Managing From 30,000 Feet: 5 Ways To Reduce Leadership Distance

A few weeks ago I watched the History Channel as a retired Air Force official discussed the history of “increased bombing height” in modern warfare.  He noted “there was a time when we bombed from a couple thousand feet and it was tough to be accurate above that.  Today, we bomb from 30,000 feet or higher.”  So goes the marketplace for modern warfare – hand-to-hand combat has become unacceptable, with drones the preferred approach for a conflict.  Who wants to die in intimate contact with another?

Similarly, we have created distance in our work relationships, particularly those of a more hierarchical nature.  Coupled with the expertise of consultants, innovation and the changing definition of an employee, we have many new technologies to manage from a great distance.  And there is a price.  As Alex Goldfayn pointed out recently, consumer technology leaders continue to make significant mistakes by “deciding from the conference room” while “armed with data.”  And they never meet their customers face-to-face.

Whether next door or from some geographic distance, there are modest ways to reduce internal distance, increase productivity, and create a positive work culture:

  • Make your time personally meaningful for everyone – When you interact with peers, pay attention to what is important to them if you want them to pay attention to what is important to you.  Good listening opens the door to dialogue.
  • Use your meeting time to encourage creativity vs. the distribution of information – When you expect that others will share information prior to the meeting as a basis for more significant thinking and brainstorming, you accelerate productive, trusting relationships among those who choose to be accountable.
  • Enable the competence of others – In your communication as a leader encourage the autonomy and competence of those who work with you.  The very best way is to identify a mutual goal and how you have aligned goals with different roles to get there.
  • Don’t try to solve problems right away – Coming up with an immediate solution is usually not the best answer.  Encourage others in the discussion, strengthen the cultural glue, and create a company of leaders.
  • Use the technology that supports human connection – Whether Skype or otherwise, technology that supports direct contact is preferred.

You may have guessed from the opening that I am not an avid proponent of armed conflict.  You’re right, I’m not.  However, I am an advocate for direct, human interaction that supports action, great performance, and results for everyone.