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Management and Leadership

I am a domino. It’s likely that you are, too. But whether you’re propped at the front of the line, in the middle, or way at the back will depend upon your current employment.

It is, as the pundits like to say, the price of progress: as technology advances, work changes and, often, that work goes away. It’s happened in manufacturing as robots replaced human workers (though offshoring didn’t help), and it’s moving on to white collar jobs where artificial intelligence is assuming chores that once were considered “safe for human assumption.”

Jim Collins and his team of researchers spent five years exploring what made companies go from good to great. And through his work, many companies have been positively impacted. But, how do you go from a good leader to a great one?

Remember during your employee orientation when your company reviewed their Code of Ethics with you? You know, the short list of basic ethical guidelines to follow when conducting business on behalf of the corporation? I didn’t think so! 

Most corporations have Codes of Ethics or Ethical Conduct hidden on their websites, or on their internal intranet buried within their “Values” statements, or somewhere within their Employee Handbooks. But, they rarely call attention to them. Corporations figure their new hires and current associates all have a ‘moral compass’ or they would not have been hired in the first place. However, events in today’s business world demonstrate how a simple slip in ethical conduct can doom an entire company.

Henry Mintzberg took on Harvard Business School’s teaching methodologies, in his widely acclaimed book Managers Not MBAs, by arguing that “conventional MBA classrooms overemphasize the science of management while ignoring its art.” In acknowledgement, management in this post is considered an ever evolving set of practices shaped by the cultural environment one finds him or herself in, where the “art of management” is to be practiced.

BlueSteps recently hosted an #ExecCareer Chat on the topic of "Becoming a Better Leader" and leadership development, featuring Catherine Bell, from BluEra, Mike Morrow, from TRANSEARCH, and Daniel Rezende, from Dasein Executive Search.

Some of the questions asked included:

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:

You’ve seen these types in the workplace, right? Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) from the movie Horrible Bosses. Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) in the film Working Girl. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) from the movie Wall Street. Some executives make Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole) from Office Space and Michael Scott (Steve Carell) from The Office look like a blessing. Examples from movie and television aside, we have all witnessed some form of destructive leadership. How do you identify early warning signs? And is there a remedy?

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.