Face-to-face communication beats technology. On our trip we relied on explanations over the phone while still driving, instead of taking the extra time to stop and communicate face-to-face. In IT, we often rely too heavily on technology for all communications: email, instant messaging, sometimes the phone, voice mail, etc.
Technology is supposed to help us communicate better but it can actually impede communication. Face-to-face communication takes more time and effort but provides you with valuable information you cannot get otherwise: body language and tone of voice.
You can't lead from the rear. If you know your destination and you know how to reach it, you can't lead by pushing people ahead of you. You need to be in front and have people follow. On our trip, the driver in the back car should have taken the lead, instead of trying to lead the other car over the phone.
Similar situations often occur in the workplace: the manager who wants the team to work overtime, but who comes in late or takes long lunches; the manager who tells people to lead a balanced life, yet works 12 hour days and never takes a vacation; the manager who asks for feedback, but flies off the handle if the feedback is negative. Leadership is effective only if the leader walks the talk.
Don't leave your team behind. One of the most important parts of leadership is that you do not abandon your team willfully. As a leader, you make the best efforts to keep your team intact, even if it means investing more time with the ones that have difficulty following. You may choose to remove them from your team; they may choose to leave; but you don't abandon them on the way to your destination.
Our almost-failed road trip is reminiscent of many failed IT projects:
-- projects where there isn't a clear business outcome;
-- projects where there is no clear plan to a finished product;
-- projects that fail because people are unable to communicate and understand each other;
-- projects that fail because the actors are so busy moving forward that they don't have the time to step back and see if they are headed in the right direction.
We had a bit of a shaky start to our vacation but, all in all, we had a very good time and we would do it again in a heartbeat.
Similarly, all projects do not go exactly according to plan. You can make it smoother by having a clear vision of your goal, by communicating it to your team, and by being willing and able to lead them through the rough spots.
In a few years, you'll be able to look back upon the experience and enjoy it just like a vacation trip to your cottage.
Laurent Duperval is the president of Duperval Consulting, which helps individuals and companies improve people-focused communication processes. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 514-902-0186.
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