There are three types of connections successful managers need to pay attention to:
Human Connections Work involving more than one human being requires communication, trust and common goals. A quick glance over the last several thousand years will show you these have always been in short supply. Now that we work physically separated from each other, it is even more difficult. Yes, technology allows us to communicate by webcam, voice and email (coming soon, I suspect are holograms and the implanted chip) but there are some old-school activities that still dictate our ultimate success as leaders. Do you know how to frame information for easy understanding? Do you encourage and empower the team to communicate often and frankly? In the online world it's critical that you consciously decide how you and your team share information and keep focused on the same goals. How will you handle disputes and tensions as they arise? This doesn't happen by accident in the real world (or we'd have better managers throughout our careers) and it really doesn't happen online without caring and forethought.
Connections through technology. There's an old saying that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Sometimes it appears that all we have is email, since it feels like that's all anyone uses. The truth is, there is a lot of technology available to managers--much of it cheap or even free that are so much more impactful than a 2-line reply to an email can ever be. The problem honestly isn't a lack of ways to communicate. It's a lack of understanding (or unwillingness) about what tools are available and, most importantly, how to use it well to keep things running. Most organizations don't offer any real help. Often (and not always) they provide the tools, but it's up to individual managers and teams to figure it out for themselves. The truly connected manager stays up on technology, learns to use the heck out of the tools at their disposal then makes smart choices about which tools to use when.
Industry and social connections. It's not just how you communicate with people, but it's with whom you communicate. Yes, your team and people in your organization are the obvious choices, but are you using social media? This isn't another of those "everyone needs to be on Twitter" screeds. Not everyone needs to be on Twitter or Google+ or what have you. What we do need to do is leverage the opportunity those tools give us to maintain connections we would have lost out on in times past. Who was that really smart guy you used to work with at your old job? He's no longer lost to you forever. Is there someone out there in the blogosphere who really seems to understand your industry? You have access to their current best thinking, and it often gets delivered right to your inbox. And you can share it with others with the touch of a button. That's truly powerful stuff, and not utilized nearly enough.Again, you need to make smart, conscious choices about what tools you use, and why. You don't have to use them all. Just the ones that make sense for your world.
I mention connections for a very good reason. This is the final edition of Connected Manager for BNET. For the last year and a half we have tried to make managing remote teams and working virtually a little less stressful, have some laughs and learn something useful. For perfectly sound business reasons, BNET is ending several blogs, including this one. That doesn't mean there aren't still connections to be made.
We're continuing the work we've done here at www.theconnectedmanager.com. I hope those of you who enjoyed this column will follow us there and tell your friends and colleagues. You can find all our past and future blog posts at www.greatwebmeetings.com.
My sincere thanks to BNET and the fine editors and tech support at CBSInteractive (Karen, Paul, Pam...you know the drill) for the guidance, the patience and the opportunity to bring our message to this great, passionate and, yes, connected audience. You can still all reach me through Twitter, LinkedIn or by email.
As was said so eloquently in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, " so long, and thanks for all the fish".