Leadership Techniques for the Technology-driven Business World

Posted August 10, 2015 by
Business, technology, internet and networking concept - businessman pressing button on virtual screens

Business, technology, internet and networking concept – businessman pressing button on virtual screens. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Whether you’re supervising a project team from the comfort of home or working closely with an overseas office, new virtual collaboration tools have rendered the traditional management environment obsolete, allowing teams to coordinate from anywhere in the world. However, as the limitations previously imposed by geography quickly dwindle, a new host of challenges has arisen for today’s business leaders.

Even the iconic image of team members gathered for a meeting around a conference room table has become a thing of the past. Instead, digital meeting services like join.me enable users to work together on a single project from wherever they happen to be, bringing the office to them. Establishing clear priorities and expectations can be difficult, for some organizations, without the benefit of face-to-face, in-person interaction, not to mention brainstorming and other creative tasks.

This is just one of the ways technology has caused a monumental shift in how companies approach their work. New applications like trello and asana have made it possible for employees to both work together on projects from anywhere and self-supervise, allowing for a largely hands-off leadership style that can be maintained regardless of team members’ locations.

John Matsusaka, professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Academic Director of its newly launched online MBA program asserts that, while adaptation to this new style of long-distance leadership can be difficult, “The benefits of effectively using these new collaboration tools are immense. Knowing how to lead remote teams well is a valuable skill, and one that many multinational corporations and others with overseas offices are actively seeking, which is why we emphasize this style of leadership so much in our own business programs.”.

If you’re looking to put these new technologies to work for your company, there are a few techniques you can use to make your processes efficient and your remote teams happy.

Never Stop Learning

As technology rapidly evolves, it’s no longer an option for businesses to lag behind and take their time identifying and implementing new solutions. The cost in time and productivity lost to a more streamlined, agile competitor is simply too great. This means that managers and executives alike need to stay on top of developing technologies that can help their company maximize performance and master them quickly, especially if their team members are remote. This learning process is constant, but exciting, as each new tool you explore can potentially set the stage for a more effective organization.

Focus on Clarity

With distance between team members, the possibility for miscommunications, assignments that fall through the cracks, and unclear expectations can rise. It becomes even more important for leaders to establish a project’s goals up-front and with stark clarity through whatever medium they can when working virtually. Some of the project management applications mentioned above offer direct channels of communication broken down by project, with opportunities for managers to create detailed, assigned checklists so that each team member has a constant reference if they’re not sure about their accountabilities. With well-defined objectives and clearly established methods for employees to ask questions and get the information they need, virtual work can sometimes progress even smoother than it would in a typical office environment.

Be Responsive, Engaged

Building on the previous point: if an employee comes to you with a question or someone sends you a request through, respond as soon as you possibly can. While this can help keep things moving in any business setting, it’s even more important when teams are collaborating over a long distance through technology. If a team is entirely remote, there might not be the option to, “drop by their desk later” or “follow up in the next meeting.” Some of these small, simple processes have to be a bit more deliberate than when you’re all sharing the same workspace.

Pay Attention to Tone

Especially in a purely text-based collaborative environment, it’s a good idea to give all of your emails and notes to your team a second reading, just to make sure you’re not accidentally deriding their work when you just meant to emphasize the importance of a given project. Inflection in voice communication and facial expression go a long way towards revealing our intentions and, stripped of those modes of communication, it’s incredibly easy to say something we don’t mean. Thankfully, as long as we’re on the topic of technology, there’s an app for that, too.

Apply the Fundamentals

Ultimately, it comes down to using the same proven management principles that have built successful organizations since business began. Proactive communication, establishing clear priorities, optimizing processes at every turn, leading employees by example – at their core, all of the techniques discussed above have been a part of the manager’s handbook since well before smartphones. If anything, the technology-driven nature of the new (and still evolving) business world has opened the door for creative, motivated leaders to take the helm and see just what these new tools and virtual collaboration methods can do. Armed with the right knowledge and a strong spirit of innovation, you can make technology work for you.


David Chiscon

Enrollment Counselor, Online MBA

David Chiscon provides support and assistance to prospective students throughout the University of Southern California Online MBA admissions process.  With more than 9 years of experience in admissions advising, David has successfully prepared students for success in a variety of schools and settings.

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