By Bill Owens, CEO Veracity, an IT services company that transforms business by designing, building and supporting ICT platforms for competitive advantage.
We have been very busy helping our clients to lift and shift from the office to home working during COVID-19. Many of my business leader friends have remarked on the challenges of managing their teams when they are not in the office, noting how difficult it is to manage when they cannot interact with the team every day. I understand this, remembering when I was a young manager 25 years ago, and learning that managers work through people to get things done, while the team does the doing.
As a CEO I was very used to relying on my direct reports to assist me in running the business. For example, I would depend on my finance director to provide quarterly forecasts with documented implications, and I would follow his or her analyses, often over-trustingly. So, in these times where the team is scattered, this leadership style becomes challenging.
COVID-19 has forced me to work in isolation on my farm 200 kilometres away from our office. In fact, we have staff scattered all around the state 1,000s of kilometres apart from the rest of our team and clients. During this COVID-19 time, it struck me that there is a difference between the office-bound or working-at-home leader and the Anytime, Anywhere Leader.
The Office Bound Leader
The office leader whose team is working-at-home applies the same management rules as if they were in the office. Giving direction, following up and delivering outputs becomes difficult because you miss the day to day interactions that move things along and get things done. It is hard to work through people when everyone is at home working at different cadences, juggling home and work priorities in real time.
The Anytime, Anywhere Leader
What I have learnt as an Anytime, Anywhere Leader is that you work through your software applications as well as your people to get things done. The three apps I rely on anytime, anywhere are my CRM app, my finance app and my unified comms app.
The next three ‘bread and butter’ apps that I continually access are my file store, my notes app, which is my digital notebook and email – begrudgingly. All these apps are cloud based so are anytime, anywhere accessible. At the farm I get to the cloud via satellite broadband as I am relatively remote.
How I Run My Business
I now run my business and lead anytime, anywhere by first accessing an app for information and then collaborating with my direct reports before acting. For example, if I need quarterly forecasts, I will log into my finance app, review the last few quarters, and maybe compare the last couple of years and run some predictive scenarios. When I have formed a view, I will use my UC, that is my unified comms app – in my case Microsoft Teams – to call, message or video conference my finance director to have an informed conversation about the next quarter. We may record it, so we are both in the moment and not distracted by taking notes.
What I have learnt as an Anytime, Anywhere Leader is that I now use these apps to ‘discover’ and ‘analyse’ before ‘collaborating’ and ‘acting’ rather than blindly delegating as I have done in the past.
It represents a definite mindset change and has been a steep learning curve to teach myself these apps, and to lead in this more collaborative way. However, if we expect our teams to be lifelong learners and to be adaptive to continual change, then I must lead by example and use these apps to leverage the power of the data and predictive capabilities they offer to inform better collaboration and decision making.
Apart from my mindset shift and learning investment, the ability to be an Anytime, Anywhere Leader relies on a solid, simple, Anytime, Anywhere ICT platform.
In the next three articles, I will explain how to plan and design an Anytime, Anywhere ICT platform for your business. If you already have an optimised ICT platform, these articles will serve as a checklist. In the meantime, get in touch and let me know what you think about Anytime, Anywhere leadership and share your experience. In these challenging COVID-19 times, hang in there business leaders!
Bill Owens can be reached at email@example.com