Momentum Podcast: 179

Technology Can
Stunt Your
Leadership Growth

by Alex Charfen

Introduction

Technology can stunt your leadership growth. I know the title of this podcast may have turned you off to even hitting play because you're probably thinking it's going to be another one of those podcasts about how using screens and being reactive and being on Facebook can make us have challenges and issues and the dopamine and serotonin hits we get and all the things that have been in the media already.

The conversation around the pitfalls of technology and the challenges of technology is one that is out there and it's been around for a while. But I want to take a different tact at this. See, I see a different view of how technology is challenging entrepreneurs. It's because I've been in business for over 30 years. I've been employing people for almost 30 years. The first team members I had was when I was 16 years old. I'm now 35.

And today technology has changed business in an incredibly dynamic way where almost every one of us is available all the time, accessible at any time, connected in ways that we never were before. To the point where if a team member reaches out or somebody reaches out to you, they expect that you'll be there near all the time. When there was less technology, it was completely different.

Episode Description

With the advancement of technology, almost everyone of us is accessible all the time. When you’re constantly available, it can lead to interruptions and the expectation of an immediate reply. When you practice this enough, you’re enabling your team rather than helping them. Your teams ability to troubleshoot is stunted and the technology you’re using becomes a crutch. Codependency like this can be detrimental for a team. However, it can be devastating for an entrepreneur.

Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum podcast. made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution and we always will be.

Technology can stunt your leadership growth. I know the title of this podcast may have turned you off to even hitting play because you're probably thinking it's going to be another one of those podcasts about how using screens and being reactive and being on Facebook can make us have challenges and issues and the dopamine and serotonin hits we get and all the things that have been in the media already. The conversation around the pitfalls of technology and the challenges of technology is one that is out there and it's been around for a while. But I want to take a different tact at this. See, I see a different view of how technology is challenging entrepreneurs. It's because I've been in business for over 30 years. I've been employing people for almost 30 years. The first team members I had was when I was 16 years old. I'm now 35. And today technology has changed business in an incredibly dynamic way where almost every one of us is available all the time, accessible at any time, connected in ways that we never were before. To the point where if a team member reaches out or somebody reaches out to you, they expect that you'll be there near all the time. When there was less technology, it was completely different.

And I ran a company internationally from Florida where we had offices throughout Latin America where we didn't have ... I mean, we barely had email. In order to get files back and forth from Latin America to the US because we're working on really slow modems, like 2,600 baud modems, in order to get 100 megabyte file back from Argentina to the US we used to have to FedEx hard drives and FedEx disks to move our information around. We didn't have a lot of technology. What we did was mostly phones and fax machines. I think this is the third or fourth podcast where I said "fax machine" and after I did it on the last one, Brandon Pull it and the CEO of Lady Boss sent me a Voxer and said, "Dude, you just dropped fax machine on a podcast. Epic. I've never seen one."

So I'm well aware that I've now become old enough that the anecdotes in my stories don't even exist anymore. So I've been around when it was a much, much less technological time. And I'll tell you in a lot of ways it sucked. It was hard to FedEx hard drives back and forth. It was difficult to work on a file, stop working on it, give it to somebody else, let them work on it. It was really a pain to use fax machines and fax hundreds of sheets of paper around the world in order for orders to be processed and for things to actually work.

But in some ways when there was less technology people and entrepreneurs just grew faster and here's why. When there was less technology and you told someone that you needed an outcome, when you had a team member where you showed them how to do something or told them what you wanted, they would go figure it out. See, if they needed to get help, they had to pick up the phone and call you or stand up and go talk to you or make a proactive move that made them have to spend time, effort, energy, and focus to get help, and so they didn't. They figured things out, they created momentum on their own, they acted and then ask for forgiveness later. And as a result, team members grew like crazy when there was less technology. A

And I think that today technology is stunting not only the growth of leaders but the growth of team members. So first let me show you how it's stunting your growth, your growth of your team members. If you've installed the program like Slack or you use messenger or any of these communication systems where it's always on group communication, what happens is you are constantly available and those programs lead to constant interruption, anytime availability and the expectation on your team that if they have an issue, they can fire off a message and get a response quickly. What does that do? That creates a codependency on the technology rather than making the people around you stronger. That creates a need for the technology in order to do their jobs when those jobs had been done for decades without having to have technology there.

And so what happens to team members is rather than thinking for themselves, figuring things out ,and figuring out how to anticipate what's needed next, they can just go to work every day and fire off messages with every issue that they have and get an answer. And I've been in entrepreneurs' offices looking over their shoulders where they've been away from their computer for an hour or two and there's 30 or 40 or 50 or 80 Slack messages in that period of time.

