Are you headed back to the office?

by Ron Potter

Years ago, I named my company Team Leadership Culture. To me, that described exactly what needs to happen in corporations to get things humming.

  • Building great teams is the foundation to success
  • Developing Leaders to grow and direct the teams and create more great leaders
  • Both lead to a culture that will sustain the success over the ups and downs of daily business

Without the trust and respect that it takes to build teams, you never develop great leaders and have no hope of creating a positive culture.

Decades ago, Alvin Toffler wrote an amazing book titled Future Shock. Wikipedia describes the context of the book like this. “He believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”—future shocked.

I’m not technology averse. In fact, quite the opposite. My grandson was laughing at me the other day as I explained how I carried my 35 pound Osborne portable computer through airports in the 80’s. I purchased my first Blackberry “smartphone” three months after they hit the market in 1999. I’ve been riding the wave of technology advancement since the day Toffler published his book.

But, with this advancement of connected technology, I’ve also seen the deterioration of teams.

Every year teams seem to become more remote and global. Without the technology available to them today they couldn’t function at all. But, the one sentence that remains stuck in my head from Toffler’s book is “High Tech. High Touch.” His point was that as technology took over, it would require even greater human connection to make it all work.

From a very practical standpoint, I have observed remote and global teams that get together face-to-face at least twice a year to talk about the human side of their team work seem to advance faster and farther than any other team.

Some teams try for more times a year and few of them make it but scheduling often makes that difficult.

Other teams either commit to twice a year and don’t make it or are so deceived by the need to accomplish “real” work while they’re together that they give insufficient time to building team. These teams never advance and often deteriorate.

A recent Wall Street Journal article really caught my attention because of this experience. “IBM, a Pioneer of Remote work, Calls Workers back to the Office.” Even though IBM has been a leader in remote work throughout this century, workers were given 30 days to decide. Move to a company-maintained office or seek employment elsewhere.

Why would the leader of remote work decide to lay down such a stark edict? High Tech. High Touch.

They had accomplished the High Tech portion of the formula. They even marketed their services as “the anytime, anywhere workforce.” But they missed the High Touch portion.

Teams simply don’t work if there is low trust. Trust makes it all work. You can’t develop trust electronically. You need to:

  • Look people in the eye
  • Shake their hand
  • Put an arm around their shoulder
  • Laugh some
  • Cry some

Without High Touch, it just doesn’t work.

Are you going back to the office? IBM workers are. You should be also. At least on a regular enough basis to build Trust. It’s the foundation for all collaborative efforts.

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