You don’t need MORE technology!

Tabletop full of laptops, smartphones, and other technology.
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

In fact, you probably need less. (Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash)

I know that sounds funny coming from a guy who makes a living creating more technology (writing code and leading teams of people to write code).  But for most problems that your business faces, it’s likely that you are relying too heavily on technology and not enough on people.

Have concerns about whether your team is being productive working from home?  Don’t implement spy technology to monitor them!  Have a real conversation to find out what’s going on in their lives.  Maybe there’s something blocking them from getting their work done.  It could be work-related, like they are waiting on someone else to get back to them with information they need; or perhaps you have given them too many #1 priorities and they are trying to get everything done, resulting in getting nothing done.  Or maybe it’s outside of work, and they need a break to deal with it.  All your monitoring software is going to do is make them more anxious and less trusting of you and your leadership.  It will never show you the root of the problem.

I hear a lot of stories about managers asking for monitoring tools to check up on their employees, when what they really need is to actually manage their employees.  If you can’t trust your employees to do the work you have asked them to do, then you have a management problem, not a technology problem.  Have you clearly defined the work that you expect your employees to get done?  Have you equipped them with training and tools to get the work done?  Is the volume and quality of work you are asking for reasonable in the time given to do it?

I can’t imagine working with someone where I don’t trust them to do their best to do their job.  And if their best isn’t good enough for the job, then I need to either help them get better by investing my time and resources into them (e.g. training, mentoring, or equipping) or I need to replace them.  Now that doesn’t necessarily mean fire them.  It might mean reassigning the task to someone else, and asking this person to do other work that suits them better.  But before any of that happens, you need to connect with them to better understand what’s holding them back.  And you do that with less technology, not more (no, a video call is not better than a phone call, if tensions are high).

People often turn to technology in lieu of relationship.  I see this happen all the time in email.  A conversation goes back and forth between a few people, often picking up additional spectators along the way, as if adding someone’s boss to a long email chain will accomplish anything positive.  And it keeps going, with both sides convinced they are right and the other person just doesn’t understand.  Stop it!  Pick up the phone!  Or better yet, walk over and talk to them in-person if you can.  Neither one of you is communicating as clearly as you think, which is obvious by the number of emails in the chain.  Yet so often, people persist in using the medium that has already failed them.

Stop digging the hole!  Put the shovel down and pick up a ladder.

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