Monday, November 27, 2017

Accidental Diminisher: Always-On Guy

Whereas the Idea Guy as an Accidental Diminisher discourages a lot of innovative, creative thinking...and independent or thorough thinking in general...the Always-On Guy burns out the staff. It happens more in this hyper-connected technology world than ever before. Jobs used to be 9-to-5; in other words, there was a finite timeframe required to get the work done. Now we're 24/7. We can get emails, texts, direct messages at all hours of the night. We've become so connected that we demean the person who has not responded in 10-15 minutes after sending the message.

Recently, Black Friday shopping phenomenon occurred. Through retail peer pressure, stores are opening, not only on the Thanksgiving holiday, earlier and earlier on Thursday to capture the early deal-shoppers. Some--like REI--are fighting back the trend by staying closed on Friday.

Daimler Benz, the parent of Mercedes, has had a voluntary email policy in place for a few years. When you go on vacation, you can turn on a setting that automatically replies to the sender a message regarding your status, who else to contact...and deletes the email. Early in my career I rejected a smart phone because I didn't need to be accessing (or be tempted to access) emails until I was back in the office, hotel or other designated work 'site'. It was bad enough that I could access emails from the company server at home whenever I wanted and that sometimes took valuable time from the family.

However, I was known as the guy who would send emails in the middle of the night...sometimes after inspiration hit at 2 am. I made it clear that I did not expect a response until sometime in the work morning...after a thoughtful reply could be drafted. I did not expect replies at night or on the weekends and sometimes chastised my staff if they did. I also sent an engineer out of the office to see his son get an award from the school board even though a customer had just asked for a quick response to an issue. "They can wait," I orderd, "until the morning when you get back."

One company I know--and no longer in business--didn't have a vacation policy and expected 6 days/week of work. Another company that's highly successful but possibly has the lowest levels of employee engagement ever requires managers to be in the office on Saturdays whether they have work to do or not. Many read the newspaper during that time.

If you're the Always-On leader, how do you take breaks to recharge and re-create new levels of performance in yourself? If you can't find ways to do it, your staff won't either. At some point, burnout will happen to all of you. In the meantime, you're not getting the most productivity out of your team that's possible. According to Liz Wiseman and her fellow researchers, Multipliers get twice the productivity and effort as Diminishers. Accidental Diminishers--like the Always-On Guy--may not see productivity drop in half, but you're not getting the best. Everyone needs to find 'white space' according to Juliet Funt because our days are filled with '100% exertion and 0% thoughtfulness'. Covey of 7 Habits fame encouraged us to move into quadrant 2 as leaders working on the Important and Non-Urgent work: the strategic work, the improvement work. You can't have your best creative thoughts unless you're slowing down and making 'white space'.

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