Is technology making you a bad manager?

by L&D13 Apr 2016
The amount of information created in the world from the dawn of time to 2003 is created every two days now, said the then CEO of Google Eric Schmidt in 2010.

The result of this information overload is that leaders are often distracted and fail to engage with their staff, according to Mike Irving, recruiter, business owner and leadership performance coach.

“While technology has enabled employers to be switched on day and night, it can leave them feeling overwhelmed with an overactive mind,” he said.

“This can lead to problems of not really listening when their employees are talking to them, or being dismissive and lacking empathy.”

The employee will then be more likely to be searching through job ads than putting in extra hours to get a job done well.

Irving argues that it is becoming harder for bosses to say “thank you” because they’re losing their empathy skills as technology and information distract them.

He identified “The Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test” which was derived from the book The Essential Difference by Simon Baron-Cohen, the Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge.

The test involves viewing 36 images of eyes from the eyebrow to the bridge of the nose. The respondent is asked to determine how that person is feeling by choosing one of four options.

Irving calls the test a “good wake up call for employers”.

“Empathy is the number one skill that determines success in a leader and sadly it is lacking more and more as we become ‘so busy’,” he said.

Irving said there are four steps which can improve employer empathy:
  1. Psychological safety: Create an environment where members of a team feel accepted, their opinion is valued and they won’t be ridiculed for speaking up.
  2. Engage: Give staff your full attention when talking to them. If you find yourself getting distracted by your phone or your thoughts you’re not truly engaged and present with the person you’re talking to. Your relationships with your team will grow exponentially by taking this action.
  3. Understand: Have an intention to understand what is happening with your staff and how they feel. Support them where and when you can and be aware that it’s not your job to solve their problems for them. Find the balance between being supportive and ensuring they fend for themselves and solve problems for you and the business.
  4. Direct Communication: Teams in an office who engage face to face rather than send emails when they are sitting close by tend to be more connected. Good leadership ensures good communication and connection between all parties involved. Face to face communication gets the team using and developing their empathy skills and strengthens the connections that lead to top performance in a team.