That is overwhelming. That will stunt your team's growth. If your team has a constantly going, constantly interrupted conversation that is carried out day after day for weeks, they are always going to be working at diminished capacity. They are always going to be interrupted and lack focus. They are always going to be a bit scattered and a bit codependent on each other and you are not training your team to become decision makers, momentum makers, world changers, and go out and actually do things. Instead, you're training them that there's a system to get an answer and to be safe with every move that they make, and so they will. They will start to use that system as a crutch.

Now, that's how it affects teams, but it's even worse for you as a leader. See, that type of technology will stunt your growth as a leader because here's what it means to be a true leader in any respect, but especially in business, is that you can show someone the outcome you want with enough clarity so that they can go and figure out how to get there with limited coaching from you along the way so that you get leveraged results.

And the key there is is that you're explaining stuff to people well enough in the beginning so they don't have to keep coming back to you. You're creating a project that's clear enough that everybody knows their role and they can go out and crush it. You're creating outcomes that everyone understands, so on a daily basis, they know what to do. They don't have to get into Slack or Voxer or Messenger or Basecamp or Trello or anything else and figure out what the next step is because it was clear upfront. They don't have to ask. They know.

But the systems that include always-on communication, these systems that include this 100 percent of accessibility, most of the time will stunt your growth as a leader because you don't have to be as clear upfront. You can clean it up on the back end. And your team won't expect you to have to tell them everything because they know that they have Slack or whatever they can rely on to go get answers to the questions. And you won't be as thorough upfront in your planning as you would be if you are in a situation like mine.

Back when I was running my consultancy and we didn't have any of these tools and international phone calls were ridiculously expensive and international faxes cost us money and for me to travel to my offices in Latin America was always a five figure trip. If I was going to multiple offices, I was always spending over $10,000 just on travel, not to mention the time and the wear and tear on my body. I guarantee you when we were in those meetings, we knew exactly what was going on. We all prepared. We got what we needed. There was tons of questions from my team and we left with confidence knowing that we could go out and make it happen.

And that's not to say that I didn't get the random phone call or question here and there. I did. That's not to say that I didn't have check ins with my team where I checked in on their progress and answered questions and made sure that they were creating momentum. That happened all the time. But what we didn't have was this constant interruption, this constant questioning, this constant availability that we have today. And I think it's why I can out manage and out lead most entrepreneurs in business any day of the week. Because today most entrepreneurs see these tools not as a luxury, not as a potential liability, but as a necessity.

In our organization, we don't use Slack or anything like that where people are instantly available. When we need something from someone we'll leave a message, let them know. We check in during our daily huddles. We have predetermined times when people talk to each other. All of my team members have a weekly check in. They have a monthly self assessment. We have systems and processes that make it so that our team doesn't have to be always on and always available.

We connect with people and show them where we're going with clarity so that we can coach success along the way. It changes the dynamic of our team because every one of our team members knows that if we're going to walk out of a meeting, we'd better get all the information we need and we better show up prepared so that we can get all the information we need.

I just don't think that's how most people think in the average entrepreneurial organization today. In fact, when you look at how most entrepreneurs run their teams, instead of a crystal clear outcome, they give a fuzzy outcome and everybody starts and goes off and tries to get it done. Instead of coaching success along the way, they're constantly coaching, constantly giving feedback, constantly telling people what to do, checking that it got done, and telling them what to do again. That's transactional management that will crush you.

Transformational leadership is when we stopped the to do, did it get done, and do it again. That's management by personality. It's the most exhausting way to run a company. It's the most exhausting way to grow a business. When you stop that and you create clear outcomes and coach success along the way, you will get leveraged results and you will not just grow your company. You'll grow the people that work with you. You'll grow the influencing impact you have, and you'll grow your perception of what you're capable of by managing and leading this way.

See, I don't want technology to stunt your growth because if you're always available to your team, if you're always there and always answering, if you're on one of these programs and available at any time, you're not leading, you're working for your team. You're not showing your team how to get outcomes, you're showing them how to perform tasks and check with you along the way. You're not showing your team how to achieve, you're showing your team how to do and how to complete. Those are polar opposites.

When you show your team how to achieve, when you show your team how to chase down outcomes, when you show your team they are capable of getting stuff done, when you show your team that can figure things out, create momentum on their own, act first, then ask for forgiveness later, you end up with a company that will grow based on the momentum of the organization, not based on you showing up every day and telling everyone what to do.

If you're running a business right now and you feel like you report to the company far more than they report to you, trace back how you lead your team. Are you in a situation where you're always available? Are you in a situation where they can ask questions at any time? Are you in a situation where you're really not providing crystal clear outcomes, coaching success along the way and getting leveraged results? Because if those conditions aren't there, things aren't going to change anytime soon.

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With gratitude,

Alex

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