The way in which businesses handle their internal and external operations has changed dramatically in the last 10–15 years, and with the rise of tech adoption in mainstream business culture leaders are met with a new set of complex challenges when balancing the power of tech and the needs of team members. As business evolves, so must leadership.
The rise in need of agile leadership has emerged to meet the demand of the changing business landscape. And so our management style and approach needs to push growth forward through nimble and adaptive leadership.
How is technology helping today’s businesses and team leaders empower their people to get the most optimal performance out of them?
The mark of a great leader is the ability to connect with your team members. As technology disrupts business daily, team leaders are tasked with handling changes by identifying them early,, and the ability to chart a new course when complications arise. Leaders need to keep a keen eye on all facets of technology on the horizon in order to be able to predict changes before they occur to give teams more time to adapt and pivot. When changes do eventually occur, team members look to their leadership to guide and motivate them.
The fundamentals of leading people haven’t changed much from a psychological standpoint. Agile leaders galvanise support and trust from their team through a variety of ways, but mainly by leading by example. Establishing connections with each member, taking a hands-on interest in their overall support and guidance, and encouraging collaboration are tried and tested ways leaders can get complete buy-in from their teams. This leads to a positive and inspiring working environment which brings out the best possible output from each team member. At the end of the day, although technology has become a key player in modern business, people are still at the heart of every organisation.
The growth of technology adoption in business has given rise to new ways of working. A common way tech has disrupted the workplace is that it has not only changed it — it has removed the very need for it in the first place. Welcome to the world of remote working.
With almost everything turning to digital, technology has made it possible for employees to work out of the office and conduct their business work online or using a work network. This obviously has opened up businesses quite literally to the global market, but moreover, it has provided employees with the freedom of flexibility in their approach to work. Teams from all over the world can now work on the same project in real-time without being in the same room. This has given rise to a new level of trust between leaders and team members, where the outdated ‘watchdog’ approach in the office does little to motivate employees.
When employees work remotely they are given more responsibility and ownership over their work and are expected to meet deadlines and project requirements no matter where they find themselves geographically. Team members feel that their leadership has placed a new level of trust in them, it motivates their approach to work and improves their overall output.
Technology has also allowed the concept of office hours to become redundant. Business is now real-time, global and therefore it never stops. Clients and businesses alike expect business to be conducted at all hours of the day. Projects can be worked on around the clock from a team of geographically distant members, so deliverables can be submitted overnight. Our always-on world means work can be done at all times from anywhere in the world. This also means that team management can be done from anywhere at any time.
But with team members working remotely, how do agile leaders get the best out of their team when they aren’t in the same room? How can leaders manage the daily operations of teams when the seats in the office are empty?
Technology has produced some amazing remote management tools . Team leaders no longer have to be in the same room to get updated status-checks thanks to instant messaging and data sharing platforms such as Slack and even social messaging applications like WhatsApp and WeChat.
Project management has changed dramatically from the days of hand-written timesheets and manual performance monitoring. Team leaders can chart the progress of each project and how many hours each team member has contributed through real-time tracking tools such as toggle. Team members log in their hours for each project and managers have a real-time overview of performance and deliverables. This allows them to have up-to-date status reports handy and performance evaluation becomes more streamlined.
When the need for face-to-face interactions arise, video calling tools such as Zoom and Google Hangouts have brought geographically distant boardrooms together. Leaders can conduct meetings, presentations and even work pitches with management and clients at any time from anywhere. This technology has improved overall business efficiency, the demand for team leaders to be flexible themselves and to utilise all the available tech as global business evolves.
The drawback of this physically distant but virtually hands-on approach to management is that some employees may have tendencies to slack off from time to time when they are at home, in close proximity to their creature comforts. When employees do not need to be at an office at a set time every day, a lot rides on their self-discipline. However, these concerns can be disarmed by a firm leadership style from afar. Leaders managing remote teams should set up daily morning meetings as if in the office so that they can ensure each member is ready for the day ahead. With remote performance tracking and monitoring tools, managers are able to see how and when employees are working toward their deadlines. And when utilising instant messaging platforms, leaders can keep tabs on employees to ensure they are at their desk during working hours. Technology helps leaders make their presence felt without being physically present.
Technology is making traditional leadership roles such as interviewing, onboarding, staff training and KPIs way more efficient and accurate. Today’s leaders use virtual assistants to handle repetitive tasks which can be automated — and they work around the clock, 24/7. This frees up a large amount of their time and allows leaders to engage with their team in meaningful ways. It also affords leaders and staff the opportunity to turn more of their attention to high-level operations where the human-centric approach is still king.
Virtual assistants help leaders in a variety of clever and time-saving ways. For example, AI-powered voice assistance can retain vital information from meetings and give leaders highlights and summaries. Meetings and appointments can be scheduled by this tech to ensure that leaders will never miss a beat. When the mundane tasks of each team member, as well as team leaders, are automated it frees up time for each person to focus on more meaningful tasks. This means leaders will no longer have to be concerned about repetitive yet necessary office functions.
The advances in technology have disrupted the way we do business and as a result, the way we manage our teams. When new tech becomes available, managers are on the front line of handling how it positively affects their teams. Technology has provided team leaders with ways to monitor and evaluate employees’ work in real-time while providing teams with freedom of flexibility. Technology has taken over a lot of the hand-holding leaders previously had to provide and has given them more time to focus on establishing connections with team members to foster a culture of trust. Thanks to technology, leaders do not have to play a watchdog role, but more of a conductor who oversees the entire process while giving employees ownership over their work. We will see just how effective this new approach to leadership is in the years to come.
An executive’s guide to AI and Intelligent Automation. Working Machines takes a look at how the renewed vigour for the development of Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation technology has begun to change how businesses operate.