Online leadership

Over the years people have consistently told me that face to face communication is best because you can see the other person and work out their intentions from facial and bodily expressions. I have countered this by saying that in some ways face to face makes it easier to dissemble, you can smile while stabbing someone in the back, wear a uniform that makes you appear trustworthy while you are engaged in dodgy dealings etc..

It is therefore fascinating in the current circumstances watching everyone being forced to resort to online communication. The perceived need for face to face equivalence is driving the obsession with video calls but these bring with them their own challenges: worrying about how you look (at least on the top half); arranging an impressive choice of books on the shelves behind you; maintaining eye contact throughout mind numbing meetings; and trying to look interested when your boss takes a breath, says “to keep things short”, and launches into another endless monologue; the list goes on.

What is more optimistic is that some are learning the craft, and benefits, of asynchronous conversations whether through a different approach to email or tools like Teams and Slack. Working out how to say enough, but not too much; adopting a tone that engages and informs; how to keep the to and fro going and how to end it. These are all skills that those of us who were early adopters of online tools have discovered can replace, and in many cases enhance, more analogue forms of communication.

It will be interesting to see how many of these new found skills survive the return to the office – whenever that happens.

4 thoughts on “Online leadership

  1. Online communications is most definitely a skill, and I really like how you captured some of the nuances here: “Working out how to say enough, but not too much; adopting a tone that engages and informs; how to keep the to and fro going and how to end it.” I hadn’t thought of the impact that the online experiences may have on the in-person interactions, once they begin again – it’s an interesting question.

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  2. I’ve long been a fan of experimenting with the different affordances of each medium to explore and improve how we can communicate – and fully agree that asynchronous text based forums are a new craft to learn and make the most of. I also think this is true of video calls. Whilst there are those that try to exactly replicate the ‘face-to-face’ experience, maybe it too is better thought of as a new and different way – with new techniques to be explored – that can in their own way enhance the analogue?

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    1. Very much so Andy, in fact I have been doing some video calls while out on local walks which at least gives folks a break from artificial Zoom backgrounds! I do think that, as you say, the right tool can be found for the job can be found if we are curious enough and have an inclination to play with the options.

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