One of the things we love about our work is the opportunity to have conversations with various business leaders about the challenges they face. In one such recent conversation, a business leader raised this interesting topic – with teams becoming more spread across geographies, and technology becoming an all pervading force, a lot of the interaction with team members happen virtually – specifically on the phone. While conventional leadership programs address behaviours related to leadership, most of them are focused on face to face interactions that the leader has with teams. More and more, leaders need to demonstrate leadership behaviours even in the virtual world of smartphones and internet.
Here are four tips that we have picked up from leaders who seem to have mastered the art of what we call “Smartphone Leadership” – demonstrating leadership on the phone! Surprisingly a lot of the behaviours they shared are relevant even in the conventional face to face situations.
1. Be available –
The first lesson we learnt came interestingly not from the leaders themselves, but from their teams! They shared that being available for team members was one of the big pluses they looked for in their leaders. Many of the effective leaders who we spoke to also echo this sentiment.
One of the leaders stated it best when he said “However busy a day I might be having, I have to ensure that I am available when my team needs me. So if I am not able to pick up the phone while I am in a meeting, I make it a point to return my team’s calls first before attending to others”. Interestingly, like many other leadership behaviours, this might seem simplistic at first but many leaders still struggle to put into practice!
2. Speed –
With teams being more geographically spread than before, more and decisions have to be made by leaders on the spot during a phone conversation! The same principles of taking quick decisions holds good here. A finance leader in a manufacturing organization shared “There are many times when I get pulled into a call with 3-4 people without too much of background information or notice. While the scenarios might differ, speed of closure is crucial in almost all of them. In a high percentage of those calls, we end the call after a decision has been made. The dynamic market that we operate in does not move at the same pace that a formal decision making structure permits.” Leaders for the 21st century would need to become more comfortable with such ambiguous situations where taking quick decisions is sometimes even more important than making the perfect decision too late!
We have also seen many effective leaders quickly resolve potentially explosive team conflicts that happen through vicious email chains between stakeholders with just one decisive phone call. They shared that picking up the phone and talking the issue out saves much more time and energy than multiple emails which are more subject to misinterpretation.
3. Listen –
There are many a times when a team member just wants to be heard and not given advice to. We have seen effective leaders to be brilliant at judging the nature of the call very quickly – is this a call where the person on the other end is asking me for help in a decision or does she just want to be heard?
Many leaders falter in the second part and cut off discussions mid-way by offering their two cents on what the team member should do. So an opportunity for listening to a team member gets wasted without the leader being the wiser for it. We have seen effective leaders to be excellent listeners and good judges of balancing their listening and coach hats.
4. Consistency –
We as human beings yearn for consistency in behaviour. Robert Cialdini in fact puts consistency and commitment as one of the weapons of the modern day influencer in his pioneering work, Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion. Effective leaders demonstrate consistency in behaviour in telephone etiquette. We have seen leaders who are available 24 x 7 for their team members and others who make it known to their teams that they are not available after 8pm in the evening to be equally effective – the common factor being consistency.
If the team knows that you are available only till 8pm and you are clear and consistent with that expectation, team members would probably respect and appreciate those timelines. What are some of the tips and tricks that you have picked up in your journey on leading with a smart phone? Do join the conversation…