are? That’s on one side. The second question is to observe how committed people are. And I mean really committed. It’s going to be different from person to person. And what are the things that are either enhancing or inhibiting their commitment?
Reflect on that during the next week. And when we come back in the next episode, we’re going to unpack and go through some strategies for creating better clarity, creating more commitment, and being more effective as a leader.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay sane, and stay connected.