The internet has brought about many wonderful developments in this world. First, it’s given those with a penchant for procrastination a few billion cat videos to divert their attention from whatever task might be at hand. Secondly, it’s reduced the need for us to have to interpret our own handwriting. And most importantly, it’s enabled those without considerable patience for human interaction to actually lead teams with relative efficiency.
Thanks to glorious tools like Skype and Slack, the more antisocial among us are now able to go about the business of running a business without ever really having to hold a conversation with another human. Yes, today we can lord over our empires (admittedly small as they might be), assembling teams from across the globe, and all the while never having to engage in minor pleasantries of the ‘how was your weekend?’ variety. Thank you internet.
Whilst this approach to leadership might fly in the face of literally all advice ever given, it’s not necessarily as outrageous as you might think. You see, to a new generation of digitally savvy workers, the thought of actually talking to another human being seems entirely unnecessary – after all, why would you do that when you can WhatsApp, text or Snapchat?
It’s based on this reticent approach to social interaction (as well as my own relative lack of enthusiasm for small talk) that I went about establishing a business located entirely in cyberspace. Instead of an office, we have Skype. Instead of working hours, we have WhatApp. Instead of conversation, we have communication.
Yes, the two are in fact different. You see, when you’re in the same room as someone, you’re inclined to talk a whole lot about nothing. Do you really care how your colleague’s weekend went? Or what they’re doing this evening? Probably not. Will you discuss these things during the course of the day? Most likely. Yet all you’ve achieved as a result of this unnecessary bout of dialogue is a headache and the sneaking sensation that you probably should have made plans of your own.
When communication takes place exclusively on digital platforms, you’re far less likely to become embroiled in unnecessary chit chat, saving your interactions for work-related topics that in fact further productivity. And while that’s not to say there’s no room for banter on Skype, you’re probably more likely to think twice before you say something.
‘But what about keeping tabs on your employees?’ is the one question I get over and over again. And it’s true that this virtual existence does make it harder to stay abreast of your workers’ movements. Hell, they could quite possibly be having their nails done or even taking a nap while you’re knee deep in deadlines. Has this happened before? You bet. But does it really matter at the end of the day?
You see, the virtual world works slightly differently to its in-person counterpart, requiring less in the way of actual time and more in terms of output. So whilst you might not exactly be overly thrilled that your top performer has stepped out for a quick cut-and-blow in favour of doing anything remotely productive, the bottom line is that there are deadlines to be met. If you can restyle your hair AND get that article in before 5pm, that’s fine by me.
Naturally, there are those who will take this type of freedom too far, which is why it’s imperative that you get your recruitment efforts just right. It takes a very specific type of person to master the type of discipline required to take on a job with negligible boundaries, not to mention one that offers very little scope for social interaction. But find the right person that you can trust, and you’re onto a winning wicket.
If you’ve got a team you need to manage, but would rather do so behind the cloak of invisibility afforded by the internet, here are a few top tips to bear in mind:
- Be very careful about who you hire – self-discipline isn’t a common trait, and a misstep in this regard could leave you with a team of slackers with exceptionally well-maintained manicures.
- Trust your people. If you try to keep tabs on your employees’ movements you’ll do nothing but bring about a premature heart attack. Your employees will sense your trust in them, and usually do their best to honour it.
- Communicate efficiently. When you have less time to chat, the words you do choose to share are more significant, so it’s important that you express your needs clearly and succinctly.