I was lucky enough to meet GE CEO Jeff Immelt at a Cisco event some years ago and interview him on the topic of leadership. My biggest takeaway from listening to him: leadership is about how you “show up.” In other words, it’s how we act and behave in everyday situations that define our leadership persona. I’m pretty sure he meant it literally, as in how we “show up” in the physical world.
But how do we “show up” as leaders in a world where work is increasingly done on a mobile phone or tablet, or using a video chat, web conference or Telepresence? This is one of the great leadership challenges of this hyper-connected world: as a leader you will need to know what I like to call your “Collaboration Persona” – that way in which your leadership style shows up when you’re not in the physical world.
How should you approach building your Collaboration Persona? Here are three steps:
1) Know yourself: Whether it is in the physical world or virtual, how we show up should authentically represent who we are. Click here to take a quick online assessment to discover your authentic communication style (Click on the green “Take Survey” button). This confidential assessment is a bit like the Myers-Briggs test and provides you with a customized profile of your unique communication style; it reveals how you naturally process information, and how you prefer to deliver that information to others. Most importantly, the assessment provides a simple vocabulary to communicate your style to others. Are you conceptual or analytical? An introvert or an extrovert?
My co-author Carl and I cover this extensively in Chapter 3 of The Collaboration Imperative, entitled “Get Real about Communications.”
2) Know where you excel as a “Virtual Star”: Just as you play to your strengths in the real world, play to your strengths in the virtual world. Here are some examples:
- If you are a conceptual thinker, you will excel when the team needs someone to explain the aspirations of a decision, such as a vision. These thinkers will be good on video presentations during virtual meetings. It’s not that conceptual people aren’t good in online discussion forums where the medium calls for more precise language; it’s more about playing to the strength of conceptual thinkers – they love talking about ideas and tapping into that passion on video is a great way to play to one’s strengths.
- If you are an analytical thinker, you will excel at “making it real” when communicating a decision to your team. These thinkers are outstanding in virtual mediums where precision communicates best – such as online question and answer sessions and discussion forums. Again, it’s not that analytical thinkers aren’t outstanding on video, where the communication is sometimes more free-flow; it’s that online Q&A and discussions forums play to the strong logical nature of analytical thinkers – they love communicating the steps taken, the process used, and the supporting facts of a decision.
3) Get out there and practice on your medium: When you align your communication style to these new forms of communication, you’ll find it easy to participate in the increasingly virtual, mobile, social and visual work environment that your teams leverage to get better, more productive results every day. You can’t underestimate how your team will appreciate your unique efforts at participation in the world they live in.
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As INSEAD and UC Berkeley Professor Morten Hansen says, “The goal of collaboration is not collaboration itself, but great results.” Working with many of our customers, we’ve developed a framework for assessing the true ROI of collaboration, and it falls into three distinct categories:
- Operational ROI allows you to assess how collaboration eliminates or avoid costs associated with running your business. You might cut travel, reduce infrastructure needs, lower bandwidth or energy costs, save on office space and so on. Collaboration can replace or reduce the need for many of these costs.
- Productivity ROI refers to savings generated from more efficient processes, accelerated decision-making and reduced cycle times. Collaboration can lead to significant productivity gains in a number of ways, such as optimizing lines of business or matching expertise to opportunities early on.
- Strategic ROI can be the hardest to measure, but perhaps the most transformative. This kind of ROI occurs when collaboration enables your business to take a giant leap forward in areas like enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty, speeding up innovation, introducing new business models or entering new markets. These types of changes can also reshape an industry in fundamental ways.
These three types of ROI sometime manifest themselves differently across industries. Here are a few examples:
- Financial services. With collaboration, banking customers today can use a virtual mortgage lender, make a deposit on their smart phone, and speak to video service representatives who have access to their banking history and can suggest new products based on your personal needs and history. Collaboration streamlines banking operations, offers customers a multichannel experience and provides on-demand expertise.
- Health care. In health care, telemedicine brings experts together with patients to enhance the diagnosis and treatment processes. Nurses and doctors are mobile and have fast access to the information they need. Collaboration can help decrease patient wait times, increase clinical safety and provide better visibility into staffing requirements. All of these improvements, made possible by collaboration solutions, lower the cost of providing care.
- Manufacturing. Manufacturing companies leverage collaboration to develop products in one country, manufacture them in another and market them in yet another—without skipping a beat. Everyone has complete visibility into the process, and the work never stops. It’s a transparent, seamless supply chain.
- Retail. In retail, collaboration changes the way goods are made and sold. Virtual fitting rooms take time and space out of the equation, as designers review designs and choose fabrics without traveling to Europe and Asia. A process that once took a month can be done in a matter of hours. Meanwhile, at the other end of the retail cycle, new contact center capabilities offer real-time sensing of Twitter feeds from within a store, so retailers can send highly targeted offers to the mobile devices of consumers inside the store. For consumers, the result is a personalized shopping experience from start to finish.
- Government. Federal and local governments use collaboration to enhance public safety, drive efficiency in times of budget constraint and improve the citizen experience with 24-hour access to many services. Police are using mobility and presence solutions to improve public safety. Courts are using virtual trials that include video conferencing technology to save on transportation costs and accelerate the trial process. And prisons are taking advantage of telepresence to bring human services to inmates on premise.
Sit down with cross-functional leaders and challenge yourselves to think about how Operational ROI, Productivity ROI and Strategic ROI might look in your industry and in your organization.
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