As the world slowly adjusts to a post-pandemic world, many companies are grappling with how to move forward, incorporating what we learned—both the good and not so good. The last three years have seen a shift toward hybrid and remote work, with Zoom and Teams becoming the default for many businesses. However, as we approach the three-year mark of March 2020, when COVID forced us to pivot, it's time to incorporate the lessons learned into our business models and also re-evaluate our priorities as business leaders toward what really matters: being effective leaders, rather than just productive.
Prioritizing productivity makes sense for individual contributors or teams that need to produce high-volume outputs (i.e., cranking work out and completing routine tasks)—these groups report feeling more efficient and productive working without distractions. But we as business leaders at some point transitioned away from this type of work and graduated to more complex leadership—work that involves identifying issues and mobilizing to address them, setting strategy and vision, connecting people across siloes, breaking into new markets, and other highly complex endeavors.
As business and technology leaders, we need to be less concerned with our own throughput and more concerned with how to best spend our time to be our most effective selves. This is what organizations expect and need from their leaders, especially now.
After three years of hybrid and remote work, however, here's what I find today: Too many business leaders in Corporate America aren’t prioritizing in-person interactions under the auspice of personal productivity. Their default priority list is as follows: First, work from the convenience of their home. Second, commute to an office. Third, be with their team. Fourth, attend an in-market event or have a meeting with a vendor/partner (but only if asked). Finally, work directly and in-person with a client or customer.
I think there’s a better way to be a more effective leader: Flip the current default priorities:
We’ll lose hours every week in productivity by commuting to an office or traveling to a client, I hear. I don’t doubt that, but think of the value you gain by doing those things as a business leader: hearing or experiencing new issues your customers are facing, meeting a new business contact at an industry event, being able to teach your new team member through observation, not online instructions. All of these are trade-offs to the convenience—and yes, productivity—of isolated work.
As CEO of a professional services firm, I’ve seen the shift to remote work affect major, multi-million-dollar, high-risk transformation initiatives. When our clients’ leaders aren’t in person, problem-solving and deep thinking takes longer if not entirely taking a backseat, as does the intimacy that leads to innovation, trust building, and collaboration. All of these things are essential to being effective.
My request: Please join us in the call for business leaders to get face to face. Commit to better outcomes by moving away from the convenience mentality. Team up with us in your office, in ours, at a conference, or at an offsite location. Some of the best ideas happen over a drink or cup of coffee. Some of the best collaboration happens when you turn off the screens and have a human-to-human conversation.
To be effective, we need to be in the right frame of mind, location, energy, and exposure—and as business leaders, that means sometimes we’ll sacrifice a bit of productivity.
Our organizations, teams, and customers need us. See you in the market!