Monday, April 23, 2012

Mastering Technology I: The 24/7 Challenge-A tipsheet

I'll start this communications section talking about the 24/7 challenge.  When you are leading a global team there is a good chance someone on your team will be working during normal hours at their home base at any given time during a 24 hour day.  This is particularly true if you have team members in Asia, the Americas and Europe the Middle East or Russia.  As a leader it is very easy to slip into 14-16 hour workdays.  I once ran a global team from Houston.  When I got up in the morning, my European colleagues had been up and working for 6 or 7 hours.  I'd often work my email in-box from home before going to the office.  I'd work European issues until late morning, Americas issues until late afternoon.  Late in the day around 5 or 6 Melbourne, Australia staff would start their day followed by Singapore.  It was very easy to slip into a 6AM to 8PM work schedule dealing with routine issues. Here are some quick tips on how to deal with the 24/7 dilemma.  First, schedule periodic team meetings at a time that isn't too painful for everyone.  Using the 24 hour clock, 6AM Central US, 1200 London, 1300 Central Europe, 1900 Singapore, 2100 Australia worked for me.  In consideration of the Asia/Pacific staff I'd limit this call to one hour.  Second, schedule 1:1 calls with colleagues in different time zones during their normal business hours.  This also helps "share the pain".  I'd often do my 1:1 calls with Asia-Pac staff in the early evening hours US time which were normal morning work hours for them. Third, be open and honest about expectations.  One of the best leaders I worked for was London based. He was very clear he expected us to be available 24/7 if not on holiday. This meant we occasionally received email on the weekend and he expected a response before Monday.  It wasn't particularly pleasant but this particular leader was "dual-hatted" performing two roles at the time. It was the only way for him to handle the demands of both roles simultaneously.  He didn't call on us over the weekend that often, but it did mean you needed to remain "plugged in" both electronically and mentally.  Another leader I worked for was very clear he would not reply to email on weekends and had no expectations that we be available.   Both were effective.   The point is to be clear on your expectations and make sure your behaviors reflect what you say.  In my own role as a global leader, I told staff I did not expect them to be "plugged in" on weekends.  My initial approach was to occasionally work email on the weekend and tell them I did not expect them to respond until they got back in the office.  That didn't work well because in spite of what I said, staff inferred that if I was working on the weekend they should be also.  After that, if I chose to work on the weekend I'd put messages in my "drafts" folder and then send them first thing Monday morning. Of course, a third option, like one of the leaders I mentioned, was not to work at all on the weekend. The speed at which business operates....the pace... makes this very difficult to do for a leader in a global role.   Again, so long as expectations are clear and your behaviors are consistent with your stated expectations the 24/7 dilemma is manageable..

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