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General Executive Interest

In these contentious times, when almost every topic—even the weather—has become controversial, it is edifying to read about a merger that sailed through the shareholder approval process with near unanimity. On Tuesday, July 19, EMC shareholders voted overwhelmingly and without debate to approve a $62.3 billion merger into Dell, with 98 percent of votes affirming the deal, and almost as many approving golden parachute payments to EMC executives in the event of job loss post-closing. The deal received U.S. and European antitrust approval in February and is on track for approval from Chinese antitrust authorities in time for an October closing. The new company, Dell Technologies, to be chaired and led by Michael Dell, will be privately owned.

When did “how to win friends and influence people” mutate into “how to exclude people and persuade others to join you”? Was it when SCOTUS struck down the Defense of Marriage Act? Or was it on September 11th when people from sixty-two foreign nations were among those who died.

Office politics is an unfortunate workplace reality. It’s a phenomenon that leads us to behave in ways that might not qualify as totally ethical, and it encourages certain co-workers to indulge their inner Faust.

I’m guilty of it to some degree. I calculate people’s likely responses to business proposals in advance, line up allies, and prepare responses and rebuttals for those who are sure to disagree. It’s self-preservational. But it’s directly related to accomplishing what I think is right for the company, regardless of whether it’s right for a particular colleague.

The irony of this digitally connected world of ours is that devices have installed distances between people who work in proximity and shortened distances between people who work remotely. How often have we had neighbors send us emails, WhatsApp messages or text messages, only for an annoying outburst from a third colleague who enters the exchange wondering why people don’t just talk to each other. At the same time, aided by tools such as telepresence and video conferences, colleagues who work remotely no longer perceive the same distance that our predecessors experienced.

I have dealt with colleagues who work remotely for more than 16 years. Based on my own experience, here are a few tips on leading colleagues who work remotely:

The demands of the quarterly cycle of business push leaders to operate in the here and now of the short term. However, innovation demands being able to take a long-term view. Innovators have to be able to see beyond the current horizon to innovate. We need to have the resilience to act beyond immediate gratification to create new products, services and markets.

Although I research and teach about emotions, I also have clients, colleagues, and a family (including two cats, two dogs a husband, and an almost four-year-old), so I can very well understand why we all struggle sometimes. This afternoon, my son has been in the house for 15 minutes, has spilled water all over the kitchen floor and then walked in it with his dirty feet from outside, screamed (happily) about 100 times (or so it seems) while playing with one of the dogs, whined about having his nails cut and has been singing in between it all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful to be able to work from home some of the time and have him come by for a hug once in a while and to just be here in the midst of the craziness of life.

Walmart may not have been the first company whose pricing policies forced suppliers to send jobs overseas, but it was, for years, the one with the highest public profile. Yet, like so many things involving marketplace dynamics, the issues that attracted the most attention had to do with the wages and benefits that Walmart offered employees. It’s a subject that makes good press but, ultimately, bad economics. By contrast, with the impact of offshoring, though, it’s almost insignificant.
 

The Good

I just don’t have the time.

We all say it, or at least think it, every day. We have to make some hard decisions on how we use our available time. We have to prioritize.

Our jobs and careers demand that we set priorities, too. I hear it every day from friends and colleagues – especially when they try to explain why they aren’t more involved with their industry associations.

Succession planning. We think about it all the time, right? No? Never? Unfortunately, that’s the reality in many businesses – particularly smaller or family-owned companies.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), “Succession planning is a means for an organization to ensure its continued effective performance through leadership continuity. For an organization to plan for the replacement of key leaders, potential leaders must first be identified and prepared to take on those roles.”

From my earliest days in business, I had three role models: George Abbott, Edward Bernays and, despite having rock ’n’ roll DJ for a father, Mozart. Abbott was in the midst of planning a revival of his Broadway show Pajama Game when he passed away in his sleep…at age 107. Bernays, the father of public relations, was still going to the office until death blocked the door…at age 103. Mozart, of course, died young but created, arguably, more timeless music before he turned 39 than his equally famous compeers.