Slowing things down, allowing tasks to be done sequentially and most importantly, without interruption, is crucial in management. If you are trying to lead your team in a state
restlessness, always wanting immediacy and action, you reap short-term rewards but long-term pain and delay in achieving your personal and organizational goals.
A research paper entitled Framed by your inbox published in The Journal of Applied Psychology demonstrates this. Researchers have used numerous daily surveys to study the impact of email on the effectiveness of managers in a number of industries.
“When managers try to recover from messaging interruptions, they fall short of their goals, they neglect their responsibilities and their subordinates lack the leadership behavior they need to thrive,” said one of the leaders. authors of the article.
Increased speed of emails makes the manager become more “tactical” in order to feel that he is still productive in the short term.
The paper concluded on this rather gloomy note: “Our research suggests that the pitfalls of email requests may have been underestimated – in addition to its impact on leadership behavior, reductions in effective leadership behaviors have likely been underestimated. negative repercussions on unintentional subscribers ”.
So what behaviors of leaders are impacted when managers constantly try to recover from interruptions and find themselves operating in tactical mode? Management, according to the famous business thinker, Henry Mintzberg, takes place on three planes: information, people and action.
He says managing by information means getting other people to take action based on the information the manager receives. Here, information takes precedence, it is seen as the holy grail and leads to obsessions like “shareholder value” and to focusing on the “bottom line” above all.
The manager remains detached, operating remotely, constantly checking dashboards and key indicators without getting involved in the actual functioning of the company. It’s also the place where tools like email work in a crazy way and have a detrimental role to play – flooding the electronic communications plane and forcing the manager to lead others through data and facts. .
Whereas dealing with people requires a whole different attitude. In this area people are encouraged and not led as they are in the information plane. Subordinates are motivated and empowered. Managers spend time leading people within the business unit, cultivating the right team culture, energizing and developing individuals and building resilience in the organization.
They also spend time connecting with people outside the business unit, networking with external supporters, forming coalitions, and representing their business units to the outside world.
Finally, Mintzberg says that management by action is about the manager moving closer to the action of what the organization is doing; here they become the actor, the person who “does the work”.
In reality, this is always what their business unit does, like creating a new product or serving customers in a retail environment, but the point is, the manager is not passive, but active.
The more managers are framed by their inbox, the more they are forced to operate only in the information plane and their efforts will be skewed, leading to disconnection with people and actually getting the job done.
It is high time we remembered that management is both a science and an art, which requires an understanding of operations in terms of information, people and action. If we can wean ourselves off of our emails, we might actually find out.
Rehan Khan is a senior consultant for BT and novelist