Leadership Challenge: Bringing Technology & People Together to Create a Win/Win

The best part of writing my new book ‘Influence from the Inside Out’ was the opportunity to glean insight and wisdom from a bunch of senior executives – one being Andrew Dyer. Andrew is a company director, he serves on a number of boards and he’s also the National Wind Farm Commissioner for the Australian Federal Government.

Andrew and I caught up again this week and we chatted about the convergence of technology and people. How we use technology for a greater good will shape how we connect with each other and work together. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s one of the most important leadership challenges we face today.

Disruption can be both technology led and consumer led, requiring organisations to rethink their business models and wining game. Pizza Hut: remember their premium pizza ‘restaurant experience’ of the past versus their current $5 pizza pickup deal. Qantas: launching Jetstar to retain/win market share and protect the Qantas brand through a price led (lower business model cost) offering.

Business survival today means being agile, resilient and managing change well. It means making the right judgement calls along the way.

Change is a process that requires decision after decision at each point in the process. The question to ask ourselves at each decision point is: should we rely on system based ‘rules’ to make this decision or is human judgement still the most reliable way to make this decision?

Andrew’s other insights around leading technology-based change were:

  • Innovation versus optimisation (eg: doing it better, faster, cheaper) requires different leadership skillsets. A leader who is good at one won’t necessarily excel in the other.
  • Even when it’s complex, fight to keep change as simple as possible
  • Technology can’t do everything – it’s not always the right answer or the total solution
  • Post-implementation is the most critical phase, where addressing the underlying causes of issues/problems (ie: training, data, systems access, processes, and software can all be culprits) has to override blaming and resisting the change itself
  • Don’t make IT solely accountable. Keys to success are: Program Managers who can actually lead people (versus manage them); having the right governance in place; and senior executive endorsement/commitment.

Just as technology can help organisations connect into new markets, better customer experiences, and efficiencies that drive better bottom lines, technology is also dangerous.

The more connected we become with modern technology – the more stressed we feel.

Research reveals the typical user touches their phone 2,617 times a day¹. On a positive, our devices give us an instant gratification hit of information variety on steroids and we LOVE it! Sadly though, always feeling like we have to be ‘connected-in’ at work creates anxiety and stress. Resilience is key to managing stress. However, leaders play a critical role in the stress equation too. How?

As leaders, the more senior we become the more magnified our actions become.  Andrew suggests being mindful of:

  • Sending emails during business hours (even if you write them after hours). Sending emails at 10pm or 5am for example, give the cue that you’re ‘on’ and your team might perceive the need to be ‘on’ too (global time zones obviously make this tricky). Regardless of the deadlines and pressure, appreciate that people have lives too. Your ‘online’ time creates ripples around you.
  • Being calm – even when things are crazy busy and when things go wrong. Your people will take their cues from you. 
  • Managing your EQ so that your intentions match your impact.

Bringing it all together

Leadership is a hard gig. Our working environment is complex. People are complex. We’re all busy. Decisions need to be made in the shades of grey. Ultimately though, as Simon Sinek says, leadership is about meeting the needs of others before meeting our own needs. How we use technology for a greater good will help shape how we work and live together. I’d love to know your thoughts on how we face the leadership challenges ahead together. 

¹https://www.smartcompany.com.au/people-human-resources/wellbeing/phone-addiction-why-worrying-typical-user-checks-smartphone-2617-times/

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